If you hire people to work for you, you’ll need to know what a notice period is, what the legal requirements are and what you need to do as an employer. Understanding these things can help you devise a policy that suits your business whilst keeping you the right side of the law.
But how do you go about understanding your rights and devising a policy? Well, to give you a hand, we’ve put together this complete guide on notice period rights and policies to answer all your questions.
What is a notice period?
A notice period is the amount of time an employee has to work between handing in their notice and actually leaving the company.
It’s also the amount of notice an employer will need to provide an employee should they wish to terminate their contract.
What are the different types of notice periods?
There are two different types of notice periods – statutory and contractual.
Let’s look at what these mean in turn:
Statutory notice period
As an employer, you have a legal obligation to give your employees a statutory minimum notice period should you need to terminate their contract.
The amount of notice depends on how long they’ve been working for you:
- One week’s notice is required if the employee has been with you continuously for at least a month but less than two years.
- Two weeks’ notice is required if the employee has been working for you continuously for over two years. This then increases by a week for each further year of employment, up to a maximum of twelve weeks.
Contractual notice period
Contractual notice is the amount of notice set out in the contract of employment. This is the amount of time an employee has to work between handing their notice in and leaving the company.
A business has the freedom to set this amount of notice to whatever they want but it cannot be less than the statutory notice period the employee is entitled.
Can I dismiss an employee without notice?
Yes, you can… under specific circumstances. Summary dismissal is dismissal without notice where an employee is believed to have behaved in a manner that amounts to gross misconduct.
If their behaviour is serious enough, it could breach their contract of employment. This entitles an employer to terminate employment without the employee being allowed to work their usual notice period.
What if the employee is on a fixed term contract?
With a fixed-term contract, the employee will already know when their period of employment is due to end. This should mean that no notice will need to be given.
However, if an employer needs to terminate the contract before its expiry date, then the correct amount of statutory notice should be given.
What can I do if an employee refuses to work their notice period?
Unfortunately, businesses don’t have many options if their employee decides to not work their notice period.
If your staff member has handed in their notice, or if you’ve given them notice, and they decide to leave without working their notice, you can’t force them to work, even though they will likely be in breach of contract. You can, however, choose not to pay them for the time they refuse to work.
What is the process of giving notice?
It’s important to note that notice does not need to be given in writing. However, it is encouraged, as giving notice orally isn’t always clear.
Once notice is given, it can’t be withdrawn. So, if an employee changes their mind, the employer is under no obligation to cancel the notice period. However, the two parties may come to an agreement to withdraw the notice if the employer chooses to do so.
A notice period starts the day after notice is given. For example, if a week’s notice is given on Monday, the start of the notice period will be Tuesday.
During the notice period employers are required to pay their employees the normal pay rate and benefits set out in the contract of employment.
What is pay in lieu of notice?
In certain circumstances ‘payment in lieu of notice’ can be given. This can be written into the contract of employment both the employee and employer sign when a new member of staff starts working for the business. It is essentially where the business pays the employee for the length of their notice but doesn’t require them to work.
What is a notice period policy?
A notice period policy is a document created by employers detailing the process of handing in and administrating the notice periods of their staff.
As with other policies, it’s important for employers to be as comprehensive as possible with the wording of the policy to avoid confusion or claims of unfairness.
What should be included in a notice period policy?
An effective notice period policy will include the following:
- Details of both statutory and contractual notice periods. It will also detail exactly how long the notice needs to be for both employers and employees in all circumstances, including for those with many years tenure.
- Details of how notice should be served. An employer can insist that notice is given in writing.
- Details of how pay will be administered and whether pay in lieu is applicable. If pay in lieu is offered, the details of how this will be administered and how an employee becomes eligible need to be stated in the policy.
- Details of the process for summary dismissal and when this is applicable. It is important for employees to understand what actions can negate the need for them to work a notice period.
Notice period rights and policies can be notoriously difficult to get right. One wrong step and not only can staff become unhappy but businesses could face legal action. We hope, with a little help from this guide, the subject is now a little clearer.
Thank you for reading this guide. For more useful workplace information, check out the rest of our website.