Do You Have to Work Your Notice When You Resign?

emily gordon brown
Emily Gordon BrownLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 21st November 2023

If you're considering leaving your job or wondering about your rights and responsibilities when it comes to your notice period, this guide is for you. 


Whether you're a full-time employee, part-time worker, or even a temporary staff member in the UK, understanding the rules surrounding notice periods is crucial. 

In this article, we'll explore what notice periods are, how much notice you should give, and what happens if you decide not to work your notice. We'll also discuss the legality of quitting your job without notice, the consequences of not working your notice period, and possible alternatives. 

What is a notice period?

A notice period is the time between when you inform your employer that you wish to leace and the date you officially leave your job. It serves as a transition period, allowing both you and your employer to prepare for you to leave.

Notice periods are typically outlined in your employment contract, which may vary depending on the nature of your employment and the company's policies.

Resigning in writing is recommended to make sure the timing of your resignation is in line with your contract. It is also deemed as the most professional way to resign. 

You can use a formal letter or email including details on how much notice you are giving and when you expect your final working day to be. 

You do have the option to offer more notice than your employment contract states, and your employer can’t force you to leave sooner. If your employer did insist on an earlier departure, it may be considered a sacking. In such a situation, you must investigate whether you have grounds to claim unfair dismissal and start a grievance procedure.

Your notice period officially starts the day after your resignation. For instance, if you submit a one-week notice on a Monday, your last working day will be the following Monday.

How much notice should an employee give?

The notice period that you should give when resigning can depend on various factors, including your employment contract, statutory notice periods, and individual circumstances.

Review your employment contract

Start by carefully reviewing your employment contract to understand the notice period outlined within it. This is the notice period you are legally obliged to provide to your employer.

Generally, If you've been in your job for less than a month, you don't have to give notice unless the contract or terms and conditions require you to.

If you don’t have a written contract or haven’t had any meetings where a notice period has been set, you should give at least 1 week’s notice. 

If you’ve been in your job for more than 1 month, you must give at least 1 week’s notice.

Statutory Notice Periods Vs. Contractual Notice Periods

Statutory notice periods

The UK government has set out minimum notice periods in employment law. These are typically one week for each full year you've worked, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. For example, if you've been with your employer for three years, you should give at least three weeks' notice. These statutory notice periods apply even if your employment contract doesn't mention notice periods.

Contractual notice periods

Your employment contract may stipulate a different notice period, which can be longer or shorter than the statutory minimum. If your contract states a longer notice period, you are legally obliged to adhere to it.

Always consult your employment contract to understand your specific notice period, and be aware of your statutory rights.

Do you have to work your notice?

In most cases, yes, you are legally required to work your notice period. This is an important obligation that ensures a smooth transition for both you and your employer. If you fail to work your notice without a valid reason, it may lead to legal consequences.

What to do if you want to reduce your notice period

Talk to your employer

Communicate your intention to give less notice with your employer. Request a meeting or have a conversation to explain your reasons and see if they are willing to accept your shorter notice period.

It's possible that your employer may agree to a shorter notice period if both parties are open to the change. Make sure to get this agreement in writing to avoid any future disputes.

If your employer does not agree to a shorter notice period and insists on the notice period specified in your contract, you are legally bound to fulfil that obligation. Failing to do so can have consequences. However, you may be able to take any remaining holiday allowance during your notice period in order to shorten the period in which you are required to work.

Consequences of not working your notice period

Breach of contract

Giving less notice than specified in your contract can be seen as a breach of contract. Your employer may seek legal remedies for any losses they incur due to your early departure.

Financial implications

Your employer may choose not to pay you for the period you should have worked based on your original notice period. This can result in a loss of income.

Reputation risks

Leaving a job without fulfilling the notice period can damage your professional reputation and make it more challenging to secure future employment.

Notice periods and fixed-term contracts

You do not have to give notice if you want to leave on the last day of your contract.

If you did want to leave before the last day of your contract, check if the contract says you have to give notice. If it doesn’t say anything, you should give at least 1 week’s notice.

Do you have to work your redundancy notice period?

If you are facing redundancy, you are generally expected to work your redundancy notice period as stated in your employment contract or as agreed upon in collective agreements with your employer or trade union. Redundancy notice periods are typically outlined in employment contracts to ensure a smooth transition during the redundancy process.

However, there can be exceptions and alternative arrangements. These may include:

Payment in Lieu of Notice (PILON)

In some cases, an employer may offer to pay you for your redundancy notice period. This arrangement is often referred to as a "payment in lieu of notice." Whether this option is available to you depends on the terms of your redundancy agreement and your employer's policies.

Gardening Leave

Your employer may ask you to stay away from the workplace during your redundancy notice period but will continue to pay your salary. This allows you to effectively "sit out" your notice period without actively working.


In certain circumstances, you may be able to negotiate a shorter redundancy notice period with your employer. This would typically require mutual agreement between you and your employer.

It's important to consult your employment contract, any relevant collective agreements, and your employer's specific policies to understand your rights and obligations during a redundancy situation. 

If you have questions or concerns about your redundancy notice period, it's advisable to seek guidance from an employment solicitor or a legal expert who can provide advice tailored to your situation. 

Do you get paid if you refuse to work your notice?

If you refuse to work your notice period without a valid reason, your employer may decide not to pay you for that time. This is a legal option for employers to consider, as your notice period is considered part of your employment obligations. However, keep in mind that this decision can vary depending on your employment contract, the reason for refusing notice, and your employer's discretion.

Is it illegal to quit a job without notice

Quitting a job without notice is not illegal, but it is generally considered unprofessional and may lead to consequences, such as:

  • Damaging your reputation: Leaving abruptly can harm your professional reputation, making it harder to secure future employment.

  • Burning bridges: You may lose connections and references if you depart without notice.

  • Financial loss: As mentioned earlier, you may not be paid for your notice period if you quit without a valid reason.

While you typically have to work your notice period when resigning from your job, there are instances where alternative arrangements can be made. If you're facing issues or uncertainties about your notice period, it's essential to check your contract and make informed decisions.

Our expert employment solicitors and lawyers are here to help with fast, affordable assistance in workplace matters across the UK. If you need further guidance on notice periods for employees in the UK and employment contract law, please contact us for specific help tailored to your situation.

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