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Notice Periods

ProssPross Posts: 27,151
edited April 2015 in The cake stop
Is there any limit on what work an employer can make an employee do (providing it's legal!) within their notice period?

If (for example purposes only) someone was about to hand in their 6 months notice could they be made to turn up and do the filing, make tea or other menial tasks rather than what they are employed to do in order to be vindictive?


  • ProssPross Posts: 27,151
    Meant to put this in Cake Stop!

    Edit Thanks Mods
  • jibberjimjibberjim Posts: 2,810
    Pretty sure it depends on the contract - if there's already an other duties / flexibility clause in there, they can likely enforce it.
    Jibbering Sports Stuff:
  • crakercraker Posts: 2,060
    They can't make you do anything. Just make your apologies and don't turn up to work. It depends if you need a reference - not that your previous employer is allowed to say anything prejudicial to your future employment prospects. And I think that a future employer might accept that you walked out of an unfair contract.
  • ddraverddraver Posts: 22,165
    I was made to move boxes of rock round (the geological equivalent of filing I suppose) when I left my first job. I suppose I was too young and green to tell them to stuff it. I did nt exactly put the effort in though

    Over here, we had a manager leave in far from ameniable circumstances and he was asked to do proper handover but had all his access to the network removed etc.

    Presumably if you went in and did sweet FA for a few weeks they could probably still sack you for misconduct or similar, which would be less ideal.
    We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
    - @ddraver
    6 months notice !!!
  • ProssPross Posts: 27,151
    6 months garden leave is a likely scenario which would be a nice way to spend the summer for the theoretical person in question.
  • ProssPross Posts: 27,151
    6 months notice !!!

    Yep, it's intended to stop people easily moving on and is (or was) quite common in some service industries at higher levels. It's useful during times when redundancies are common though as it gives plenty of time to find a job.
  • slowmartslowmart Posts: 4,092
    Gardening leave is another scenario, just make sure you don't breach the terms and conditions.

    Confidentiality is a killer here and is used for most breaches and actions thereafter. As always it depends on the contract and with a six month clause whoever has signed must have a unique insight and knowledge of the business.

    Of course you can always try and negotiate an earlier release if thats your thing.
    “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring”

    Desmond Tutu
  • ddraverddraver Posts: 22,165
    Over here it so we can find, employ and start a new senior manager (the only people it appplies to) before his predecessor leaves so they can handover properly.

    not sure it's ever worked out like that though
    We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
    - @ddraver
  • tangled_metaltangled_metal Posts: 4,021
    I only had 3 months but one guy had a full 12 months. His was a weird situation contractually since he resigned from a directorship and part of the deal negotiated was a rolling 12 month notice period. Not sure what that was but he was fully employed and something in the deal meant he was almost impossible to get rid of other than through serious misconduct.

    I was happy with my 3 months because it meant a bigger redundancy payout when it went bust. Not a lot but more than all the others got.

    My understanding is you can walk away from an unfair contract but they could contest it in court with a view to getting recompense. If I was to look at it from what I consider common sense, I would say by effectively demoting you to below your position and standard role in the company they have altered your employment. I know about those catch-all phrases about other duties but I believe that they have been successfully tested in courts as being unfair and unreasonable to force an employee to carry out taskes significantly below their pay grade when in their notice period.

    IMHO if the job requires you to remain outside of your field for 6 months from the time of your notification of resignation then gardening leave is sensible for all. My understanding these long notice periods are about taking the leaving employee away from time sensitive information, i.e. to take them away from current or relevent information of use to any other new employer. Staying on could leave you open to current information. Not really good for them.

    Theoretically speaking is this person moving on to a better job in the same field?
  • ProssPross Posts: 27,151
    For the sake of this discussion the theoretical person would be making a sideways step to a rival who is more than happy to wait for 6 months and current employer has a history of being awkward when anyone leaves, especially more senior staff.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,498
    One of my favourite sayings ....

    "What's the worst they can do ..... Sack you?"

    Most senior contracts will have a "anything the company requires" clause - so I could turn up tomorrow and get told to clean the toilet. Whether to refuse or not would depend on how much I valued my job - if they want to pay me at my current pay scale to clean toilets then fine - but I'd also "work to rule" - and unless I was already working my notice I'd be looking to leave PDQ.

    I would think whether you can stomach 6 months of menial chores is down to a matter of will-power - perhaps the bosses think it's punishment - but it's only punishment if you chose to make it such. Of course, you could tackle it head-on and refuse - then what is the worst they can do? Sack you? Give you a censored reference - well, your new employer should see straight through sough grapes reference ...
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 54,995 Lives Here
    So my perspective:

    Different industries have different standards both for length and expectations to work/sit it out. In PR it's totally standard to work your full notice & have long notice periods; even continuing to work with clients. In recruitment, you're marched out immediately on gardening leave without even being allowed back into the office (at least, in my experience).

    Notice periods are usually negotiable, especially long ones - as long as there's a mutually agreeable solution, but ultimately the decision lies with the employer on more or less everything.

    If it's a front office sales/relationship type role you can expect gardening leave. This will likely improve your chances of negotiating a shorter notice, so they don't have to pay you for sitting on your censored for 6 months.

    If you're not, then it's going to be a tougher negotiation.

    I wouldn't recommend slowbike's view. Burning bridges is never a good idea, an that's what that would do. The more civil you are, the more civil they will likely be.
  • ddraverddraver Posts: 22,165
    The other side of it may be that they have to put the worst case scenario in the contract (again, this is over here). For example, there are draconian punishments in my contract about leaking data or contract periods becasue keeping client data confidential is very important (even though companies will use consultancies BECAUSE of our wider knowledge). The other thing that can happen, quite commonly, is that students leave uni and then start work with us, They are then paid to go on a load of expensive training courses and then leave as soon as they get an offer from an operator which will pay them more.

    Although the fines, or recompense is almost never sought, it has to be in the contract for when someone really does take the pee.
    We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
    - @ddraver
  • tailwindhometailwindhome Posts: 16,284
    I would have thought 'about' to hand in notice and actually handing in notice are 2 different things.

    Punishing someone 'about' to hand in their notice would be possibly constructive dismissal, no?

    6 months 'making the tea' on your full salary over the summer? Sounds awful.
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  • Stevo_666Stevo_666 Posts: 45,503
    6 months notice !!!
    6 months is not that unusual.

    Pross, take a look at your contract of employment and be firm if needed, but as Rick said don't burn your bridges if you can help it. A lot of industries are a small world once you get to a certain level.
    "I spent most of my money on birds, booze and fast cars: the rest of it I just squandered." [George Best]
  • VelonutterVelonutter Posts: 4,749 Lives Here
    As with most things it comes down to what is reasonable and if presented in court this is the situation that my senior manages presented to me when some of their staff wanted to leave earlier than they were entitled to.

    Firstly no contract of employment can stop you from earning a living, when taking that on board it is recognised that a company needs to protect its market position.

    I have been to a number of industrial tribunals and the flavour that ran with all of them was the above.

    By instigating a 6 month terms of notice and expecting them to do tasks that were below their normal duties is in the eyes of the courts unreasonable (IMHO) and by making them work longer notice periods could be deemed unreasonable by preventing that person earning a living, but there are two issues here: -

    1. Is the company making the employee uncomfortable at their place of employment (even when working their notice period)and thus creating a Constructive Dismissal situation?

    2. Is the company deliberately preventing that employee from being marketable to other companies because of unreasonable terms of employment, irrespective that the employee signed the contract in the first place!

    It also all depends on the position and role of the employee, if a manual and lower level employee is asked to give 6 months notice then that would be regarded as unreasonable, however if a senior board director was asked to do so then there could be argued a case.

    Generally the safest method for a senior employee is garden leave, but another issues arises if the employee is on performance/sales related pay as putting them on garden leave prevents that employee earning a salary to which they are accustomed to, thus the company could be in breach of contract, in which case it would be deemed reasonable to pay that employee an average of the previous months commission/bonus.

    So there are many possibilities to consider, at the end of the day it comes down to what is reasonable and most tribunals tend to work on that precise.

  • ProssPross Posts: 27,151
    I would have thought 'about' to hand in notice and actually handing in notice are 2 different things.

    Punishing someone 'about' to hand in their notice would be possibly constructive dismissal, no?

    6 months 'making the tea' on your full salary over the summer? Sounds awful.

    It's hypothetical, just a 'what if' situation for someone who is thinking ahead. In this situation the length of the period would be fine and actually beneficial to the employee and their new companies any so not looking at shortening it. It's more what an employer, who may have a track record of making life difficult for those leaving, could insist on you doing tasks in the hope of 'teaching you a lesson' for leaving.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 54,995 Lives Here
    FWIW I have met plenty of candidates with 12 months notice, and a few with 18 months.
  • bernithebikerbernithebiker Posts: 4,148
    When I was in trading, if you 'handed in your notice' you were escorted back to your desk, watched while you cleared it, then they held the door open for you to leave. No messing about.

    But you couldn't start work for the competition until the notice period was over, so it was cycle holiday and sunbathing in the garden!
  • floreriderflorerider Posts: 1,112
    Quite common to restrict working for a competitor, one of my contracts has 6 months for that case, but nothing if I move to a different field. On the 3 month notice I have done it both ways, got paid, didn't work and kept the car for 3 months, but also for one position gave voluntarily notice of 3 months and worked those 3 months. If you have nothing against your employer but have a better offer why burn bridges? I have seen bridge burners in big trouble after take overs and mergers, and saw one guy leave the same company at least twice that way.

    I am not entirely clear on employment contracts, but in many other forms of contract signing and taking payment signals clear acceptance of the terms.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 54,995 Lives Here
    When I was in trading, if you 'handed in your notice' you were escorted back to your desk, watched while you cleared it, then they held the door open for you to leave. No messing about.

    But you couldn't start work for the competition until the notice period was over, so it was cycle holiday and sunbathing in the garden!

    What did you trade?
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