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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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Hi. I sold my business 2 years ago after 18 years employed

Resolved Question:

Hi. I sold my business 2 years ago after 18 years employed by it. The buyer (a larger firm) gave me a 2-year fixed term contract of employment, with no notice provision, to continue to run it. That expired recently. I have been trying to negotiate terms for staying for the past 5 months but they are being very difficult and my patience is wearing thin. How much notice as a senior manager do I need to give them if I wish to resign now? I understand that my opportunity to "walk" was at the end of that contract and I'm now into a permanent employment situation but with no contract to define terms.
Many thanks
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Ben Jones : Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. In the absence of any notice provisions in the contract an employee is only required to give a week's notice if they wanted to resign from their employment. It is irrelevant how many years they have worked there for
Customer:

Thanks for your swift response Ben. If I can please ask a couple of supplementary questions:

I have to be 100% certain that my actions will not expose me to the risk of a claim from my employer if my departure leads to any loss. One week's notice would be insufficient time for them to recruit a replacement, let alone effect a handover, and this could be very damaging to any commercial negotiations currently in play with prospective clients. The answer may well be "that's their fault, tough" but I must be certain.

Is there any truth to the suggestion often found on employment websites that the position of a senior manager/exec requires them to give their employer "more" than the statutory minimum of 1 week (although "more" is never defined)?

Are you saying that the terms of my original contract of employment (when I was a director/shareholder of my company, before it was sold to my current employer), which specified 6 months notice either way, does not establish a fallback position now that the subsequent fixed term contract, that explicitly replaced it, has expired?

It seems inequitable (albeit to my benefit) that were the boot on the other foot and they were to make me redundant instead, my statutory rights would be for continuous employment for 20 years, meaning they would be required to give me over 6 months notice/redundancy, yet I can walk in one week if I wish?

Many thanks

Ben Jones :

Hi, the starting point is that you are only expected to give the minimum required notice period by law, which in your case is a week. However, if there is no written contract in place stipulating a specific notice period then the employer could argue that there is an ‘implied’ notice period, the length of which would depend on the circumstances, such as your seniority, the influence you have on the business, the issues that may arise by you leaving with just a week’s notice, etc. Sadly there is no official scale to which you can refer to and every notice period will depend on the individual circumstances, in fact only a court can decide what, if any, implied notice period must be served.

So the main problem is that if you give a notice period which the employer believes is insufficient, they could try and challenge this by arguing you should have given a longer period as such a period would have been implied in the circumstances. That is where the uncertainty arises – there is nothing stopping the employer from claiming this regardless of how much notice you give but they would need to convince a court that the notice period you gave fell below any reasonable implied period that would have been expected of you in the circumstances. This could be 2-3 months, or more, perhaps 6 months. So unless you give a period which the employer accepts at this stage, there is always a risk that they would disagree with the period you have given and potentially challenge it. That is why it is impossible to give you a specific notice period which would guarantee you are safe from any potential action, but the longer it is the lower the risk.


Customer:

Many thanks Ben. Exactly as I'd suspected!

Ben Jones :

you are most welcome

Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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Experience: Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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