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What are the options when they resign with short notice?

When your employee resigns but doesn’t give their full notice, is there anything you can do?

Can they just ignore their employment agreement? Can they do this without any consequences?

On the flip side, if you (the employer) tried to cut their notice short, you’d have a personal grievance in your inbox in a palpitating second. This unfair situation is often disappointing and frustrating for employers.

And…you are right!

If they don’t give the right amount of notice, they’ve breached the employment agreement. The problem is if you make a big deal out of it. If you do, you’ll end up with a disgruntled person in your business working their full notice period. In that time, they can get up to all sorts of mischief.

You definitely don’t want that!

So, what can you do in this tricky situation?

Your 3 response options are:

Response 1 – Friendly

Grab the employment agreement to check all the clauses about termination and notice. Then, have a friendly conversation (or as friendly as you can manage under the circumstances!), about it. Try to find out why they think they can give short notice if the agreement states otherwise? Have the agreement there, and show them the clauses. Maybe they didn’t know they were in potential breach of their agreement? Share the impact their early departure will have on you and the business. You won’t have a replacement in place in such a short time, and this will place others under pressure. Aim for the best outcome: the relationship stays intact while they work out their notice. Worst case: they work shorter notice, knowing full well that they’ve not done the right thing. If nothing else, you get to be right. This sends a warning to them, and to other staff who may think of doing the same thing.

Response 2 – Salty

If you can, because the agreement allows it, and if the relationship is already strained, urge the departing employee to work out their full notice. Tell them that you may consider a positive future reference if they don’t honour the employment agreement notice period. And if they don’t do the right thing, you will have no option but to share that fact with anyone who asks. This may do two things:¬†Firstly – it may keep them in line during the notice, stop them from doing stupid things to disrupt your workplace.¬†Secondly – they’d work out their full notice, which is what you want. Downside: you end up with a person in your business who doesn’t want to be there. Can you trust someone whom you are trying to restrict?

Response 3 – Pissy

Only use this option if you’re completely bitter, and the relationship is so strained to the point where you face a personal grievance. As a counter, you could pursue the employee for breach of agreement. This is very uncommon, but not unheard of. Be prepared for a whole herd of risks and costs.

If you’re consider response 1 or 2, I’d recommend letting them go as quickly as possible. If they’re in a role that’s not critically important, you should be able to cover for their absence, as if they were off sick. If their role is critical, there’s a danger they’ll cause more harm in their final phase.


** If you have a valid forfeiture clause in the agreement, you may be able to deduct notice not worked from their final pay. Remember it can be invalid under certain circumstances.

** If you find that people constantly give short notice, change the employment agreement by including some penalties for not giving full notice.

** Shorten the notice period, so you’re not constantly disappointed.

Every business loses employees to somebody else, but they take employees also. We all want our new staff to start as quickly as possible, but we also want to delay those leaving Рwho, it must be said, have already changed their loyalty status. 

Sure – in the ideal world, everyone gives full notice, but the reality is, they don’t!

Melony is knowledgeable with Employment Law. Before calling her I felt unsure, but afterwards I felt confident. She structured everything, and resolved my employee problem. I would recommend her.
Ian, Business Owner
7 Employees

Categories: notice

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