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Notice Periods

Statutory Minimum Notice Periods

Any employee who has completed one month or more continuous employment with the same employer (or an associated employer) is entitled to at least a statutory minimum period of notice. He will of course be entitled to longer notice than the statutory minimum if his contract so provides (either expressly or by implied term).

The statutory minimum notice entitlement ranges from one to 12 weeks as follows (Employment Rights Act 1996 s.86(1)):

  • One week if period of continuous employment is between one month and two years;
  • One week for each year of continuous employment between two and 12 years;
  • 12 weeks if period of continuous employment is 12 years or more.

Failure by an employer to give the minimum notice is a breach of contract and therefore amounts to wrongful dismissal. The employee will be entitled to claim damages equal to the net pay and the net value of the benefits which the employee would have received during the notice period, had proper notice been given.

Contractural Notice Period

A contract can provide a longer period of notice than the statutory minimum set out above, in which case the longer period will apply.

Implied Notice Period

Quite apart from the minimum statutory notice periods required by ERA 1996, common law requires that, in the absence of agreement between the parties, an employment contract may only be lawfully terminated (by either party) if reasonable notice is given. What is reasonable will depend on all the facts and circumstances including the employee’s status and, if relevant, the notice arrangements agreed for other employees in similar positions with the same employer.

In general, the length of notice which might be found reasonable at common law if none has been agreed might be approximately as follows, subject in every case to the statutory minimum:-

  • weekly paid staff - a week’s notice
  • monthly paid staff - a month’s notice
  • middle management - three months’ notice
  • senior management - three to six months’ notice
  • directors - six to twelve months’ notice
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