What is a notice period? (with examples)

17 April 2024

Many individuals experience multiple job transitions throughout their lives, each often accompanied by stress. Allowing yourself and your employer adequate time to adapt to these changes is crucial. This designated period is referred to as a notice period. In this article, we outline the intricacies of a notice period, offer guidance on navigating it effectively, and furnish a sample resignation letter.

What is a notice period?

A notice period denotes the duration during which you remain employed after submitting your resignation letter until your last day of work. Notice periods vary, spanning from one week to several months. The appropriate length of your notice period depends on factors such as the status of ongoing projects, contractual agreements, and the availability of your colleagues.

Why give a notice period?

Recruitment processes, especially in specialized fields, can be protracted. When determining the length of your notice, consider your company's hiring procedures. Human resources departments need time to process your resignation, create job descriptions for your replacement, and secure approval for recruitment budgets. This multi-step process often involves several interdepartmental reviews before applications are even accepted. Consequently, it requires time.

Beyond respecting your company's time, there are several reasons to offer a notice period:

  • Maintain a positive relationship with your workplace: Regardless of your tenure, leaving on amicable terms can prove advantageous. Positive departures increase the likelihood of obtaining recommendations or referrals from your current employer, which may prove invaluable in future job searches.
  • Facilitate organizational planning: Providing notice allows your employer to arrange for your replacement and ensure the continuity of workflow. Adequate notice enables teams to adjust to your impending absence, whether by hiring a replacement or redistributing responsibilities. In some cases, your departure may prompt organizational restructuring to optimize efficiency.
  • Honor contractual obligations: Employment contracts or terms of employment often stipulate notice periods for resignations. Adhering to these agreements demonstrates professionalism and integrity.

How to determine the length of your notice period

Determining the duration of your notice period involves considering various factors. In the UK, the statutory minimum notice period is typically at least one week if you've been employed for more than a month. Follow these steps to make an informed decision:

1. Examine your initial employment contracts

Review any contracts you signed when starting your job. These contracts often outline details regarding the notice period required for resignation. Consulting your employment contract can provide valuable guidance as you plan your resignation.

2. Reflect on your length of employment

If you've been with your company for more than one month but less than two years, it's customary to provide at least one week's notice.

Even if your tenure is brief, consider offering two weeks' notice. This allows sufficient time for your employer to make arrangements for your replacement. For employees with more than two years of service, extending the notice period to at least two weeks is recommended.

In instances where the hiring process within your company is known to be lengthy, providing a month's notice is not uncommon.

3. Inform your employer about pre-scheduled time off

If you have upcoming vacation days already scheduled, it's thoughtful to inform your employer that you won't be available to work for them beyond your vacation period. Typically, employers prefer employees to utilize their accrued annual leave before their last working day. You can request to use any remaining annual leave during your notice period, but whether it's approved is at the discretion of your employer.

4. Provide assistance for a seamless transition

Take into account the availability of your coworkers, especially if some are planning vacation time or parental leave soon. If multiple team members will be absent simultaneously, there may be workflow disruptions and project deadlines could be at risk. Assisting your employer in bridging these potential gaps can help maintain a positive relationship after you depart. This gesture can prove beneficial when seeking references in the future.

5. Conclude ongoing tasks and projects

The notice period you offer should also consider any pending work. Assess the time needed to train and hand over unfinished tasks to a colleague or new hire. If you're involved in significant projects and possess specialized knowledge or skills essential to their completion, it's essential to factor this into determining your notice period.

6. Take into account the timing of your resignation

Consider the fiscal calendar of many businesses, which often influences project deadlines and goal-setting for the upcoming year. When contemplating your resignation, factor in the financial year calendar.

7. Communicate the reason for your resignation to your employer

Reflect on the motives behind your decision to resign, whether it's to pursue another job opportunity, venture into contracting, or take a break from work. Your career aspirations can guide you in determining the appropriate length of your notice period. Strive to strike a balance between the needs of your future employer and those of your current one.

8. Review any notice period stipulations in your employment terms

Examine your employment documents, including your initial job application and any contracts you signed upon commencing employment, to ascertain if a notice period requirement was specified. Ensure that you familiarize yourself with any agreements you made in writing before formally informing your employer of your resignation.

Payment during your notice period

Throughout your notice period, you are entitled to receive your regular pay rate, inclusive of sick and holiday pay. If you are on paternity, maternity, or adoption leave during this period, you continue to receive your normal pay. Even if your employer has no assigned tasks for you after you've submitted your resignation, you are still entitled to your usual wages.

Upon receiving your resignation letter, your employer may request you to leave immediately and offer a lump sum payment in return, known as 'payment in lieu.' This arrangement may be outlined in your contract; however, if not specified, you have the choice to accept the payment or work your notice period as usual.

Similarly, 'gardening leave' entails your employer instructing you to refrain from reporting to work while continuing to pay your regular salary. This practice is more prevalent in the financial and technology sectors.

Tips for communicating your notice of resignation

To convey your resignation professionally, arrange a meeting to present a formal letter addressed to your supervisor. Companies often retain resignation letters for their HR records and potential future references.

Refer to your contract to determine whether written notice is required; otherwise, verbal notice suffices. Opt for written notice if you anticipate needing it for future reference, such as in an employment tribunal. Typically, your notice period begins the day after you submit your resignation.

When crafting your resignation letter, adhere to these best practices:

  • Keep the letter concise.
  • Clearly state your reason for leaving and your intended last day of employment.
  • Focus on positive reasons for departure to maintain a favorable relationship with your employer.
  • Express gratitude for your tenure with the company and offer assistance with any transitional processes.

What to Do If You Reconsider Your Resignation

Should you submit your resignation letter but subsequently have a change of heart, it's essential to promptly communicate with your employer. Ultimately, the decision to allow you to retract your resignation rests with them. They may have initiated steps to find a replacement for your role or have implemented departmental restructuring, rendering your position redundant. Therefore, it's crucial to be certain of your decision before tendering your resignation.

Sample of a Resignation Letter

[Supervisor Name]
[Place of Business]
[Business Address]

Dear [Supervisor Name],

I am writing to formally resign from my position as [Your Position] at [Company Name], effective [Last Day of Work, typically two weeks from the date of the letter].

I have greatly appreciated the opportunities for growth and development that [Company Name] has provided me during my time here. I am grateful for the support of my colleagues and the valuable experiences I have gained.

I am committed to ensuring a smooth transition during my notice period. I am available to assist in training a replacement or providing any necessary documentation to facilitate the transfer of responsibilities.

I want to express my sincere gratitude for the support and mentorship I have received from you and the entire team. While I am moving on to pursue new opportunities, I will always look back fondly on my time at [Company Name].

Thank you once again for the opportunities and experiences I have had here.


[Your Name]

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards