What is a notice period?

What is a notice period?

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Coming to the point when you want to leave a job is never pleasant.  It might be quite simple, as you may have found a different role.  Even if it is simple, you will still need to go through the process of learning how to write a resignation letter.  It may be more drastic, as you may be leaving because you are unhappy and have no plans for the future.  Therefore, it may be that you need to think about learning a new skill or training for a new job and looking into online courses may be appropriate.

However, before you can think about moving on, you will also need to be aware of any notice period that you are expected to serve.   You must understand your employee rights and obligations when looking to secure a new post or to move on from a workplace.  Here we cover the basics to help you make your move more comfortably.

What is a notice period?

Your notice period is the time you are expected to work after you have told your employer that you would like to leave.  The same responsibility is placed on the employer – who if dismissing you or offering redundancy – may also be expected to provide a reasonable notice period before the employment ends.  This responsibility obviously depends on the circumstances – as some dismissals can be instant.

The notice period is a time to allow you to find a new position and the employer to find your replacement.

How much time will I need to give?

There is no simple answer to this question, as it depends on your job and the contract you signed.  If you are unsure how long your notice period should be, then it is best to check.  You may not be keen to ask your employer, but there should be something mentioned in the employee handbook – or you could contact HR.

The law states a minimum of one week if you have been employed for a month or more.  However, if you are in a senior position or your role will be essential to the work of the company, you may be expected to work longer.  It is especially important to leave on good terms from an employer, so trying your best to negotiate the right period is essential.

How to hand in your notice

The process for handing in your notice could mean the difference between leaving on good terms and leaving under a cloud.  You can avoid potentially awkward situations by following these steps:

  • put your resignation in writing
  • include all the essential details in your letter, including your signature and your manager’s name
  • give your reasons – but be constructive and professional in the way you express this
  • thank your employer for the opportunity
  • answer potential questions the employer might have

Once you have written your letter, you should hand this either to your HR department or directly to your manager.  You need to be aware that there is some delicate etiquette involved in resigning.  Although you may be leaving because there is a better opportunity elsewhere or that you are unhappy, you still might need a reference from this employer in the future.

When you hand in your notice, you should probably already have mentioned this in a meeting or conversation.  It should not be a surprise.  When you broach the topic, you should be gracious and say how you have enjoyed working for the company. This applies even if you haven’t.  They have allowed you to earn money and develop to a degree, so acknowledge this and leave bitterness to the side.  You should also be cooperative, making sure you help with the handover to the new employee.

Above all – you need to make sure you do not burn your bridges as you may need to work for them again in the future.

Finally, the exit interview

Before your notice period is over, you may be asked to take part in an exit interview.  You might find this interview awkward and unnecessary.  However, it is essential to attend this exit interview for your successful closure with the company. Also, your comments will benefit people who continue to work there.

The first thing to remember to do is relax.  There is nothing significant at stake – even though it is called an interview.  They are just taking an opportunity to learn from you and your experience with the company.  Therefore, you have only got goodwill to earn from attending.  You may want to make a list of all the things about your post that needs to be handed over and any concerns or issues that could be addressed.  If you are going to offer negatives, try proceeding these with positives.

Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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