Is it Illegal to Quit a Job without Notice & What will Happen if You Do?

Feel like you’re at the end of the road with your workplace? If the thought of working a notice period fills you with dread, it’s important to understand what might happen next. Many workers worry that it might be illegal to quit a job without notice, and are worried about the consequences.

This is never a nice place to find yourself. Our guide will help get the facts together before making an informed decision about how best to leave your job.

We explore what will happen to employees who decide to quit a job without a notice period. This article sets out the legalities of leaving with immediate effect, and possible repercussions. We aim to make sure you are fully aware of your options to help with resolving this very stressful situation.

Can You Quit a Job Without Notice?

Let’s answer the question you most need to understand first. In legal terms you are required to give notice to your employer.

If you’ve worked for your employer for less than 1 month, you can quit your job without notice.

However, it is also important to understand that nobody can force you to go in to work. Whilst there can be repercussions, they are unlikely to be legal in nature.

However, if you can, try to find a way to work your notice.

Check Your Contract

First of all, you should check your contract to see what it says about notice periods. Perhaps this won’t be as long as you thought and you could manage to get through wortking the notice. Then you could move on to your next chapter stress free.

If your contract does not state a notice period, the statutory minimum is 1 week. If you handed your notice in on Monday, you could be gone by Friday afternoon.

What if You Don’t Have a Contract?

No contract of work does not mean there no contractual agreement in place between you and your employer.

Both parties are are bound by the terms of an “implied contract”. An implied contract is used when there is no verbal or written agreement in place. This is set out in employment law to ensure everyone has statutory rights at work.

There are certain circumstances when quitting without notice is unavoidable. Some of them may give you grounds to claim constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal.

Reasons to Quit with Immediate Effect

Here are some common reasons to quit a job with immediate effect. If you are leaving for one of these reasons, you should outline it in your letter of resignation.

  • Medical reasons or emergency.
  • Family reasons or emergency.
  • You have worked less than 1 month and have no contract.
  • You are on a temporary contract.
  • Due to feeling unsafe in the workplace.
  • Ethical or social issues that have escalated.
  • There have been lots of job losses which is affecting your situation

If you are resigning for a reason which you may later wish to look at raising as part of an unfair dismissal case, it’s important to document it. If you’re resigning immediately for another reason which is outwith your control, letting your employer know will help them look on it sympathetically.

How to Approach Resigning

If you want to leave a job because of a stressful work environment it can feel overwhelming. If it is affecting your wellbeing then there are a few practical things you can try to navigate your exit.

Your best bet is to have an open and honest conversation with your employer. If this isn’t possible due to a broken down work relationship, then speak to HR or another manager.

Discuss Quitting Without Notice

You might find that your employer is open to letting you leave immediately. If things haven’t been going well, they may recognise there’s little value in continuing.

It may be that the atmosphere between everyone will be lightened by ending things prematurely. If they are open to this, it works out in everyone’s best interests.

Consider the Financial Implications of Resigning

Check what if any, financial support you may be entitled to before making any rash decisions. Sometimes, putting up with a tough week or two can be worth it if you know you’ve got that financial security.

Would it be possible to work from home for your notice period? The work environment has changed a lot since the pandemic. Offices closed, more laptops were purchased and many employees now operate fully from their homes. If this isn’t possible in your current position then perhaps you could be moved to a role that will allow you to work remotely.

If you do decide that under no circumstances can you work your notice period then make sure you have a plan in place.

Do you have enough savings to get you through until a new job comes along? Do you have a support network you can reach out to if times get tough? And do you honestly feel that you cannot work another day in the company? Remember, no one can physically force you to get to the workplace.

But it is important to understand you will be in breach of your contract, even if there isn’t a written document.

What Happens if You Do Quit a Job Without Notice?

If you feel like there’s no alternative but to leave your job with immediate effect, it’s important to understand what might happen.

Breaching Your Employment Contract

It is a breach of contract to quit without notice. This is the case even if you do not have a contract in place.

The worst thing that could happen is that your employer takes you to court for breaching your employment contract. They would seek to recover the additional costs associated with you leaving without notice. This could include the cost of bringing in temporary employees to cover your postion.

However, whilst an employer has the right to pursue a legal case against you the majority of companies won’t do this. It can be expensive and stressful and will impact the business negatively. Often, a company will see it is in their best interests to let you leave quietly with minimal fuss.

Employment References

It is worth bearing in mind that if you burn bridges with your employer then you may be unable to ask them for references later.

This may be hard to explain at your next interview without letting them know how things panned out.

Deduction of Costs

It is also possible that your employer may deduct holiday overpayments or any training costs from your final wage.

They are perfectly within their rights to deduct holiday overpayments. However, if you have not signed an agreement specifically saying they can deduct training costs if you leave, this may be an unlawful deduction of wages.

Is it Illegal to Quit a Job Without Notice?

If we are to get all technical then yes, quitting without notice is illegal. Leaving in this manner will always open up the possibility of legal action but this is unlikely.

It can be a bit of a PR nightmare to take this route, not to mention stressful, time consuming, and financially draining. Much of the time, after weighing up the situation, employers will realise it is not business smart to pursue legal action.

When You Don’t Have to Give Notice

If you are within the first month of your employment and there is no contract stating otherwise, then you can leave without giving notice.

Employers can also dismiss you without notice during the first month of your role.

If you are on a zero hours employment contract – you have to give notice. However, you are not legally obliged to accept any shifts during your notice period. Some employers will tell you this is not the case, but that’s not how a true zero hours contract works.

Outstanding Wages –  Do You Still Get Paid?

If you leave without notice, and you have worked there for over a month, then your employer still needs to pay you for the hours you have worked.

You will not be entitled to any further notice pay unless you can come to an agreement with your employer.

Payment for Holiday Entitlements

Your employer is obligated to give you any holiday money accrued on top of any wages owed for hours worked. The number of days you have accrued will depend on the length of time you have worked there.

Further Reading

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