When to Hand in Your Notice & How to Do it Professionally

There are many things to consider when you hand in your notice. One of the hardest to work out questions can be when to hand in your notice. Jumping the gun and doing it before you’ve got an unconditional job offer in hand could be disastrous.

Equally, you need to understand how much notice you to give when resigning so you’re able to start your new role as planned.

a blank sheet of writing paper and a pen - how to hand in your notice

As with all things in life, good timing and procedure is everything. We’ll walk you through workplace policies and proper etiquette around when and how you should hand in your notice.

It’s not difficult to navigate the process of leaving a job, just keep things simple and make sure your timing is right when you let your boss know you’re leaving.

How Much Notice You Need to Give

The first thing you will want clarity on when leaving a job is how much notice you need to give. In most situations, you’ll need to check your contract of employment.

There should be a section outlining how much notice you are required to give. This can vary depending on your job role and the company’s infrastructure.

The most common contractual notice period is one month, however some employers will ask for longer notice periods depending on business needs.If you don’t have a contract or if it doesn’t specify notice periods, but you’ve been with your employer for over a month, then you’re legally required to give at least one week’s notice.

Source: ACAS Notice Periods When Resigning

When to Hand in Notice

Knowing when to give notice is paramount and timing is everything here. Get it wrong, and you might regret it if things don’t pan out as you expected them to.

Our guide on resigning while on maternity leave looks at when best to hand in your notice if you do not wish to return to work.

Should you Hand in your Notice Before Signing a Contract?

If you are handing in your notice to go to another job, then it is important to wait until you have written confirmation of your new job.

Verbally being told you have got the job is great and usually the first step but what until you have something concrete.  It is sensible to wait until you’ve read, understood and signed a contract before handing in your notice.

Should You Hand in Your Notice Before References

The next tricky part to navigate when it comes to giving notice is the reference situation. Most employers will ask you for some references before you begin with them.

This may be a little awkward if you have not officially handed in your notice yet. Many new employers understand the need for sensitivity and will give you time to formally resign before seeking references.

However, you must be cautious about handing in your notice before references have been obtained. If you don’t have an unconditional offer of employment you might have your job offer withdrawn due to a bad reference.

If your offer is unconditional, don’t resign until you’ve signed your contract of employment.

Letter Template to Hand in Your Notice

Getting your formal resignation letter right is important. Here’s an overview of the important aspects to cover:-

  • Include your name, address, and email at the top along with the date.
  • Title the letter “Resignation Letter”.
  • Address the letter to your employer.
  • Keep the letter formal, you don’t need to go into huge detail.
  • Refer to your contract, e.g correct length of the notice period.
  • Include the date you feel is your last working day.
  • Thank your boss for your time there.
  • Mention that you may need references further down the line.
  • Offer help with any transitions such as showing new staff the ropes.
  • Set out anything you feel you are entitled to such as accrued holiday pay.
  • Put your full name at the end of the letter.

Sample Resignation Letter


Name and Address

Contact No or Email Address

Letter of Resignation

Dear (name of employer)

Please accept this letter as confirmation of my resignation. After referring to my contract I hereby give you (insert number of weeks) notice. By my calculations, this means my last working day for you will be on (insert date), please correct me if this is incorrect.

I am grateful for my time at (insert name) and have learned a great deal which will help me going forwards. If there is anything I can do to help make this transition easier then please let me know. I’m on hand to help train my replacement up until I leave.

I have (insert number) days of holiday accrued that I have not yet taken so please can you ensure these are taken into account when I receive my final pay?

I would be very grateful if you could write me a reference based on my time here for me to use for future employment.

All the best for the future.

Kind Regards

Full Name

See Also: Resignation letter for personal reasons – for 3 more samples on how to resign for reasons outwith your control.

Steps to Hand in Your Notice

Handing in your notice can kickstart a host of emotions including sadness, worry, and even stress. For this reason, it is important to do things in a logical order when it comes to handing in your notice. Knowing what to say or how to say it can seem a little overwhelming.

Follow the steps below for handing in your notice:

  1. Check the terms of your contract.
  2. Accept the new job offer first (if applicable).
  3. Receive confirmation of new job before resigning.
  4. Follow the correct procedure for leaving.
  5. Put your resignation in a concise yet brief letter.
  6. Outline your reason for leaving.
  7. Have a face-to-face conversation with your boss if appropriate.
  8. Offer to help with any training of new employees.
  9. Be gracious and thank them for your time there.
  10. Ask for references for future employment.

What Happens After You Hand in Your Notice

You’ve handed in your notice, now it’s time to draw a breath and find out what happens next. This can differ depending on the circumstances so we share some common scenarios below.

Work Your Notice Period

It is often the case that once you hand in your notice, you will simply work those weeks as normal and then leave. You’ll be able to work out what you are owed and any accrued holiday and be on your way soon enough.

You Are Put On Gardening Leave

This shouldn’t be viewed as bullying or harassment in the workplace. In some environments, it is a common result of the notice being given.

It is used in situations where confidential information is handled or an employee is moving over to a competitor. It may also just be the case that there is no point in putting that staff member on a new project so gardening leave is used instead.

This means you stay at home for some or all your notice period but are, effectively, on call.

Asked To Leave Early

Some employers may decide that it is in the best interests of everyone to simply end things sooner. If this is the case, you should still receive all monies owed including accrued holiday and payment in lieu of notice.

Should you feel unable to continue then you can ask to finish early but this may not be granted.

Participate In An Exit Interview

Some companies perform exit interviews before a staff member leaves. This typically involves asking the reasons the employee is leaving and for some feedback on their time there.

They might be asked to fill in a survey and provide some constructive criticism on their experiences within the company.

Can You Be Sacked After Resigning?

You might be wondering if your boss can sack you after you have already resigned. The answer to this is no.

Once you have handed in your notice, following the correct procedures,  your employer cannot legally refuse it.

If your boss tells you to leave earlier and without your agreement, then you can claim unfair dismissal. However, this can be a lengthy process and sometimes not worth the effort expended.

Retracting Your Notice if You Change Your Mind

You’ve handed in your notice but you’ve suddenly realised you have made a big mistake. Where do you stand? Unfortunately, by this point, your options are fairly limited.

You could have an open and honest conversation with your boss and ask if they will allow you to retract your notice. In many cases though, the answer to this will be a firm no. Your employer may well have started the ball rolling for hiring your replacement. Not only this but they may feel that situation could occur again and it isn’t worth the risk.

Your boss may agree to your retraction but they may decide to opt for a probationary period going forwards. This gives everyone the chance to see if the situation will work itself out without the full commitment of a contract.

Never Act in Haste – Map Out All Your Options

This is why you should never hand in your notice in haste and it is important to see the bigger picture. There is often no going back once that decision has been made so make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Once you know you are doing the right thing then make sure you follow the correct steps and remain professional.

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