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I'm a software developer at a small UK-based development company. One of my colleagues, let's call him 'Jack', has handed in his notice. Jack is still within his probation period and if he intends to resign, his contract states that he must work a month's notice period before leaving.

As a senior developer to him, I have had absolutely no issues working with Jack during this time and he has done his work well. His abrupt departure took me by surprise. When I asked what his reasons were for leaving, he mentioned 'other personal reasons'. I know Jack has previous issues with anxiety and panic attacks, which means it might be a factor.

Jack has completed a week of his notice period and ran the idea past me of reducing that time. He has explicitly stated that he cannot and would not contribute anything more useful to our work, claiming that remaining in the office will only cause him further stress, rendering him of little use. I made no promises to him but suggested he approach our manager about this request. Our manager has insisted that he work the full notice period. I cannot however, confidently assign any tasks to Jack because of the reasons he gave above.

Our manager - who is out of the office for most of this time - has remarked that keeping Jack around is to 'recuperate some of the costs incurred in hiring him'. He was hired through a recruitment agency. There was also mention that the company is 'obligated' to pay Jack's full notice period, regardless of the reasons for his dismissal / resignation. Jack has remarked that if the stress gets too much for him, he may simply walk out and not come back (and is prepared to forfeit his last salary payment if the need arises).

My questions are:

  • How do you convince a manager that an employee who cannot / will not actually do anything should be allowed to leave early?
  • If said employee goes AWOL, what legal ramifications might he incur? Does his contract legally obligate him to attend work?

I can appreciate that the second question might be aimed more at the Law StackExchange. My primary concern is the first question.

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Your manager should bear in mind that an unhappy employee can decrease overall productivity compared to no employee at all. Them not doing anything is one thing, but if their open lethargy and boredness makes other employees unhappy and/or less productive, it can increase overall productivity to let them go.

My boss has always personally walked employees off premises if he had the feeling that they may be more harm than good during their notice period; and this sounds exactly like such a case.

Your manager is throwing good money after the bad to "recoup his losses".

  • This was a point I hoped our manager would recognise on his own, especially since a disgruntled colleague could harm more than just morale and productivity. – user34587 Jun 6 '17 at 11:56
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    @Kozaky I get that you were hoping your manager would recognize this issue on his own, but if he's not doing so, perhaps you should mention it to him: "the employee is clearly out of sorts and threatening to just walk away and never come back. It's probably better for everyone else's morale if we just let him go now. Pay him out anyway if it's better in the big picture, but forcing him to keep coming in is likely going to cause further issues with those who remain." – Steve-O Jun 6 '17 at 15:36
  • @Steve-O - Why should the employer have to pay for a useless employee? I think they should let him walk out so that they may not be liable to pay him or the recruitment agency. – Hannover Fist Jun 6 '17 at 17:56
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In his current state, continuing to attend work is obviously deteriorating Jack's mental health. He's also not just not contributing to productivity, but actually draining it.

You need to make this clear to your manager. By keeping Jack around, the manager isn't just harming Jack's mental health (something the manager might not actually care about), but also harming the team productivity.

I'd suggest putting Jack on what is commonly called "Gardening Leave". E.G telling Jack to stay home and just swallow the pill of paying out the notice period.

Sometimes, you just have to cut your losses and not throw good money (the productivity of the other devs) after bad money.

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It sounds like Jack is a primary candidate for gardening leave, a UK practice of paying people to not get another job until their notice is up. If Jack is leaving for medical reasons, it might be best to send him off.

In answer to your questions...

2) He should still be entitled to sick leave, according to company policy. If Jack has exceded what is allowed, then he is entitled to statutory sick pay. Of course, this may impact on a reference request.

1) Explain the above. Does the company want to deal with all that? Why not let Jack go now to be at home to look for another job, provided all handover is done, and start the recruitment process for his replacement?

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    @JoeStrazzere AFAIK, you don't need employer permission, but you do need a doctor's note. – mag Jun 6 '17 at 11:39
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    I would suspect Jack has not been asked "How's the garden?" as our boss is keen to keep him in case he MIGHT be helpful... I will suggest to Jack that he check his contract / rights regarding sick leave, if it is actually his primary reason for not being able to work. – user34587 Jun 6 '17 at 13:05
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keeping Jack around is to 'recuperate some of the costs incurred in hiring him'.

Most recruitment agencies have it in their contract that if an employee leaves within a certain period, then the client will get a reduced (or free) rate for the next person that they supply for the position. So keeping him around may, in fact, end up costing the company more money, if his notice period makes him fall outside the 'warranty' period.

As other people have said, Gardening Leave is a great option if you do need to keep him on the payroll until his last day.

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    From discussions with recruitment agents in the past, your answer speaks to the norm (in the UK at least). I would have thought keeping an unwilling employee around would cost more. – user34587 Jun 6 '17 at 13:07

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