Q: I HAVE to give three months’ notice as part of my contract. What happens if I hand in my notice and leave before this time frame?
Could the company take any form of legal action against me?
A: NORMALLY, such a long notice period is only a requirement for very senior executives.
I suspect it is because the employer feels it gives them extra protection.
However, employers need to be aware that such protection is limited.
If an employee decides to leave early without working out their notice, the employer does not need to pay the employee for days not worked.
Theoretically, the employer could seek damages through the courts for financial loss suffered as a result of the employee’s early departure.
However, such losses are normally difficult to quantify and will be partially offset by the savings made on the employee’s wages.
Withholding monies owed, for example outstanding wages or holiday pay, is not a viable option.
Unless the employee has given prior written consent or the deduction is allowed for in the contract, then not paying the outstanding monies will fall foul of the Employment Rights Act 1996 as an unlawful deduction from wages.
You may want to consider asking your employer why they stipulate three months’ notice and suggest that one month is the nearer the norm.
Margaret McMahon, senior policy officer, Acas