The Ultimate Guide to Notice Period in the UK

The notice period refers to the period of time an employee and an employer must give each other before ending the employment relationship. It allows both parties to prepare for the transition and find suitable alternatives. The notice period is a crucial aspect of employment contracts in the UK and helps ensure fairness and clarity in the termination process.

Understanding notice periods is essential for both employees and employers. For employees, it helps them plan their career transitions, seek new employment opportunities, and ensure they receive proper compensation and benefits during the notice period. For employers, understanding notice periods helps them comply with legal requirements, manage staffing changes effectively, and maintain positive employee relations.

Understanding Notice Period

Definition of notice period

The notice period is the duration between the notification of intention to terminate employment and the actual end of employment. It can be initiated by either the employer or the employee, and it allows both parties to make necessary arrangements and fulfill their obligations during the transition period.

Legal requirements for notice period in the UK

  • Employment contracts and notice clauses

Most employment contracts include notice clauses that outline the specific notice period required by each party. These clauses should comply with statutory minimum notice periods and can be customized based on individual circumstances.

  • Statutory minimum notice periods

The UK law sets minimum notice periods that employers and employees must adhere to in the absence of specific notice clauses in their contracts. The statutory minimum notice periods are based on the employee’s length of continuous service, ranging from one week to 12 weeks.

  • Exceptions to notice periods

In some situations, notice periods can be waived or shortened. For example, if both parties mutually agree to terminate the contract immediately, or if there is a breach of contract that justifies instant dismissal, the notice period may not apply.

Notice Periods for Employees

Different types of employment contracts and their notice periods

The notice periods for employees vary depending on the type of employment contract they have:

  • Permanent employees: The notice period for permanent employees is typically specified in their employment contracts. It commonly ranges from one to three months, depending on factors such as seniority and industry norms.
  • Fixed-term contract employees: Fixed-term contract employees are entitled to the same notice periods as permanent employees unless their contracts specify a shorter notice period.
  • Zero-hour contract employees: Zero-hour contract employees have the right to a statutory minimum notice period based on their length of continuous service.
  • Agency workers: Agency workers are subject to the notice periods specified in their employment contracts with the agency. The notice periods can vary depending on the terms of the contract.

Calculation of notice periods based on length of service

The length of service is a significant factor in determining the notice period for employees. The following is a general guide to notice periods based on length of continuous service:

  • Less than one month: No statutory notice period.
  • One month to two years: One week’s notice.
  • Two years to 12 years: One week’s notice for each year of service.
  • 12 years or more: A maximum notice period of 12 weeks.

Employee rights during the notice period

  • Pay and benefits: Employees are entitled to receive their regular pay and benefits throughout the notice period, including bonuses, allowances, and pension contributions.
  • Garden leave: Garden leave refers to the practice of placing an employee on leave during their notice period while still providing full pay and benefits. Employers may enforce garden leave to protect their interests, particularly in cases involving confidential information or restrictive covenants.
  • Restrictive covenants: Restrictive covenants are contractual provisions that restrict employees’ activities after the termination of employment. They may be enforceable during the notice period to protect the employer’s legitimate business interests.

Notice Periods for Employers

Terminating an employee’s contract with notice

When an employer wishes to terminate an employee’s contract with notice, they must have valid and fair reasons for doing so. Some common fair reasons for termination include redundancy, misconduct, poor performance, or a breakdown in the working relationship. Employers must also follow a fair and reasonable process, which may involve disciplinary or performance improvement procedures.

Pay in lieu of notice (PILON)

Pay in lieu of notice (PILON) refers to the situation where an employer makes a payment to an employee equivalent to the salary they would have received during the notice period, instead of requiring the employee to work the notice period. PILON can be specified in the employment contract or agreed upon between the parties.

Garden leave and restrictive covenants

Employers may choose to place an employee on garden leave during their notice period to protect the employer’s interests. This involves the employee remaining away from work but receiving full pay and benefits. Garden leave may be enforced when an employee has access to sensitive information or has a potential to harm the business. Restrictive covenants may also be applicable during the notice period to prevent employees from competing with the employer or soliciting clients.

Wrongful termination and notice period breaches

If an employer terminates an employee’s contract without proper notice or justification, it may be considered wrongful termination. In such cases, the employee may have grounds for legal action to seek compensation for the breach of notice period.

Changing or Waiving Notice Periods

Mutual agreement to change notice period

Employers and employees can agree to change the notice period mutually. This change should be documented in writing, clearly stating the new notice period and signed by both parties. It is crucial to ensure that the agreement complies with legal requirements and does not disadvantage either party.

Notice period clauses in employment contracts

Employment contracts often include notice period clauses that outline the rights and obligations regarding termination and notice. These clauses should be carefully reviewed and understood by both parties to ensure compliance and avoid disputes.

Enforcing notice period changes

To enforce changes to the notice period, it is essential to have clear communication and agreement between the employer and the employee. Both parties should adhere to the new notice period and any other related contractual terms. If disputes arise, it may be necessary to seek legal advice or alternative dispute resolution methods.

Resigning and Handing in Notice

Employee’s obligation to provide notice

Employees have an obligation to provide notice to their employer when resigning. The notice period should be in accordance with the employment contract or statutory minimum notice period, unless mutually agreed otherwise. Failing to provide proper notice may lead to potential legal consequences or damage professional relationships.

Timing and format of resignation

Resignation should be provided in writing, clearly stating the intention to resign and the effective date of termination. It is advisable to deliver the resignation letter personally or via a tracked method to ensure it is received by the employer. Resignation should be timed appropriately, considering factors such as project completion, handover of responsibilities, and the notice period required.

Dealing with counteroffers

When an employee resigns, the employer may make a counteroffer to retain their services. Employees should carefully evaluate counteroffers, considering factors such as career progression, salary, benefits, and long-term prospects. It is essential to make an informed decision, weighing the pros and cons of staying with the current employer or accepting new opportunities.

Common Questions and Considerations

Notice periods during probationary periods

During a probationary period, notice periods may differ from those in the standard employment contract. Employers should clearly define the notice period and any other terms applicable during probation in the employment contract or probationary policy.

Notice period during sick leave or maternity leave

Employees on sick leave or maternity leave are still subject to notice periods and their associated rights and obligations. Employers must carefully consider and adhere to legal requirements and employment contract terms when dealing with notice periods during such absences.

Notice periods for self-employed individuals

Self-employed individuals typically do not have notice periods since they work on a contract basis. However, notice periods can be included in specific contracts or agreements between parties to provide clarity and protection for both parties.

Notice periods for executives and directors

Executives and directors often have longer notice periods due to their seniority and the potential impact their departure may have on the organization. These notice periods are usually specified in executive service agreements and can range from three to twelve months or more.

Notice period and notice pay disputes

Disputes regarding notice periods and notice pay can arise between employers and employees. In such cases, seeking legal advice or assistance from organizations like Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) can be beneficial. It is important to understand the contractual terms, statutory rights, and legal obligations to resolve disputes effectively.

Resources and Support

Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)

Acas provides free and impartial advice on employment matters, including notice periods. Their website and helpline can offer guidance, template letters, and information on legal requirements and best practices.

Employment law advice and solicitors

Seeking advice from employment law specialists or solicitors can help navigate complex notice period issues and ensure compliance with legal obligations. They can provide tailored advice based on specific circumstances and represent parties in legal proceedings if necessary.

Government resources and websites

Government websites such as provide detailed information on employment rights, including notice periods. The websites offer official guidance and resources that can help both employees and employers understand their rights and responsibilities.


Understanding notice periods is crucial for both employees and employers to ensure compliance with legal requirements, maintain positive employee relations, and manage transitions effectively. Notice period is the period of time employers and employees must give each other before ending the employment relationship. Notice periods vary based on employment contracts, statutory requirements, and length of service.

Employees have rights, including pay, benefits, garden leave, and adherence to restrictive covenants during the notice period. Employers must follow fair and lawful procedures when terminating contracts and may offer pay in lieu of notice or enforce garden leave. Notice periods can be changed through mutual agreement, but it is crucial to document any changes properly.

Review employment contracts and notice period clauses carefully. Seek legal advice when unsure about notice period requirements or changes. Maintain open and clear communication during the notice period to avoid disputes. Familiarize yourself with available resources, such as Acas and government websites, for guidance and support.