The statutory notice period protects both the employer and the employee when employment comes to an end. It should give each of them a minimum of time to transition to a new hire, or a new job. While each company can negotiate on an individual basis, the minimum requirement is set by the UK law.
Legal requirements vary from one country to another. The law covers a variety of situations where a member of staff might cease employment for a company. Also, the length of the notice period can increase over the minimum requirement with different terms of employment.
In this article, we will look at the statutory notice period UK law requirements. We will also discuss how they apply to probation, dismissal and redundancy.
If you are dealing with difficulties around any of these, call one of our experienced and friendly advisors today, on 01455 858 132.
What is the statutory notice period in the UK?
Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, it’s the least amount of notice required before terminating a contract of employment. It refers to the statutory notice period given to the employee by their employer, and the other way around.
The ETA 1996 states that you need to give a statutory notice period for termination of employment, as follows:
- No notice required if the employee has worked for you for less than a month
- One week’s notice given if the employee has worked for you for more than a month, but less than two years
- Two weeks’ notice given if the employee has worked for you for more than two years
The notice period increases by a week for every year of service after the first two, up to 12 years maximum. This system aims to recognise long service, but also to protect your business interests. To replace a long-standing employee who decided they need a change in their professional life might prove a lengthy and tricky process. You will still rely on their support to make the adaptations needed to either train somebody else, internally, or employ a new person.
While the above describes the minimum requirement, each business leader decides what works best for their company. In certain industries, with a historically high turnover, a short notice period might benefit both sides. However, it could also be a contributing factor to reduced levels of staff retention. So, extend it to the length that will best help you, and your employee too. Next, we will demonstrate why you might want to do so.
We will also cover the exceptions to the rule, as well as how to apply the statutory notice period for dismissal and redundancy.
Decide what notice period serves you best
Depending on skill levels and how long it takes to train a new employee into the business, ensure you do not leave yourself open to unnecessary risks. It might sound like a good idea to offer only the minimum required by law. However, you might find yourself in the unpleasant situation that an employee leaves because they lack job security.
Let’s say they worked for you for one year, and your business is undergoing considerable changes. Your staff might feel undervalued and fear they will lose their position if, by contract, they rely on one week notice only. Instead of waiting for it to happen, they pursue a new job and will leave you within a week, at a time when you really needed their support.
When discussing terms of employment with a new employee, give them the minimum notice your business will need to replace them.
We have seen employers make another mistake. Some companies request for longer notice periods from workers than they are willing to offer. Unfortunately, this is very likely to work against the employer, as it can create a feeling of distrust and not being treated fairly. Unless you have a very legitimate reason to do so, we advise you to avoid this practice.
This also applies to statutory notice period during probation.
Talk to one of our colleagues specialised in contracts & documentation before you decide how much notice to give through contractual terms.
Exceptions to the statutory minimum notice period
In rare cases, such as summary dismissal or pay in lieu of notice, you do not need to give the statutory minimum notice period.
As an employer, you can decide to summary dismiss one of your employees for gross misconduct. This means serious breach of contract or behaviours that compromise health and safety, or the day-to-day business operations.
We advise you weigh all the necessary aspects before you decide to go the summary dismissal route. If the employee can prove, for example, that a colleague has been treated more leniently in a similar situation, you risk a discrimination claim.
Also, unless you are dismissing them for gross misconduct, you need to still give them the minimum statutory notice.
When might you want to offer pay in lieu of notice?
While this might apply to a variety of situations, one of the most common ones is when dealing with a workplace conflict. Instead of asking them to keep working while disgruntled, you can decide that you don’t actually need them in. Also, you might want to do so if you know they will be struggling financially unless they find another job as soon as possible.
What is the statutory notice period for redundancy?
As an employer, resorting to redundancy or summary dismissal is never a first option. However, you might find yourself in the situation when it proves the only option available.
If you do decide to make employees redundant, the same minimum legal requirements apply to the statutory redundancy notice period. More importantly, ensure that you follow the due process to avoid unfair dismissal claims. Remember that you have to use a different procedure in case of dismissal for poor performance, summary dismissal and redundancy.
Missing legally required steps in each of these cases will likely result in a high risk of a tribunal claim. Don’t risk it, call one of our highly experienced advisors on…
We will walk you through each step necessary for you to follow.
Apply what works in your case
Even with a straight-forward employment concept such as the statutory redundancy period, you need to decide what works best in your case. As we previously highlighted, different industries see different staff retention rates, as well as expectations from the employees themselves. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with a new candidate by offering them only the minimum legally required notice. Also, you want to avoid offering a longer period that will not work for your business.
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