Employment law

Can I walk out of my job without working my notice?

If your working day is getting you down, do you sometimes imagine getting up from your desk and shouting “I quit” before marching towards the door in a blaze of glory? That’s the fantasy, but if you’ve a job with a long notice period, can you actually just walk out?

05 June 2015

Business meeting going over contract

When you resign from a job, you’re normally expected to give a certain amount of notice. During this notice period, your employer may begin their search for a suitable replacement, and it gives you the opportunity to tie up any loose ends before you leave the company.

However, you may be in a situation whereby you’re unable or unwilling to serve this notice. In this blog, we take a look at everything you need to know about notice periods.

What is my notice period?

In the UK, if an employee wants to leave their job, they’re usually required to give their employer warning. This is referred to as a notice period.

Normally, your notice period will be set out in your employment contract. This will detail exactly how much notice you need to give if you wish to resign, so it’s important that you read this document carefully.

If your employment contract doesn’t state what your notice period is, you should give at least one week’s notice before you leave your role. You should announce your resignation in writing, such as in an email or letter. You’ll need to state how much notice you’re giving and when your last day at work will be. Your notice period will begin the day after you formally resign .

Do I have to work my notice period?

Ideally, you should adhere to the notice period set out in your employment contract. If you would prefer to give a shorter notice period than this, you should speak to your employer. You may be able to reach an agreement with them whereby they waive or reduce your notice period. This way, you’ll not be breaching your employment contract.

If your employer doesn’t grant you a shorter notice period, it’s important to think about whether you leaving would result in financial harm or result in other difficulties for them. If your absence is likely to cause your employer problems, both financially and logistically, they could bring legal action against you.

Do I get paid during my notice period?

You should receive your normal pay if you work during your notice period. This will also include any benefits you’re entitled to, such as pension contributions

Can I take holiday during my notice period?

Ultimately, it’s up to your employer to decide whether you can take holiday while you work your notice period if you request it. If they allow you to do so, you’re entitled to your normal pay.

When you leave, you’ll also be paid for any holiday allowance that you’ve accrued but haven’t taken. Your employer could instruct you to take any holidays you haven’t used up. It’s worth consulting your employment contract for the details about leftover holidays. Read more about employers dictating holidays.

Can I work elsewhere during my notice period?

This could also be in breach of your contract. If you leave your job to work elsewhere during your notice period, your employer could instigate legal action to stop you doing this. For example, your employer could seek an injunction if they can prove you’ve left to work for a competitor, or if they believe you’re putting their business interests at risk, such as by potentially disclosing confidential and sensitive information.

What can my employer do if I don't work my notice period?

Your employer can’t restrain you from leaving the building, so there’s no chance of you being physically stopped if you were to pack up your personal belongings, walk out the door and not return. However, if you leave without serving the correct notice period, you're likely to be breaching your contract. This means that your employer could potentially sue you.

What are the chances of you being sued?

After breaching your contract by walking out, you can be sued for damages. Your former employer would have to show financial loss caused by your early departure. Damages aren’t the only thing your employer might want. Your employer could seek an injunction from the court. If it’s successful, this could stop you from going to work elsewhere until you’ve completed your notice period, or longer if you’ve gained a competitive advantage by breaching your contract.

If the impact of you leaving the business without giving notice is minimal, the chances of your employer suing you for leaving without working out your notice period is low. To a certain extent, it depends on what kind of role you’re in and what company you’re leaving your current job to work for.

For example, if you’re in a senior position and your role can’t be easily filled or you’re leaving for a competitor, the impact on the business may be considerable and your employer may be more likely to threaten action. If you’re a company director or you’ve responsibility for company assets or client money, you’re likely to have additional obligations, such as fiduciary duties, which are also relevant.

How can Slater and Gordon help?

The potential risks of leaving without serving your notice period will very much depend upon your individual circumstances. If you’re considering doing this, you should seek strategic and legal advice from Slater and Gordon Lawyers.

Our employment solicitors are highly trained and have the knowledge, skills and experience to handle your case. If you’re facing legal action from your employer as a result of failing to work your notice period, we’ll work closely with you every step of the way, doing everything we can to help you achieve the outcome you’re aiming for.

For a consultation, you can call Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0330 041 5869. Our contact centre is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Alternatively, you can contact us online and we’ll call you back at a time that suits you.

All information was correct at the time of publication.

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