Many thanks for your patience, I am pleased to be able to continue assisting with your query now. First of all, I am sorry to hear about the issues you have experienced in your situation.
If there is a written contract in place and it contains a specific notice period clause, which an employee must give if they wanted to resign, they will be contractually bound by it. Therefore, if the employee fails to honour this notice period they will be acting in breach of contract. Whilst no one can physically force them to work through their notice period, it would instead allow the employer to sue them for compensation for losses/damages resulting from their breach.
In reality, such claims are rarely made. This is mainly due to the costs and time involved and also the relatively small damages that can be recovered. The employer has to show that actual and unavoidable losses have been incurred and often that is not easy to do. The most common damages they could claim for are due to engaging temporary cover for the employee’s duties. That would attract costs such as the difference in pay, if they were to be paid a higher wage, or recruitment fees for finding a replacement at short notice.
Whilst there is no way of predicting whether the employer will take this any further, chances are that they will not. A more likely outcome is that the employer does not consider the employee for future work and/or refuses to provide a reference if requested.
It is therefore best to try and negotiate a mutually acceptable notice period that would suit both parties. However, if that is not possible and there is a pressing need to leave early, that is still a possibility, subject to the risks identified above.
Finally, there are circumstances when an employee may be entitled to leave with immediate effect and without honouring their notice period. This occurs when an employer has committed a serious breach of contract first. The whole contract, including the notice periods, then becomes immediately void and this is known as ‘constructive dismissal’. If there are reasons to believe the employer has acted in breach of contract, whether a breach of a specific contractual term, or other breaches such as bullying, unreasonable stress, discrimination, etc. then these reasons can be relied on in order to leave with immediate effect by stating this is a constructive dismissal situation.