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How Long Should Your Notice Period Be? (2020 Update)

How Long Should Your Notice Period Be? (2020 Update)

A notice period is a crucial time for you and your employer to prepare for your departure. Find out how long yours should be here.

5th February 2020

Introduction

When you resign from your job, you may want to leave immediately and never come back. But before you pack up your things and walk out for good, you should always check if you need to provide notice, and how long for. Notice periods vary depending on your Award and terms of employment. The general standard notice period is two weeks, though many contracts require four weeks’ notice. Whether you want to avoid awkwardness or haven’t had the greatest experience with your employer, leaving suddenly and abruptly isn’t just unprofessional, it may also be illegal.

Providing notice means that your employer will have time to find your replacement, and you’ll have time to wind everything up. You’ll also increase your chances of leavings things on a good note and taking a glowing reference with you for future job applications. In this article, we’ll discuss what notice periods are and provide a guide on how long they should be.

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Notice periods

Resigning from your job isn’t an easy thing to do. However, what happens after this is isn’t always easy either. The time between when you hand in your resignation and actually finish up at your job is called a ‘notice period’. Notice periods apply both when you resign or when you are terminated by your employer. However, notice periods vary depending on your employment type, national laws and the terms of your employment agreement.

Notice periods are the period of time between when an employee resigns and when they actually stop working. In this time, an employee will finalise any outstanding matters and prepare to handover – this is why resigning from your job is often referred to as ‘handing in your notice’. A notice period is beneficial to both an employer and employee, albeit for different reasons.

Even if your terms of employment don’t require that you give notice, here are some reasons why it’s in your best interests to provide notice anyway:

  • It’s the professional (and polite) thing to do
  • You won’t burn any bridges
  • You’ll increase the likelihood that your employer will provide you with a positive reference
  • You’ll give your employer time to hire your replacement

The world is becoming an increasingly smaller place, and this is no more true than in professional circles. This means that the employer you’re leaving now is likely to pop up again in the future. Further, if the industry you work in is tight-knit, departing on bad terms is likely to become common knowledge not only when it comes to previous employers, but also future ones.

Not working through your notice period

Sometimes employees do not work out their notice period. This is either due to the preference of the employer or at the employee’s request. If the employer decides that the employee should not work out their notice, they still need to be remunerated. This is in addition to any outstanding annual leave entitlements.

If you do not want to work through your notice period, you may be able to take it as annual leave. However, you can only do this with the consent of your employer. This time will be deducted from the annual leave entitlements previously owed to you. If your employer does not consent to this, it is ill-advised to ‘refuse’ to work out your notice period. Ending your employment on bad terms may ‘burn bridges’ and you’ll risk not receiving a decent reference from your employer. Your employer may even be able to take legal action against you for breach of contract (however, they will more likely choose to simply not pay you for this time).

What can my employer do if I refuse to work out my notice period?

Your employer has options if you fail to work out your notice period. If you simply don’t turn up to work and you haven’t come to an alternate arrangement (such as if they request that you don’t come into work), they can:

  • Take legal action against you for breach of contract
  • Not pay you for the time of the notice period
  • Not provide you with a professional reference for future employment

Example

Ryan works for a financial firm. He has resigned to start his own business and refuses to work out his 4-week notice period. Ryan’s employer has decided not to pay him for this time. Further, Ryan’s manager will now not provide him with a reference, which may prove crucial in obtaining future employer. As Ryan’s industry within finance is niche, it is also likely that potential clients will hear about what has happened.

What is the general length of a notice period?

Notice periods can vary anywhere from being ‘no notice’ to a month or more. Your required notice period will depend on:

  • Your type of employment
  • How long you have been working for your employer
  • The terms of your contract 
  • Your industry
  • Your award
  • The reasons for termination

Casual and contract employees

Casual employees do not have to provide notice and in turn, can be terminated without notice. This is unless there is a contract or agreement which requires that notice be provided. Employees who are employed on a fixed-term basis can be terminated or can resign without having to provide notice. This is even if the contract stipulates a time that was longer than when the contract was terminated i.e. a 12 month contract is terminated after 6 months.

Conclusion

Notice periods provide a chance for both the employer and employee to make arrangements when employment is terminated. Whether through termination or by resigning, notice periods carry a lot of benefits for both parties involved. No matter how eager you are to get out of your current role, working out your notice and doing the right thing will also do you favours long-term when it comes to your career. If you have further questions around notice periods, it may be wise to get in touch with an employment lawyer.

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Author
Jackie Olling

Jackie is the Content Manager at Lawpath and manages the content team. She has a Law/Arts (Politics) degree from Macquarie University and is an admitted solicitor in the Supreme Court of NSW. She's interested in how technology can help shape the future legal landscape.