What happens if an employee leaves without notice?

What happens if an employee leaves without notice?

1 November 2022

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When an employee leaves without giving notice or if they give short notice, it can create a number of headaches and questions for their employer. Can I spread the leaver’s work out among the rest of the team until a replacement is found? Who’s going to attend the meetings they had booked in? Do I need to bring a temp in? What’s gone so wrong that they decided to leave without giving notice? Can I do anything to stop them leaving?

How much notice should an employee give?

This will typically be set out in the employee’s contract of employment. It must meet the statutory minimum of 1 weeks’ notice if an employee has worked for their employer for at least 1 month. Citizens Advice have a useful guide for employees around giving notice. Often the contractual notice period is longer than the statutory minimum with some employees having to give 3 or even 6 months’ notice. These longer notice periods are generally used for senior positions or for roles which require specific skills or qualifications which are critical to a business and can be difficult to replace at short notice.

Does an employee have to work their notice period?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it will depend on the circumstances. If the employee has clauses in their contract which allow you as the employer to pay them in lieu of notice or put them on garden leave, then you can choose to invoke either of those clauses. Alternatively, if the employee believes that there has been a fundamental breach of contract then they can leave immediately without notice. This is because the breach ends the contract and then they should make a claim for constructive dismissal. On the rare occasion that this happens the employee should still put their resignation in writing.

Can you force an employee to work their notice period?

If your employee hasn’t given you any notice of leaving or has given insufficient notice of leaving, then technically the employee is in repudiatory breach of contract. In this instance, you should refuse their notice and insist that they observe the terms of the notice period as set out in their contract.

In reality, what are my options?

If the employee still refuses to work their notice period (and isn’t claiming constructive dismissal) then you could take out a civil court claim for breach of contract. You need to demonstrate the financial loss to your business of the employee’s action. Unfortunately it often isn’t worth the time and hassle to make such a claim. You can meet with the employee and mutually agree to a shortened notice period so that there can be a handover of work. That way, you get some work done and you are also relieved of your obligation to pay the employee for the entirety of their notice period. This is often seen as a win-win.

You can still decline to accept the short notice and insist that the employee works. However, doing that can be counter productive. Although you may be frustrated and even angry about the situation by having someone who wants to leave in the workplace, you could be causing more harm than good. The employee may be a negative and disruptive influence to the rest of the team. An employee in this situation may also decide to go off sick and see out their notice period by either self-certifying their absence for a week or obtaining a sick note for the remainder of their notice period.

Can HRX help me to manage this situation?

In our HRX system every employee in your business has an individual employee record which contains the notice period that they are required to give. The employee’s contract can also be uploaded to the documents section as a point of reference for checking a notice period. This is great because you have all this information at your fingertips.

If you need to calculate the final salary payment for your leaver, you’ll have to check if holiday entitlement has been under or over taken and HRX’s holiday recording function will be invaluable here. In a few clicks you’ll have all the data you need. You’ll also be able see who has holiday booked in the coming weeks in your team. This allows you to plan your staffing resource and make sure that you have enough cover for the leaver until you recruit a new starter.

HRX is available to try before you buy with our free 30 day trial or contact our friendly team today and request a 10 minute demo.


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