‘Thems the breaks.’

I am sure lots of things stood out to people regarding the Prime Minister’s resignation speech yesterday, but for me it was these words, ‘thems the breaks.’

Firstly, I had never heard that phrase before, maybe it’s just me, but had you? My understanding is that it translates to what was called ‘hard lines,’ when I was growing up, or tough luck, it is what it is, there is nothing you can do about it. In short, it’s happened; we are where we are.

The second reason this stood out as a phrase to me, is that I feel politicians are now about to feel some of the pain that the commercial world feels when it comes to a specific subject; people leaving a role, or organisation. Put another way, notice periods.

Like many of you my screen and airways have been filled in the last 24 hours with people from all political parties, government, and trade bodies, talking about how the Prime Minister ‘needs to go now.’ How the government can’t go on with someone they either don’t trust, has had their competence questioned, or has now decided it’s time to move on.

What would I say to any and all of those politicians if they were in-front of me today?

‘Thems the breaks.’

I am sorry, but we in the commercial world whether it be an organisation, line manager, business owner, or employee, all have to wrangle with notice periods, so tough luck political parties, see how you like it.

Notice periods across the professional world have been creeping up over the last 18 months. With the much talked about shortage of talent in the UK, many businesses used the chance to increase salaries, or change working practices for flexible working, to also change notice periods. My colleague Craig Fenn recently wrote an article about how those looking for, or considering a new role, should be ready to negotiate their notice period, like they would a salary. I totally agree with this.

We are now in a position where 3 month notice periods are very much the norm. We are in a position where business cannot hire, so someone exiting the business is asked to perform their previous duties until the last minute of the last day. I get why businesses need to do this, they are paying for a resource, why not maximise it? But, why is it different for the political classes to want someone out whose heart is not in it, or they are worried about capability wise? That’s what businesses and individuals have been dealing with for years.

Spare a thought for the Prime Minister in all this (words I never thought I would say.) He has offered to work his notice, offered to complete a hand-over, and offered not to do anything outside the manifesto. This makes me think of all those employees I have known over the years who have done the same, but have them been shipped on-to gardening leave. Only allowed to give up this period, if they give up their pay, to start a new role. Many think gardening leave sounds like a dream, but for many it’s a very difficult time.

I think we need to re-visit notice periods across the UK. We are out of synch with other western economies on this, but most importantly we are out of synch with the needs of business, and individuals. I passionately believe we need to protect workers, but we also need to balance that protection with solutions that work for all parties. I know it’s a tough gig, I know it’s a hard challenge, but them the breaks, right? Just because it’s complicated, that’s not a reason to ignore it.

Why raise this today? Because it’s the politicians of the country who can help change this. It is they who can change employment law, and best practice, but they choose when, and where they want to impact working practice in the UK. Picking off the things that will grab headlines, not the areas that affect commerciality. I am not saying government should run business, far from it, but it’s naive to think they don’t influence it.

Maybe now the Conservatives are having to deal with a difficult leaver, they will finally see, what we are all seeing, in the real world?

I’m sorry to say, I fear they won’t, but I guess thems the breaks as they say.

What do you think?

This article was written by Simon Brown, Founder of Digital 51. To reach out and tell Simon what you think about his article, please e-mail him on