Are you thinking about resigning from your job and leaving immediately? Before you pack your things up and walk out for good, you should check how long your notice period must be and whether you’re required to provide notice.
Similarly, if you’re an employer who’s planning to dismiss an employee you should check how long the notice period you’re required to provide your employee is and whether you’re required to provide notice.
A resignation letter is crucial for you and your employer to prepare for your departure.
In this article, we’ll talk in-depth about notice periods—factors determining how long notice periods need to be as well as other frequently asked questions.
Table of Contents
What is a resignation notice period?
A notice period is the time between you handing in your letter of resignation and your last day of employment.
The last day of your employment is the end of the notice period.
Notice periods apply whether you resign or you’re terminated by your employer.
During this period of time, an employee will finalise any remaining tasks and prepare for the handover.
Which factors determine the length of a notice period?
Notice periods can vary anywhere from zero notice to a month or more.
The amount of notice you must provide or be provided will depend on the following factors:
- The terms of your employment contract
- The terms of any verbal employment agreement
- National laws
- Your modern award
- How long you’ve been working for your employer
- Enterprise agreement
- Your type of employment
- Any other registered agreement
- The reasons for the termination of employment
- Your industry
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What is the notice period for permanent employees who are resigning?
The Fair Work Ombudsman outlines the minimum amount of notice permanent employees have to provide their employers when resigning.
The minimum notice period you must provide your employer primarily depends on the amount of time you’ve been working for your employer and on your award. This must be calculated using the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
Where an employee’s contract doesn’t mention a notice period, or if they don’t have a contract, and they are not covered by an award, they may still be required to provide reasonable notice to their employer.
Employees don’t have to give written notice when they resign; they can give verbal notice instead.
What is the length of the notice period you must provide your permanent employees when you’re terminating their employment?
The amount of notice you have to give your permanent employees when you’re terminating their employment is outlined by the Australian Government’s Fair Work Ombudsman.
The amount of notice you must provide your employees primarily depends on the amount of time they’ve been working for you.
The minimum period of notice for employees is as follows:
- If your employee has been working for a year or less you’re only required to give them a minimum of one week’s notice
- If your employee has been working for you for a period between one to three years you’re required to give them a minimum of two week’s notice
- If your employee has been working for you for a period between three to five years you’re required to provide them with a minimum of three weeks’ notice
- If your employee has been working for you for over five years you must give them a minimum of four weeks’ notice
Under section 117 of the Fair Work Act 2009, employers are required to give written notice to their employees regarding the day their employment will be terminated.
Employees who’ve worked for their employer for at least 2 years and are over 45 must be provided with an extra week of notice. If you’re terminating your employee’s employment due to their serious misconduct you don’t have to give them any notice.
What is the notice period for casual employees?
Casual employees don’t have to give or be given notice of resignation.
This is unless their employment contract or a registered agreement requires that notice must be provided.
What is the notice period for a fixed-term contract?
Employees who are employed on a fixed-term basis can be terminated without a notice period and can resign without a notice period.
This is allowed even if the contract specified a time that was longer than when the contract was terminated (i.e. a 12-month contract is terminated after 6 months).
Benefits of a Notice Period?
Notice periods provide benefits to both employers and employees.
It’s recommended that you provide notice, even if your employment contract doesn’t require you to.
The benefits of a notice period include the following:
- It’s the professional and polite thing to do
- You won’t burn any bridges with your employer
- Your employer will be more likely to provide you with a positive reference letter that you can use to impress your new employer when applying for a new job
- You’ll give your employer time to hire a new employee to replace you and you’ll have time to wind everything up
- Due to professional circles becoming increasingly smaller, leaving your job on good terms is crucial because the employer you’re leaving is likely to pop up again in the future
- Similarly, if the industry you work in is tight-knit, it’s likely that your departing on bad terms will become known to future and previous employers
- It might also be illegal for you to not provide notice
Do employees have to work during their notice period?
The short answer to this question is ‘it depends’.
Sometimes employees don’t work during their notice period due to either the employer’s preference or their own request not to work.
If the employer decides that the employee shouldn’t work during their notice period, they still need to pay their employee. This payment is in addition to any outstanding annual leave entitlements.
If you don’t want to work during your notice period, you might be able to take this period as annual leave instead if your employer permits.
This time will be deducted from the annual leave entitlements owed to you.
You’re also entitled to take sick leave during your notice period, however, you must provide your employer with a medical certificate.
Similarly, you can take carer’s leave, but you must let your employer know as soon as possible.
Public holidays can be included in your notice period and they typically don’t extend the period.
In the event that your employer pays you in lieu of notice, your employment ends on the payment date.
What can my employer do if I refuse to work out my notice period?
If you fail to work during your notice period due to simply not turning up to work and you’ve failed to make an alternate arrangement with your employer, they can take several actions against you.
- Taking legal action against you for breach of contract
- Not paying you for the time of the notice period. Employers can only withhold pay in specific circumstances. For more information, see the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
- Not providing you with a professional reference for future employment
Example 1: Leaving on a Sour Note
Ryan works for a financial firm and has resigned to start his own business.
He refuses to work during his 4-week notice period, therefore his employer decides not to pay him for this time.
Furthermore, Ryan’s manager will now not provide him with a reference, which may prevent him from obtaining future employment.
As Ryan’s industry within finance is niche, it’s likely that potential clients will hear about what happened.
Example 2: Leaving on a High Note
Jim works for a florist full-time and has resigned to pursue his own small business.
He agrees to work out his 4-week notice period, therefore his employer continues to pay him and provides a glowing reference and some industry contacts to help get his business up and running.
As Jim’s industry is fairly niche, it’s likely that potential clients and suppliers will hear about his commitment and attitude. Therefore, they’ll be more likely to help him out.
Knowing the length of notice periods is crucial for both employers and employees as they provide an opportunity to make arrangements for when the employee’s employment is terminated.
Notice periods provide benefits whether the employee is terminated or they’re resigning.
No matter how eager you are to get out of your current role, finding out how long your notice period must be is the right thing to do and will help your career in the long term.
If you have further questions about notice periods, you should hire a lawyer for further legal advice.
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