Notice periods: Dos and don'ts

Kathryn Swan 16.05.2019

I've noticed how companies are increasingly reticent to part with staff. This leads to three month notice periods and “buy backs” becoming increasingly common.

How to best handle your notice period

This obviously creates a problem for organisations who ideally do not want to wait for this period of time for a new member of staff to start, or to be held ransom and have to pay substantially more on salaries than they initially thought.

So, what can be done to relieve this stalemate? What happens when I have secured a new role and want to leave sooner than the stipulated notice period states? Will an extra £5,000 on my base salary really change anything?

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Know your contract

When you are at the interview stage, it is very important to be honest about your notice period and not to make false promises that you can start on a certain date, when you are not 100% sure. It is imperative that you start on the right foot with your new employer.

Many contracts of employment will contain post-termination restrictions which may hamper where you can work, including what clients you can or cannot take with you. It is important you know what your contract contains.

Money isn't everything

I find that the vast majority of people do not wish to move roles solely because of money – it is taken as read that if you secure yourself a better job than the one that you are in at the moment, the money side will look after itself and a pay rise will come with this. 

If you find yourself with a counter offer from your present employer, always ask yourself  “why has it taken until now for them to offer me a higher salary?”

Research has shown that 85% of people who stay with their present company when presented with a higher salary will leave within the next calendar year – the money may change, but the job will very much stay the same!

Consider the viewpoint of your employer

You must take into account that your employer may be surprised or upset at you leaving, not to mention the possible headaches in replacing you that this may cause. Although the last thing that they will want is an uncommitted employee staying around too long, this must also be balanced on not leaving a team understaffed. The more help that you give at this point will potentially result in negotiation periods being reduced. This can include suggestions about sourcing your replacement as well as detailed and thorough handover notes being put together. If life is made difficult for you, then take this as a compliment; it suggests your boss really does not want you to leave!

How do I negotiate an earlier exit?

  • Do it in writing, and stipulate a planned leaving date
  • Check how many holidays you have left and use this to reduce your notice period
  • Be gracious and professional right to the end, as this will serve you better in the long run - especially for future unexpected run-ins with ex-colleagues
  • Provide detailed handover notes, including work and projects that need to be handed over to the correct people as well as how long it will take you to complete any existing work

What to do if you are unsuccessful

If you are unable to secure a faster exit than anticipated, do not give up hope! Keep your manager posted daily on completion of tasks and if you are on track for completion sooner than expected, you can always put in another request for early release.

If all else fails, use the time proactively, and offer constructive advice about why you are leaving. Remember, you never know when you are going to cross paths with former employees in the future, so professionalism to the end, no matter the situation, is a must! If it is the job of your dreams, then your prospective employer will wait for you, no matter how long your notice period is. If they do not, then take it as a sign that this is not the job for you!

I would be interested to hear any views with regards to notice periods. What other advice would you give?


Kathryn Swan's picture
Associate Director