What is a notice period? (with examples)

Updated 23 March 2023

Most people have more than one job throughout their life, and moving from one to the next can often be a stressful time. It's good to give yourself and your employer time to adjust to this change. This time is called a notice period. In this article, we define the logistics of a notice period, discuss how to approach it and provide a sample resignation letter.

What is a notice period?

A notice period is the length of time you continue working between delivering your resignation letter and your final day of work. Notice periods can range from one week up to a few months. However, you can determine the needed length of your notice period by considering variables like the state of your current projects, any contract you signed when starting work and the schedules of your coworkers.

Why give a notice period?

Recruitment can be a lengthy process, particularly in specialised fields. Consider the length of your company's hiring process when you decide the length of notice you give. Human resource departments need to process your notice of resignation, create a job description to replace your position and get approval for a recruitment budget. This process often goes through several interdepartmental checkpoints before the application opens. All of this takes time.

In addition to being respectful of the company's time, here are several reasons to provide a notice period:

  • Maintain a positive relationship with your workplace. Whether you are in a position for a few months or a few years, it's beneficial to leave on positive terms. When you apply for future positions, you may need recommendations or referrals from your current employer. Providing a considerate notice may increase your former employer's likelihood to speak positively about your time with the company.

  • Allow your company to organise your replacement and continue its workflow. Providing your employer with a notice period enables any teams you have worked with to plan for your absence. By giving sufficient notice, you give them enough time to organise your replacement or accommodate any gaps in the workflow. Sometimes companies even decide to reorganise their business structure after your notice. They may find that your job duties can be arranged to suit several positions.

  • Contract agreement or terms and conditions. You may have signed a contract or agreed to terms of employment at the start of your position. The terms and conditions of employment often state a notice period of resignation.

Related: What Is Voluntary Redundancy?

How to determine the length of your notice period

There are many variables to consider when you determine the length of your notice. In the UK, the statutory minimum notice period is at least a week's notice if you've been in your job for more than a month. Follow these steps when making your decision:

1. Review any contracts you signed at the beginning of your employment

If you signed a contract, it may include details about your resignation period. When planning your resignation, it may be beneficial to check your employment contract first and use it as a guide before planning your next steps.

2. Consider how long you've been working for your employer

It's common courtesy to give at least one week's notice to your employer if you've been with your company for more than one month but less than two years.

Consider giving two weeks' notice even if you've only been with your company for a few months. This allows time for your employer to get organised to replace your position. Give at least two weeks' notice if you've been with your company for more than two years.

It's not uncommon to give a month's notice period if you know that the hiring process for your company is lengthy.

Related: How To Quit A Job You Just Started

3. Let your employer know about any time off already booked

If you have vacation time already booked, it's considerate to let your employer know that you won't be continuing to work for them after your vacation. Most employers prefer you to use up your annual leave before your final day. You can ask to take any unused annual leave in your notice period, but it is up to your employer to decide if you can take it.

4. Offer resources to provide a smoother transition after you leave

Consider how much time you should give your employer if you know some of your coworkers are taking vacation time or parental leave soon. If several people are out of the office at the same time, there might be gaps in the workflow and projects may miss their deadlines. By helping your employer bridge any gaps, you should be able to keep a good relationship with them after you leave. This can be helpful if you are looking for references in the future.

5. Complete any unfinished projects

The length of the notice period you give also depends on your outstanding work. Consider how long it takes to train and pass off any unfinished work to a colleague or new employee. You may be working on a big project and, in some cases, possess unique knowledge or skills the project requires.

6. Consider what time of year you're planning to resign

Many businesses operate around the fiscal calendar to determine when to wrap up projects and set new goals for the following year. If you're considering giving your notice of resignation, factor in the financial year calendar.

7. Explain to your employer why you're resigning

Consider whether you are resigning because of another job you've already secured, to branch out as a contractor or to take some time off work. Your career goals can help you determine the length of your notice period. Balance the needs of your next employer with that of your current one.

Related: 6 types of resignation letter templates

8. Review any notice period requirements in your employment terms

Determine whether your position description during the application process had a notice period in the job application or in any paperwork you signed to begin your employment. Make sure you review anything you agreed to on paper before notifying your employer of your resignation.

Payment during your notice period

You are entitled to your normal pay rate during your notice period. You are also entitled to sick and holiday pay. If you are on paternity, maternity or adoption leave, you are still entitled to normal pay during this time. Even if your employer has nothing for you to do once you have handed in your notice, you are still entitled to be paid as usual.

An employer may ask you to leave immediately when you hand in your resignation letter, and in return offer you a one-off payment. This is called 'payment in lieu.' This may be written into your contract. However, if it is not, you have the option of taking it or working your notice period as normal.

Similarly, 'gardening leave' is when your employer asks you not to come into work but will pay you as usual anyway. This is more common in the financial and technology sectors.

Related: How and when to provide one week's notice: a guide

Tips for communicating your notice of resignation

To communicate your resignation in a professional manner, ask for a meeting to submit a formal letter addressed to your supervisor. Businesses may keep your resignation letter in their files to use for their own HR documentation and if you need references in the future.

However, your contract tells you whether you need to give notice in writing. Otherwise, you can do it verbally. You should give written notice if you think you'll need to refer to your notice later, for example at an employment tribunal. Your notice period will usually run from the start of the day after you've handed in your notice.

For resignation letters, follow these best practices to compile a professional letter:

  • Keep the letter short

  • State why you're leaving and when your last day of employment will be

  • List only positive reasons for leaving. You'll want to continue a positive relationship with your employer after you move on

  • Thank your employer for your time with the company and offer to help with any transitions

Related: How to Write a Resignation Letter

What to do if you change your mind

If you hand in your resignation letter but then decide you would rather stay, you should speak to your employer immediately. It is up to them to decide if you can stay or not. They may have already begun proceedings to replace you or may have decided to re-structure your department, meaning your position no longer exists. This is why you should make absolutely certain, before handing in your notice, that you definitely want to leave.

Sample of a resignation letter

Here is an example resignation letter to help you write your own:

[Supervisor Name]
[Place of Business]
[Business Address]


Dear [Supervisor Name],

I am writing to inform you of my intent to resign from my position at [Business Name] as the [position] effective [last day of work]. Thank you for the opportunity to work with the [business department]. I have enjoyed my time working with this team and progressing in [industry]. I have learned and grown professionally in my time here.

I am happy to help in the transition process or training of anyone who will fill my position between now and [final day of work].

Thank you for understanding my decision to leave the company to pursue [reason for leaving]. I wish you all the best for future continued success.


[Your Name]

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards


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