Can Employees Give Excess Notice To Resign?

You may not always appreciate your employees’ generosity.

Yes, you are happy for them to work longer hours, exceed your expectations, and do more than you ask of them. But if they resign, you may not like the idea of too much advance notice.

On first blush, excess notice from your employees may seem like a good thing, but I’ve heard from employers who don’t see it that way and want to know if they can cut their employees’ notice short.

Why would you be unhappy with excess notice, and what can you do about it?

NOTICE EMPLOYEES MUST GIVE

As I have explained in another blog post, employees can bring their employment relationship with you to an end simply by giving you the notice required by their terms of employment.

They don’t need your permission or acceptance. The very act of giving notice brings the relationship to an end, albeit at a later date.

Their employment agreement should set out how much notice they must give and whether it must be in writing.

The notice period is usually expressed as a minimum, e.g. two weeks or one month. So they must give at least that minimum amount of notice.

But unless the agreement expressly prohibits excess notice, then there is nothing to prevent them from giving you six months’ notice, say, even if they only have to give you two weeks’ notice under their agreement.

WHEN NOTICE IS NOT WANTED

The point of giving you notice?

You as the employer are supposed to benefit from it, since it gives you time to find a new staff member to replace the outgoing one before they have pulled up sticks.

When that is the case, you might actually like it if your employee gives you way more notice than they needed to. It means you have more time to recruit a replacement.

But, as some employers discover, it can also cause headaches:

  • Once an employee has advised that they are leaving, their productivity can decrease. They may have mentally left the building before their body has. Carrying an unproductive employee may be bad for the culture of your workplace.
  • If part of the reason for their resignation was that there was tension in the workplace, or a dispute with you or with other staff, then again, your workplace culture could suffer if they hang around for longer than necessary.
  • What if you find the perfect new person to replace them right away? A lengthy notice period may hamper your efforts to afford to bring a new person on while they are still available. You usually need to act quickly when you find the right person.

HOW TO AVOID LENGTHY NOTICE PERIODS

There are several strategies you might consider to solve the “excess notice” problem.

As I have already suggested, if you employ someone on the right terms, this issue may not arise. For example, you might reword your termination clause in your employment agreements so that:

 

  • it states that no more and no less than [insert your preferred number of days or weeks] notice must be given; or
  • it reduces the amount of notice you need – because some positions in your business, typically junior ones, will be easier to fill than others, which means you don’t need much time to recruit.

But what do you do if your employment agreement merely expresses a minimum period of notice and your employee gives more than required?

You could try one of the following:

  • Seek to agree with the employee that they reduce their period of notice. You might need to give them an incentive to do this. Perhaps you can agree to pay out part of their notice period if they agree to reduce it and leave earlier.
  • If you have the right under your employment agreement to pay out their period of notice in lieu of them working, you could choose to do that regardless of whether the employee agrees to it.
  • If the employee has annual holidays available, you could direct them to take annual leave provided you give them 14 days’ notice and you have first sought to agree with them about when they will take those holidays.

CONCLUSION

As strange as it may seem to employees who think they are doing the right thing by giving excess notice, it may present problems for you. It can cause strains on company culture, or make recruiting the right person more difficult.

Employees are entitled to giving extra notice unless their agreement specifies otherwise. But there are strategies, both before you hire your next employee and once you are facing the issue head-on, that you can employ to minimise this risk to your business.

What strategy would suit you best if one of your employees gave excess notice?