What is the point in a notice period?
This is the question I have been asking myself for some time now.
Why? Because time and time again I hear this line from people when I start working with them to find their next role:
‘My notice period is 3 months, but I’ll be able to negotiate that down, I’ve seen people leave in weeks.’
I don’t just hear this line on the odd occasion, I would say I hear this in most instances.
The reality of the past 12 months?
NINE times out of TEN there is ZERO negotiation; the question gets asked, but it’s ultimately rejected, and the agreed notice period remains.
I find myself wondering why people make this statement; do they believe it when they say it? Do they think it’s what I as their ‘recruiter’ want to hear? Or do they think it makes them more attractive to their future employer during the interview process?
If I was writing this article in the USA then things would be different, there are no legal guidelines on notice periods, in-fact legally a notice period does not even exist in North America. However, here in the UK we do have legal requirements and minimum periods when it comes to the amount of ‘notice’ needed. Whether this be you as the individual resigning, or the business letting you go. Therefore the length and details of your notice period really does matter.
In my experience notice periods have been increasing in length since we came out of the pandemic. I’ll go one step further, they are becoming a hinderance to the recruitment process, but I you might guess I would say that. I work across the world of Product Management, the average notice period of those I have worked with so far in 2022 is TWO months. It is not uncommon however to come across THREE month notice periods, and check this out, I recently worked with a person looking to change roles who had agreed to a SIX month notice period! SIX months?!
This is why I believe find myself asking more and more, why agree to a legally binding notice period if you are going to try and negotiate it down at the end of your time with a business? You would not accept a salary that is not at the desired level, so why agree to a notice period you don’t like? You would not agree to working from the office every-day, if hybrid or remote working was important to you, so why agree to a notice period you don’t like?
The legal requirement in the UK with respect to notice periods, in those people who have been with a business for less than TWO years is ONE week. So why are you agreeing to THREE months post your probation being signed off?
In an environment with so much move and flex in the job market, I think it’s time we started to realise and accept that any notice period over the legal minimum is a negotiable, not a legal obligation. Yes, a notice period protects you too, so there is a level of risk if you look to negotiate it down at the start of your employment, but you can’t have you cake and eat it. There is no point deciding you want the protection of a notice period until something better comes along. That’s not fair on the organisation you work for.
Last week I issued the dreaded LinkedIn poll on this subject to see what people thought about negotiating their notice period.
- 74% of respondents stated they have previously negotiated their notice period
My presumption is that in these cases the notice period was reduced in duration during the negotiation. I must admit, was very surprised by this, as I am just not seeing it in the job market right now. If this is the case, and nearly 75% of people have and are looking to negotiate their notice period, then I come back to the question; why agree to it in the first place?
Once you have signed your contract and agreed to the terms within it, legally if everyone does what they are meant to, then organisations are well within their rights to ask you to work through your notice period. In the current jobs and hiring climate, who can blame any organisation for enforcing a notice period? I would, it’s a minefield out there when looking to hire people right now, the sensible thing for an organisation to do is to protect themselves. However, you the person, the individual who signs the contract, who does the work, who ultimately will leave that role at some point, must decide whether the proposed notice period works for you. The best time to do that is surely at the start of your employment journey, not the end?
Surely that’s best for all parties?
Remember you are in a strong position when interviewing for a new job currently; wages are inflated and businesses and in many cases desperate to hire. This does not mean I’m encouraging anyone to take advantage of the situation, but what I am saying it look at every aspect of the contract you are about to sign. Including the notice period.
The reality is you are going to leave your role at some point for another one. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can negotiate when that time comes, my experience tells me you can’t.
This article was written by Craig Fenn, Product Partner at Digital 51. Do you agree with what Craig has written in this article, or have you seen it differently in your career? Why not reach out and tell Craig on