DAVID ROYDEN - EMPLOYMENT SOLICITOR
UK EMPLOYMENT LAW

David Royden is a Partner with Laytons Solicitors and Head of Employment Law, Manchester, UK

Laytons Solicitors is a national law practice specialising in all aspects of Company and Commercial Law

Laytons Solicitors, 22 St John Street, Manchester M3 4EB.
Tel: +44 (0) 161 834 2100
Fax: +44 (0) 161 834 6862

Offices at London, Manchester and Guildford, UK

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NOTICE PERIODS

The legal obligation on employers to provide employees with a written statement of terms and conditions of employment is not fulfilled in may cases, and in other cases is only partially fulfilled.

Statutory Minimum Notice Periods

In the absence of written statement of terms and conditions of employment an employee who has been continuously employed for 1 month is statutorily entitled to receive not less than 1 week’s notice (unless dismissed for gross misconduct). Thereafter, once an employee has been employed for two or more years, the minimum statutory notice entitlement rises by one week for each completed year of service up to a maximum of 12 weeks after 12 years continuous employment. However, the statutory notice periods are the minimum periods of notice which an employee is entitled to receive. There are several cases where an employee will be entitled to more than the statutory minimum.

The statutory minimum notice period that an employee who has been continuously employed for 1 month or more is required to give to an employer is always 1 week, regardless of length of service.

Express and Implied Notice Periods

A written contract of employment will usually specify the notice period that is applicable to an employee. However, in the absence of a written agreement the two key factors that will determine whether an employee is entitled to receive an additional period of notice over and above the statutory minimum are the employee’s status, and the general practice within the industry/ business sector in which they work. For example, a person who holds a senior position in an organisation, such as a director, can expect to receive up to three months notice regardless of length of service. Managing Directors may well expect to receive up to six months’ notice and in limited circumstances may well argue that they are entitled to receive up to 12 months’ notice.

However, employers may be dismayed to learn that generally the converse does not apply. In the absence of an express contractual notice period an employee is usually only expected to give the statutory minimum notice period of 1 week, regardless of status or length of service.

Wrongful Dismissal / Breach of Contract

If an employee is dismissed having only received the statutory minimum period of notice, he or she may wish to bring a claim for Wrongful Dismissal on the basis that the imposition of the statutory minimum notice period is not appropriate or reflective of the status of the position which they previously held. It is a claim which will be particularly attractive to senior managers and directors who have been employed for less than one year and who are yet to acquire rights in relation to an Unfair Dismissal claim.

Conclusion

It is certainly in the interests of employers, and usually in the interests of employees to contractually express the specific notice periods that they are expected to give and receive. In the absence of the same employers cannot assume that the statutory minimum notice periods will automatically apply when giving notice to employees, whereas they are unlikely to be able to expect more than the statutory minimum notice period of 1 week in return.

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