Can an employee reduce their notice period?
Legally, an employee could ask to have their notice period reduced. You are under no obligation to agree to this, but it would be worth having a discussion as to the reasoning behind their request.
Often, this requested due to their new role asking if they can start any quicker than the amount of notice that they contractually obliged to provide you with. If they are keen to finish all crucial tasks and leave before their nominated date, it could be worth keeping in mind that you will save money on their salary payment for this period.
However, if you know that their role will be difficult to fill, or that you will need to employ the services of an agency to either recruit for you or fill the role with a temporary staff member, then you are well within your rights to refuse the request.
Whenever they leave, you must pay them in full up until their last working day.
How does notice payment work?
During the notice period, you are legally required to pay your employee their normal pay and benefits, such as pension contributions, free meals and uniform, as set out within their employment contract. This applies regardless of whether they are on sick leave, holiday, temporarily laid off, on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or available to work, even if you do not have any tasks for them to do.
Their notice period will usually start the day after the day the employee has handed in their notice. For example, if a week’s notice is given on a Thursday, then the start of the notice period will be Friday, and would then expire the following Friday.
Can an employee be paid in lieu of notice?
Payment in lieu of notice usually occurs if you require your employee to stop working as soon as they hand in their notice – e.g. if they deal with a lot of sensitive information, work in a sales team or are leaving to work for a competitor.
If this is the case, pay in lieu of notice will usually provide your employee with a single payment, equal to the amount of money that you would have received if you had worked your full notice period. It should also include any work benefits that would normally be applicable, such as pension contributions. Money should also be added to make up for any work perks that may have been applicable, such as having a company car for personal use.
Can holiday be taken during a notice period?
Your employee can request to take any unused annual leave during their notice period, but it is at your discretion if you decide that they can take it. If you do decide to let them take holiday, you must ensure that they are paid their normal wage during this period. If business need means that they cannot be spared, then you are entitled to refuse the request.
If an employee leaves with holiday still owed to them, they are entitled to be paid for the balance owing. This applies up to the first 28 days of their holiday entitlement – known as statutory entitlement. If more than 28 days per year is provided, including bank holidays, this is known as contractual holiday.
Depending on the point of the year that the employee leaves, and the percentage of untaken holiday that is left owing to them, most businesses normally pay the balance of any contractual holiday days left. This should be stipulated within your standard employment contract.
What about sick leave?
If an employee needs to take sick leave during their notice period, they are entitled to, and they should also be paid at whatever your normal rate of sick pay is for the duration that they are absent. This includes an entitlement to at least one week’s full pay during the notice period. If you provide enhanced sick pay, this should be paid at the normal rate.
For example, if someone gives four weeks’ notice, and is sick for two weeks of that period, they could be paid one week at full pay, one week at statutory sick pay (if that is your policy), and the remaining two weeks at full pay.
Most employers offer some kind of enhanced sick pay, even if for a short period of time, so ensure that you know what rules apply in advance of this situation.
What is dismissal without notice?
This is normally known as summary dismissal, and refers to an instant dismissal – normally instigated when an employee has committed an act or breached the terms of their contract so severely that it amounts to gross misconduct. Gross misconduct usually applies to acts such as theft, violence, bullying, harassment, serious health and safety breaches or gross negligence.
In a situation such as this, you reserve the right as an employer to terminate their employment without needing to provide notice, or to be paid in lieu of their contractual notice period.
What if an employee changes their mind about resigning?
If an employee resigns during a heated situation, or during a stressful period at work, they may decide to try and retract their notice.
There is no legal requirement for you to accept the withdrawal, and you are within your rights to insist on keeping the original resignation notice in place. However, it may be worth considering any such request, and to allow your employee to retract the resignation.
Exercise caution if your employee used words or actions that are ambiguous, or if they resigned in the heat of the moment – possibly if you suspect they have no genuine desire to leave their job. If the resignation was in the heat of the moment and there are special circumstances, it might be worth allowing a cooling-off period to ascertain if any other matters arise. A reasonable cooling-off period may only be a day or two, but this will depend upon the facts of the individual case.
If you fail to allow a cooling-off period and immediately accept the resignation, then you should keep in mind that a tribunal may conclude that the employee had not in fact resigned, but was dismissed.