Can I leave my job as soon as I hand in my notice?

Date:

A local expert from Citizen’s Advice provides timely tips on consumer issues.

Q: “I’ve been offered, and accepted, a new job. The new company wants me to start as soon as possible but we’re really short-staffed where I am now and I don’t know how soon I’ll be allowed to leave. How should I bring all this up with my boss?”

A: It can feel awkward telling your employer you’re moving on but there are set processes in place and it is important to follow them.
The time between telling your employer you’ve found a new position and you actually leaving is known as your notice period. If you’ve been in your current job for less than one month, you won’t have to give any notice period (unless your contract says otherwise). If it’s more than a month, you have to give at least one week’s notice. Check what your contract says to find out how much notice you’ll be expected to give.
If you don’t have a contract, and your employer has no written record of you agreeing to a notice period but you have been employed for more than a month you have to give at least one week’s notice.
If you have a long notice period (say, three months), you may wish to leave your job before your notice period is up: The only way to be free of the employment contract is to come to an agreement with your employer. It’s worth reassuring your employer that leaving early won’t cause them any problems – for example, agree to finish any urgent work. It can be worth reminding them that letting you leave early will mean they don’t have to pay you for as long.
However, if your employer doesn’t agree, but you want to leave early anyway, think about whether this would cost them money. For example, if they’d need to get expensive agency staff to replace you at short notice, they could take you to court. It may also have an impact on any references you might want in future.
Although it may be tempting to hand in your resignation as soon as possible, it’s worth waiting until your new employer has confirmed your new employment, for example by signing your contract or by giving you a start date. It’s then best to give your resignation in writing (email is fine), so that you have a record of the date you told your employer. You can find guidance on how to do this on the Citizens Advice website, where we have a page on handing in your notice.

Fixed term contract
Fixed-term contracts are a bit different, as you won’t need to give notice if you intend to leave on the last day of your contract. Leaving before the end of a fixed-term contract usually means giving at least one week’s notice, but again check your contract to see if this is different.

Paid what you’re owed
Don’t forget about your holiday days during your notice period. If you have any unused leave, speak to your employer about either taking these during the notice period or being paid back for them in your final paycheck. If you leave early, your employer still has to pay you for work you’ve done. If your employer refuses to pay, check what you’re owed and how to get it.
Finally, sometimes people can change their mind about moving jobs or find their circumstances alter. If this happens to you, you should speak to your current employer to see what your options are and if you can stay in your current role.
Everyone’s situation is different, but if you face any challenges with an existing or potential employer, contact Citizens Advice for advice: 0800 144 8848 or visit our website pages about what to do when you’re leaving a job.

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