Career Development

How Long Should Your Notice Period Be?

May 12, 2021

When leaving a company, it's standard to give your manager a letter of resignation. As part of your resignation, you should give your employer a reasonable notice period so that they can make preparations before you leave. A reasonable notice period is usually considered to be a professional courtesy, but may be required as part of your employment contract. In this article, we discuss what a notice period is and how you can decide the appropriate amount of time to give for your notice period.

What is a notice period?

A notice period is the period of time that you will continue working for your current employer between issuing your resignation and your last day of work. It may be defined in your employment contract or it may just be a general industry expectation. Sometimes, there is no standard for a notice period in an industry or job.

In many professional roles, however, two weeks is considered to be the general notice period to allow time for an employer to make arrangements for your exit from the company.

Why should you give a notice period?

Here are some reasons why it's important to give a notice period to your employer when you're planning on leaving:

To maintain a positive relationship with your former employer

It's always a good idea to leave on good terms, even if you've only been with the company for a few months. You may need a reference or recommendation from your employer for your next job. Your former employer is more likely to speak positively about you and write a good reference if you leave on a positive note.

Additionally, you don't know who you might end up working for in the future, or if you'll come back to your former employer in a new role, so always leave on good terms. This is particularly true if you work in a niche industry.

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Gives the company time to prepare and recruit a replacement

Giving an appropriate notice period allows your former employer the opportunity to make preparations for your resignation and begin the recruitment process. Hiring a new employee can be a long and expensive process, especially in specialised fields. Giving appropriate notice allows the HR department time to process your resignation, create a new job listing for your position, and get approval for a recruitment budget. It's a professional courtesy to give your employer a chance to prepare for when you leave.

Your employment contract requires a notice period

When you started your job, you may have agreed to specific terms of employment that require you to give a notice period. It's important that you check your employment contract before you hand in your resignation letter so that you're sure of any notice period you may have to give. In some industries or high-level positions, these notice periods can be several months long. If you're unsure, or unable to find out whether you have a notice requirement as part of your employment, you may need to check with your HR department.

How to determine the length of your notice period

There are several things you should consider when determining how much notice you should give to your employer. Follow these steps to help you decide:

1. Check your employment contract

The first thing you should do is check your terms of employment or employment contract. You may have signed these when you first started your job or may have verbally agreed to the terms when your employment began. If these documents include a minimum notice period, then use that amount of time. However, this doesn't mean that you can't provide a longer notice period if you wish.

2. Consider how long you've worked for the company

If you haven't already agreed to provide a specific notice period when you started working for your current employer, you may want to base your notice period on the amount of time you've been with them. If you've been with the company for a long time, it may be more difficult to replace you after you leave, so your employer will need more notice. The same is true in reverse; if you've been with the company for a brief period of time, you might not be expected to give as much notice.

3. Consider your reasons for leaving

If you're leaving your current job for negative reasons, then it might be best to provide the shortest notice period allowed. While it's important to leave the company on the best terms possible and remain professional, you also need to consider your well-being and happiness when leaving a job. Try to find a balance between remaining professional during your resignation and leaving quickly, when it's in your best interests.

4. Consider the impact on your colleagues

During your time with your current employer, you may have built up some close working relationships with your colleagues and maybe even your supervisor. When deciding how much notice to give, consider the impact on your colleagues. If you're in the middle of a major project or if you work in a closely-knit team, you may want to be courteous and give them a prolonged notice period to help them adjust to working without you.

5. If you have a new job, find out when you're expected to start

If you're leaving your current position to start a new job, make sure you know when your new employer is expecting you to start. If they need you as soon as possible, it's important that you give the shortest notice period possible. However, keep in mind that most employers are willing to be flexible and understand that many new hires will have obligations to fulfil a notice period. Therefore, make sure to discuss your notice period with your new employer and make sure that your starting date is clearly defined.

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Tips for deciding your notice period

Sometimes it can be difficult to decide how long you should give for your notice period. Here are some tips to help you decide:

Clearly outline your last day of work in your resignation letter

It's important that you let your employer know when you expect your last day of work to be. This should be clearly outlined in your resignation letter so that there is no confusion between you and your employer. This also gives your employer a chance to negotiate your notice period if they need you to stay for longer. It also gives them an opportunity to let you go sooner.

Reflect on your experiences

It's always a good idea to reflect on your experiences with your current employer, including the highs and lows of your time with them. If your experience has been particularly negative, then it might be best that you give a short notice period. However, if you've had a positive time with your current employer and built close working relationships with your colleagues, giving a long notice period can be courteous and professional.

Be kind

It's always important to leave on a positive note, regardless of your reasons for leaving. This includes being kind and taking the impact of your resignation into consideration when deciding on your notice period. There's always a chance that you'll cross paths with your colleagues and they'll remember your acts of kindness in the future.

Remain dedicated

When deciding your notice period, consider how dedicated you'll be during that time. If you give a relatively long notice period but aren't committed to the job anymore because you're so excited about leaving to start your new job, this can reflect poorly on you professionally. Consider giving a shorter notice period if you think you'll be distracted during your notice period. Regardless of when or why you're leaving, always remain professional and give your best effort towards your work.

Don't be offended if your employer lets you leave immediately

Sometimes, your employer might let you leave before the end of their notice period. This may be because they've already sourced a replacement, or because they were already anticipating your resignation. Try not to be offended by this, and instead focus on the fact that it's an opportunity for you to take some time off work or start your new job earlier.

If you have a fixed notice period outlined in your employment contract, your employer may be obligated to continue to pay you throughout that period, even if they don't require you to continue working. This is sometimes called garden leave.

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