3 month notice period
By Chris Bongard
7th February 2013

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The difficulties with 3 month notice periods

Recruiting in the Information Management industry we’ve noticed an increasing number of candidates are on a 3 month notice period.  By the time we speak to them they are looking for a new job and are concerned about the impact this will have.  Will it be off-putting for prospective employers?  Will they be prepared to wait for them? And if they do get the job of their dreams will it be possible to leave their current job any earlier?

3 month notice periods are very common at senior level or when your skills are rare and in demand so as long as you handle it well and are honest about your situation it shouldn’t hinder your chances of landing a great opportunity!

Once you have secured a new position, the prospect of handing your notice in can be a daunting one.  Often you feel a massive relief to be getting out of a situation that you’ve not been happy in and impatient to get stuck into your new job, but it’s important to handle the situation professionally and ensure a smooth transition for both your current and new employer.

Know where you stand before you resign

Whilst you are still at interview stage it’s important to be honest about your notice and not to promise you can get out of a long notice period if you don’t know that for sure. If it means you end up starting sooner than expected once you have got the job and handed your notice in then all the better!  This should keep your new employer happier than saying you can start sooner and then not being able to.

Remember; if you have signed a contract of employment you are duty bound to stick to 3 months unless you can come to another agreement. If you don’t have a signed contract then you will need legal advice about your specific circumstances but chances are you’ll be still liable to work your 3 months’ notice. For more information visit the ACAS website

Consider your employers viewpoint

From your employer’s perspective, they may have been expecting your resignation or be surprised and upset.  Whichever, your leaving will still cause them a headache.  Although they won’t want an uncommitted employee hanging around too long, they have to ensure the rest of your team isn’t unsettled, start the search for your replacement or consider restructuring the team whilst making sure your work can be completed and regular tasks handed over effectively.  The more help you can give to address these difficulties, the more likely you’ll be able to negotiate leaving sooner.

How to negotiate an early exit

Our advice for negotiating an early exit:

  • Do it in writing and include your planned release date
  • Prepare in writing how you will handover to allow you to leave sooner.  Include details of who you will hand over to, the work and projects you will be handing over along with an expected completion date showing how you can make this happen.
  • Check how many holidays you’ve got left and use them to reduce your notice period
  • Don’t badmouth your boss or the company.  You’ll get further by being professional and gracious

For more advice to help you through process take a look at our article ‘How to resign from your job’

Garden leave – what you can and can’t do

If you are going to a competitor then your employer may decide to put you on garden leave.  Even if your employer doesn’t want you to do any more work at all, remember you are still legally employed by them and you can’t start another job until your garden leave and notice period is complete.  Check your contract for clauses relating to going to a competitor.

Garden leave gives you a great opportunity to prepare for your new job, so use the time to do some research and pop into the office to meet the team.

Best practice if you’re unsuccessful

Even if you don’t manage to agree a faster exit straight away don’t give up hope! It might be still be possible to leave earlier if your handover is completed quickly or your employer manages to replace you sooner than expected.  As time goes on keep your manager posted of your progress and if you are on track to complete the work early you can put in another request for an early release.

You should also keep in mind that some employers will use this time to try and woo you back! They may think the longer you are still working there, the more time they have to try and come up with another offer.  Whether it’s a promotion or more money it is usually a bad idea to accept a counter offer.  For more advice read our article ‘8 reason’s you should not accept a counter offer from your current employer’.

If you do end up having to work the entire 3 months it will no doubt be disappointing and hard not to take your foot off the pedal a little.  All of a sudden you find it easy to turn down meetings because you won’t be around to see the end of a project so it’s not worth you being involved. Do try to remain as committed as possible and don’t start throwing sickies!  Use the time to complete your handover to the best of your ability and prepare yourself mentally for all that goes with starting a new job.  You may be asked to attend an exit interview and that’s your chance to offer constructive feedback about why you’re leaving. 

Have you been in this situation and successfully left before your 3 month notice was up? What advice can you give?


"Hi, this has been very helpful. thanks!!" - Rishien

"I’m interested to understand on the point where you say, “stay as committed as possible….” if the scenario that sees you leave has resulted from horribly erratic, bad tempered behaviour from execs – which has led to several good staff suffering stress related absence and a mini exodus of good people. I’m generally as committed as they come and actually love my line of work. But in this scenario, working the three month notice is a mentally painful prospect, precisely because I usually care, and the challenge is to preserve mental and emotional strength…. Just wondered?" - Tony

"I agree with Tony. I’ve resigned due to poor company, projects, work load etc etc (everything that was resulted in me becoming burnt out) and its extremely difficult to maintain the level of work that resulted in becoming burnt out in the first place. If anything, its worse than just walking out (though the consequences of that would not be good when you work in a small industry)" - Jon


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