If an employee is dismissed, they have the right to be given the appropriate amount of notice as laid down under the Employment Rights Act 1996 or with the provisions in their Contract of Employment. If an employee resigns, they will also need to provide notice to you.
The law sets out the minimum notice periods for employers – the length of these notice periods will hinge on how long the employee has worked for you.
An employer must provide one week’s notice if the employee has worked for the employer on a continuous basis for one month or more, but less than two years.
You must provide two weeks’ notice if the employee has worked for you on a continuous basis for at least two years and an extra week for each further year of completed service, up to 12 weeks’ notice.
For employees, the statutory minimum notice period for any employee who has worked for at least one month is one week. Unlike the case with employer’s notice periods, length of service has no bearing.
Below is an overview of some key policies that should be included in your Handbook.
Notice should be included in the employee’s Contract of Employment. If you entered into an employment relationship verbally, employers are still required to provide each employee whose employment is to continue for more than one month with a ‘statement of written particulars of employment’. This must be provided within two months of the employee’s start of employment.
The contractual notice period can be equal to or longer than the statutory notice period, but never shorter. If the employer sets out a longer contractual notice period, the contractual period will prevail over the statutory notice period.
Longer notice periods will make particular sense for those employees performing highly critical, specialised or senior roles as a longer notice period will give you more time to find a replacement or train someone internally to do the job.
Dismissal without notice or a shorter notice period
There may be times when you dismiss someone and do not need to provide them with notice.
This will be the case if the employee has committed an act of gross misconduct, for example, theft, violence or fraud. In your disciplinary policy, you should give clear examples of what constitutes gross misconduct and what the possible consequences can be. In any case, it is not just a case of saying “you’re fired”, you will need to need to follow a fair procedure to ensure the dismissal is fair.
Where the parties both agree, the Contract of Employment can be terminated with no notice or a much shorter notice period.
If a Contract of Employment is for a fixed-term period, the contract will automatically terminate when the period ends. The non-renewal of a fixed-term contract constitutes a dismissal in law. This means that they may be able to claim unfair dismissal if they have over two years’ service.
The employee’s Contract of Employment may also expressly have a provision that permits making a payment in lieu of notice, known as a PILON.