Employee giving more notice than you want? What can you do?

Can an employee give “too much” notice? Who gets to decide what someone’s termination date will be when they’ve decided they’re leaving?

Sometimes relationships have deteriorated, or someone’s a poor performer, or there are other issues that mean their resignation is a bit of a relief. But what happens if they give, say, three months’ notice when their contract only says they have to give a month, or perhaps even less?

Sometimes managers ask whether it’s possible to ‘accept’ the resignation, but to also point out that the contract only provides for a month’s notice, not three, and that therefore the termination date will be in a month’s time.

But the reality is that if you want an employee to leave employment sooner than they want to go, you’ll need to either dismiss them (fairly, giving whatever notice period you are required to give), or pay them in lieu of all the time they were proposing to work.

Contractual (or statutory) notice periods are a minimum, and if an employee gives three months’ notice, they are giving you advance warning they want their employment to end in three months’ time. If they were ok with their employment ending sooner, they would have given less notice.

You could technically put something in a contract saying that notice must be exactly the period required, no more and no less. But of course that wouldn’t get rid of your undesirables any quicker. It would just mean you get less notice of it happening. Most people are trying to be helpful when giving longer notice than they are required to.

Options for removing someone serving notice sooner would be payment in lieu of notice (releasing them immediately), or placing them on garden leave. Most contracts have clauses permitting these, but even if you don’t, it’s not necessarily an issue, as most departing employees would prefer either of those options to coming to work everyday in a job they don’t want to stay at.

So if someone gives more notice than necessary, accept that they’re probably trying to be helpful, and if they weren’t allowed to give more notice would be leaving at the same date but just telling you later on, and then take whatever steps might be necessary to ensure the notice they are serving runs smoothly for all parties.

And if they give notice but are not clear in their letter how much notice they are giving or what they want their end date to be, make sure you ask them. Inform them what their notice period is and therefore what date that would be, but make sure that is what they intend, to avoid misunderstandings about when they’re leaving.

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