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Employees leave jobs for many reasons, but increasingly employees who resign don’t want to work their notice or disappear as soon as they are paid. (Many are also producing spurious sick notes). Is this the right thing to do?

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act lays down the rights that both employers and employees have when terminating employment. An employer or employee who wishes to give notice of termination must do so in writing and must give notice of:

7 days in the first 6 months of employment
14 days in the next 6 months of employment and
30 days thereafter.

The purpose of giving notice is so that alternative arrangements can be made. For the employee who finds his employment terminated, he has paid time to find alternative employment and for the employer they have time to replace you and have you do a handover to the new hire.

So why should you work your notice?

There are a number of reasons:

1. Remember this is the employer who will be providing references for you for years to come. What are they going to say?

2. You should never burn bridges. You could find yourself needing a job back with the company if your new job does not work out?

3. You could find yourself having to pay your employer the value of your notice pay. You have signed a contract agreeing to work notice. If you do not, then you are in breach of your contract and the company has a right to compensation. If you refuse to pay compensation, then you could find yourself in expensive litigation.

4. It is the ethical thing to do. What would it feel like to have your company terminate your employment without notice?

Before you decide to abscond (because that is what it amounts to), read your letter of appointment carefully and see what you have agreed to in the “termination of employment” section. If it says that you have to give a calendar months’ notice, then your notice period will start on the 1st of the following month. If you have agreed to a longer notice period, e.g. three calendar months, then that is what you have to work before you can start your new job. If you refuse to work your notice, then the compensation you will be expected to pay for breach of contract could be at least the value of the notice that you are refusing to work.

There are of course many situations where the termination of employment is acrimonious and perhaps neither you nor the company want to work out the notice period. Let that be the employers’ choice. By law if you have tendered your notice and your company doesn’t want you to work your notice, they have to pay you for the full notice period and are not allowed to request that you take your annual leave instead. However, remember that they can ask you to work “garden leave”, in other words you don’t need to come to work, but you can’t work anywhere else either until your notice period is finished.

Sometimes there is pressure from the new company for you to start immediately and they say that they are not prepared to wait for you. Consider how ethical they are and would they honour any notice period that they needed to give to you? Do you really want to work there?

You know what they say about first impressions, they say the same about last impressions. So work harder than you have ever worked before during your notice period and this will be the last and lasting impression.

(Information supplied by Desrae Connold of Connold and Associates – on behalf of Ad Talent).

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