Frequently asked questions about the 3-month notice period

Updated 23 May 2023

If you're considering quitting your current job, it may be necessary to give a three-month notice period. There are terms of etiquette expected from both employer and employee when someone hands in a three-month notice. It's important to understand everything there is to know about three-month notice periods in the event that you either hand one in as an employee or receive one as an employer. In this article, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions relating to three-month notice periods.

What is the 3-month notice period?

A three-month notice period is the period between an employee handing in their notice to their employer and the final termination of this contract. The notice period begins from the moment the employee hands in their notice and continues for a three-month period. At the end of this period, the employee no longer holds their job role.

Related: What is a notice period?

When is the 3-month notice of leave appropriate?

A three-month notice period is appropriate in the majority of formal working roles. For example, a professional working as a specialist in an office space provides three months notice to their employer. This supports the workplace in establishing a replacement and preparing for business after the employee leaves the organisation. In more junior roles, where the employer can replace the staff member more easily, a shorter notice period is acceptable. Notice periods vary due to the nature of the company.

How is a 3-month notice period given?

There are several steps in handing in your notice. Each is key, as the completion of one step is not possible without the completion of the prior step. Below are the phases involved in handing in your notice:

1. Decide to leave the organisation

Once you have made the decision to leave your organisation, it's a good idea to set out a timeline for when you would like to leave. The decision to leave may be for a range of reasons. For example, you may be dissatisfied with your current role or already have a job offer from another company.

2. Preparing a letter

A three-month notice comes in written form, through a letter or email. This written record of your intention to leave outlines your reason for leaving the company. Once the letter is complete, proofread and edit it until you're happy with the final product.

3. Hand in the notice

With the final letter written, you're ready to submit your notice. You can submit this to a member of management, preferably your line manager. The date that you submit your notice is the first day of the notice period.

4. Work out your notice

After handing in your notice the company still employs you for a three-month period. In this time, you can continue to work as effectively as you did prior to the notice period. It's always a good idea to leave your current position in a positive way. This increases the potential for a good reference in the future.

Are there statutory notice periods?

There are some statutory notice periods that it's necessary for employers and employees to adhere to. For example, if an employee has been with the employer for between one month and two years, the required minimum notice period is one week. This can rise to up to three months for people employed at a company for twelve years or more. This exists as a protection for employees, who otherwise find themselves at risk of unemployment without any time for preparation.

FAQs for employees

Understanding your rights as an employee is important, especially when it comes to the end of an employment period. Doing so means fair payment throughout a notice period and remaining within the terms of a contract until the end of your notice. Below are some key questions for employees surrounding notice periods:

What happens if you leave before a notice period of 3 months is up?

Depending on the nature of an employee's contract with the company, there is a range of different potential circumstances for leaving before a notice period. For example, if your contract mandates a notice period of three months, working through the notice period is necessary and failing to do so results in penalties. In many cases, a notice period is a formality and an agreement between employee and employer foregoing the notice period is beneficial.

Are employers able to turn down your request for a notice period?

A contract binds the employer to the notice period within an employee's contract. This means that, in the event that a company turns down a request for a notice period, they owe the employee the salary and benefits for the notice period as they would an employee. Agreements between the two parties have the potential to remove the notice period, however neither party benefits by unilaterally turning down the notice period.

Can you take holiday during a notice period of 3 months?

Holiday and other benefits remain the same throughout a notice period. This means that an employee taking holiday during their notice period is perfectly permissible. Furthermore, employees on a yearly holiday quota receive pay for untaken holidays at the end of their employment. This means that working through your notice rather than taking holiday in the period provides a significant lump sum for the employee.

FAQs for employers

As an employer, many employees hand in their notice and resign from their position in the company. This is natural, as employees take career changes or evolve in their skills beyond their current role. Treating them fairly and legally is key to responsible and ethical business. Read on for key questions surrounding employee notice periods and how businesses react to them:

Is it necessary for employers to honour a notice period of 3 months?

Yes, employers have a legal obligation to honour a notice period. This is because, during the hiring process for any employee, the company reaches a compensation agreement with the successful applicant. This contract applies throughout the notice period and not honouring this period with consistent pay and benefits is a breach of the initial contract. Ending an employee's notice early results in compensation payments, in the same way that an employee leaving without notice does.

What do you do when an employee hands in their 3-month notice of leave?

There are several steps companies follow when an employee hands in their three-month notice. These ensure that a company has preparations in place for replacing the employee and working effectively in the long term. Read on to learn the steps companies take following an employee handing in their notice:

Acknowledge the notice

The first step in a notice period is acknowledging the notice. This means that the organisation accepts the three-month notice of leave. It's important to clarify a leaving date for the employee in question and set out the steps ahead for the employee.

Hire a replacement

Once you know an employee is leaving the organisation, begin the hiring process. Hiring replacements takes some time. Starting early ensures the company hires the right person for the role.

Train the replacement

The process of training a replacement can take time. It's essential to plan for this to ensure a consistent level of service in the company. The on-notice employee training a new employee is essential, teaching them the specifics of the job they take on.

Hold an end-of-employment meeting

Hold a meeting with the parting employee. In this meeting, you can establish the reasons for leaving and the views of the organisation. This is a positive step for improving the company, building a picture of where improvements are possible and routes to better practices.

Leave on positive terms

Wherever possible, part with your employee on positive terms. This means the organisation has better relationships throughout the industry. If your industry is small, you may work with the employee again in the future in a different capacity.

Related: 8 best tools for recruiting: examples and benefits

Can employees leave before their 3-month notice of leave is up?

Employees leaving before their three-month notice period's completion can occur, although it's rare. This is because, due to the nature of the employment contract, companies have the ability to chase up compensatory payments for any lost income. This is a deterrent to employees leaving organisations before the completion of their notice period of three months. In these instances, some employees agree mutually with the organisation on foregoing the notice period rather than risking a dispute.

Related: When to claim unemployment benefits (plus criteria and FAQs)

What is pay in lieu of notice (PILON)?

Pay in lieu of notice (or PILON) is the case in which an employer pays the full three months of notice to an employer. This immediately severs the contract and the employer no longer works for the organisation. Even in the event of contract termination due to misconduct, employers pay the employee the equivalent benefits of their notice period in full. This is a legal obligation.

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