Redundancy notice periods

Even though you are being made redundant, you may still have to work a notice period. You may feel as though the last thing you want to do is go back to work when you and your colleagues know you will be leaving, so it can be a difficult time. However, if you need time to organise your financial affairs, arrange replacements for company perks such as health insurance, mortgage, loan or company car before your salary stops, it can be useful to have this time.

It may be that your notice period will be set out in your contract of employment, and it may well be longer than the statutory period. If your contract does not specify a notice period, there are statutory notice periods which you can see on this page on the DirectGov website.

Your rights to take time off for job hunting

During your notice period, if you have worked for your employer for two years, you are entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off to look for another job, or to attend training that may help you to get a new job. There is no absolute definition of what is ‘fair’, although one or two interviews with associated reasonable travelling time is unlikely to cause difficulties. In theory, your employer can reduce your pay for this time, but it would be an extraordinarily stingy organisation that did so.

Similarly, if you land a new job before your notice period expires, it would be extraordinarily mean of an organisation not to let you leave to take this up. However, strictly, you could stand to lose your redundancy payment, so take advice and formally approach your employer for permission to leave, rather than just leaving.

Payment in lieu of notice

Your employer may offer you payment in lieu of (instead of) notice, or this may be a term of your employment contract. Although this means you receive no notice, and must leave immediately, your employer must pay you all the salary and benefits you would normally have received during the notice period, including your company car and any pension contributions and private health insurance.

Payment in lieu of notice dismisses any requirement to stay under contract for the notice period, and so you would be entitled to apply for, and take up, new employment immediately.

Garden leave – what it means and your rights

Garden leave is the common nickname given to a period of time specified in an employment contract when an employee has to serve out their notice period at home – or ‘in the garden’. It is often written into employment contracts where an employee has commercially sensitive knowledge which would be useful to a competitor.

The purpose of garden leave is to let the sensitivity or currency of that knowledge expire, to reduce its potential value to a competitor. Enforcement of garden leave may only apply where the employer has previously specified it as part of a contract of employment, and where it is deemed fair (usually by comparison to similar employment contracts within the industry).

While on garden leave, you remain fully under contract to your employer, and may usually not apply for, nor take up, new employment. You may also be called back into work at any time. If you are in an area in which your skills would deteriorate during a long garden leave by not being used, you should seek specialist legal advice, as case law exists which may mean your employer has to provide work to allow you to use these skills.