What should you do before you switch jobs? What to do when changing jobs

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What should you do before you switch jobs?

Moving jobs can be a big step with lots to do.

Before you hand in your notice or formally accept the offer of a new contract, you should check your current contract and your new contract terms very carefully.

Your current contract will tell you the notice period you have to give, and also include any restrictions on what you can do after leaving.  Your new contract terms should be in line with what you understood the offer to be. You may want to try to negotiate improvements to your new contract.

What is a notice period?

Your notice period is the amount of time you have to give your employer when you want to resign. Your contract should state how much notice you and your employer each have to give.

Employers must give at least statutory minimum notice when they want to dismiss employees, say for redundancy – this is broadly one week per year of employment, up to 12 weeks’ notice after 12 years’ employment. Contractual notice is often more than this, especially for senior employees. It’s also common for both employer and employee to have to give the same amount of notice – say, three months each way – from completion of probation.

Ultimately, the notice period is the buffer for the employer to find someone to replace you when you resign.  It’s also the period when they’ll want you to hand over any ongoing work to whoever is taking it on after you leave.

Can I refuse to work my notice period?

Let’s assume it’s a “normal” peaceful resignation situation and you haven’t been driven to resign due to being treated unfairly by your employer – different considerations apply in cases of constructive unfair dismissal.

You’re contractually obliged to give the notice period in your contract, and if you don’t do so, you’ll be in breach of contract. Let’s look at what can happen then:

  • Your employer will probably say they won’t pay you beyond the last day you actually worked. You may think that’s something you can live with as you’d be free to start your new job. But there’s a but…
  • Your employment would terminate if your employer accepts your breach of contract and doesn’t seek to say you’re still employed until the end of your notice period – but they might do that to try to prevent you joining your new employer earlier than you should. This will lead to a variety of complex scenarios.
  • Your employer could claim any losses or additional costs caused by your early departure from you, such as the cost of obtaining temporary cover, or losses caused by breaches of your restrictive covenants.
  • Aside from the “legal” issues, you’re burning a bridge with your current employer, as well as showing your new employer that you’re prepared to breach your contract, which isn’t the greatest first impression to give!

What to expect when getting a job offer?

Hopefully, the offer is as attractive as you expected it to be through the interview process. Some employers will send an offer letter before or as well as sending a full contract of employment. In this case, the offer letter should set out the basic and important terms of your employment. It needn’t be a full contract of employment, but should certainly include enough information to enable you to make an informed decision about whether or not to accept it.

For instance, the offer letter should include details of your salary, bonus, commission, place of work, holiday entitlement, and benefits like pension, private medical, life insurance and so on.

As employment contracts must now be in place when the employee starts work, many employers will send a full contract along with the offer letter – this is a good way of ensuring all terms are agreed in advance.  It’s good for the employee too, because you will have been able to finalise and agree your full terms before committing and resigning your current job.

Can you accept two job offers?

No, and if you did accept two offers, there’s a good risk that you burn both bridges. If you’re still waiting for a possible offer when another one comes in, it’s better to ask for time to consider it, and also perhaps chase up the other potential offer – this is easier if you’re using a recruitment consultant who can do this for you. Then once you know if both employers are making offers, you will need to decide which to accept.

Competitor restrictions imposed

If you’re new job is with a competitor you have restrictions imposed.

Can you get a settlement agreement if you resign?

As settlement agreement binds both employer and employee, and provides a ‘clean break’.  The settlement agreement may include terms confirming an (eg) enhanced departure, and or things you must or must not do during your notice period, or after you have left your job.

> Read more about settlement agreements

What if I move jobs to a competitor?

There are particular things to be mindful of if you are moving jobs to a competitor, as your current employer may seek to stop you from (eg) poaching clients.

> Read more about moving to a competitor

Is it ok to negotiate a job offer?

Yes, but be respectful in how you go about it.  There is a lot of advice online about whether to, and how to, negotiate salary. From a legal perspective, it’s important to be happy with the terms as a whole.

Restrictive covenants can be an area for negotiation – how long does your new employer want to restrict your activities for after you leave them? What are the terms around bonus or commission – does it look good on the surface but is actually hard to earn?

So it isn’t just about the money – though of course that’s pretty important!

Employment Solicitor

If you’d like help to evaluate the terms you’ve been offered, or help with negotiating better terms, just get in touch with us at employment@Qlaw.co.uk or on 03300 020 863 and we’ll arrange an exploratory call to discuss your situation and how we can help get you where you want to be.

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