Resigning During Probation Period – What Notice Do You Have to Give?

Not every job ends up being a good fit. If you’ve started a new role and wish to leave, you need to know what the process is for resigning during a probation period, and how much notice you’ll have to give.

The wish to leave a job that has not lived up to your expectations can be overwhelming. However, it’s important to take a calm and methodical approach to make your resignation as stress free as possible.

Probation periods are standard practice within many jobs, and they serve two purposes. First, it allows the employer to see if you will be a good fit for the company. Second, it gives you the chance to decide if it’s the job for you.

If you want to look at quitting you first need to understand the notice period during probation. 

What is a Probationary Period?

Sometimes, a job sounds ideal on paper. But the reality can be different and you may decide it isn’t the right step for you. Likewise, an employer may be impressed with your CV and interview but realises you aren’t a suitable candidate after all.

To stop this from getting messy and causing problems, a probation period is used. Probation acts as a trial period to make sure the role is a good fit for employer and employee.

A probationary period makes sure all expectations of the role are fulfilled, from all parties involved. They are typically 3-6 months in length.

Most employment contracts have a shorter notice period if an employee wants to resign during probation, or is dismissed.

Notice Period During Probation – Can I Quit Without Notice?

It might be tempting to consider quitting without notice during your probation if your job is not as expected. However, you need to be aware of the do’s and don’ts.

In the first instance, you should check the terms of your contract and see what it says about your notice period.

Most contracts of employment will lay out what notice period you need to give if you wish to leave. However, if your contract is silent on notice periods, and you have been in your job for less than one month, you are not obligated to give any notice during probation.

If you have been hired on a zero hours contract, your employment contract may specify a notice period. However, you are not obligated to accept any shifts during notice. This means you can effectively resign with immediate effect.

Common Contractual Notice Periods

You should check your contract of employment to understand your notice period as it should be set out in there.

Your ability to quit without notice on probation will usually depend on a few factors including:

  • Length of employment.
  • The rules in place as per your contract.
  • The reason to be leaving, whether it’s dismissal, redundancy or resignation.

If you don’t have your contract to hand, here are some common timescales which are used by companies to determine notice periods.

If you’ve been employed for:-

  • Less than a month: No notice, or less than one week.
  • 1-6 months: One week notice.
  • Staff who have passed probation: One month notice period.

These are guidelines only, your own contract of employment may have different notice periods.

Statutory Notice Periods During Probation

As much as contracts are important, there are some companies who choose to not supply them. In this case, you need to refer to the statutory notice periods for your required notice period.

  • Between one month and two years of employment: One week’s notice
  • Two years of employment: Two week’s notice required
  • Anything over two years of employment: One week notice per year required

Source: ACAS, notice when resigning.

Probation Period Resignation Statistics UK

Decided that you want to resign before your probation period is over? You are not alone. It’s surprisingly common for new employees to quit.

Stats from Croner-i reveal that nearly a quarter of new employees leave within 6 months. Two thirds of them leave in the first month. The most common reason for departing was dissatisfaction with the role.

Source: Probationary Period Quick Facts – Croner-i

What Will Happen if You Don’t Give Notice During Probation?

You might be tempted to give no notice if you are seriously miserable during your probation period and just want to quit immediately. But what are the repercussions of doing so?

In theory, you can face legal action from the employer if you leave without notice. When you do this, you’re in breach of your employment contract.

Can You Be Taken to Court?

If your employer needs to hire someone in the interim to replace you, they can theoretically charge these costs to you. However, taking you to court is an unlikely outcome due to the time and money involved in doing so.

They would have to be able to prove your actions had caused a financial loss. Depending on the size of the company, this can be a draining use of resources and time. This means that it is not usually worth an employer taking you to court.

Our guide on what happens if you don’t work your notice period discusses this scenario in depth.

Deductions from Final Pay

Should you leave early, you may owe the company money. For example, if they have allowed you to take annual leave on probation and you’ve been paid more holidays that you accrued. This will need to be returned to them.

There may also be clauses in your contract that give your employer the right to make deductions from your final pay.

Before you make any rash decisions, our guide on how to hand in notice will demystify the resignation process.

Talk to Your Employer Before Quitting

It is worth a discussion with your employer or HR before leaving without notice. Often, it can be agreed that it is in the best interests for everyone to end things right away. This means no one leaves on bad terms.

The employer will know that if you are unhappy and leaving, then perhaps you won’t give the role as much enthusiasm as someone else.

Sometimes, it is easier to let an employee leave without drama and concentrate on the next candidate. Often, employers will have a list of suitable people from when interviews were conducted so they will return to this.

This could be the best course of action if you want to avoid getting a bad reference from your former employer. Walking out without notice is never a good look.

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