It’s that time of year when we’re back at work after the Christmas break and making all kinds of New Year’s resolutions…. taking up a new hobbies, booking new travel destinations and, for some,eyeing up a new job.
Even though the world of work is changing and providing an endless source of new opportunities, not everyone can follow in the footsteps of Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire and just swan out of the office for good. If you do decide you need a new job there are a number of key issues you should get sorted before you knock on the bosses’ door and tell them you’re moving on.
Usually the contract of employment will specify the notice period that is to apply when an employee is leaving their job. If the contract is silent on this then the legal position is that a person who has been in a job for 13 weeks or more, is required to give their employer at least one week’s notice. If they have been working for less than this period and there is nothing about notice in their contract, they do not have to give any notice at all.
For those working in the private sector, there is likely to be buried deep in their contract of employment a restraint of trade clause which puts limits on the location, nature and start date for their new job. Again, check the small print of your contract for this clause. Whether or not this becomes a contentious issue may well depend on your professional and/or personal relationship with your employer. It can become an issue if you are departing on less than good terms. These clauses can often be overly restrictive but only deemed so by a court after a protracted legal dispute between the parties.
Put simply, a departing employee has no legal right to a reference from their boss. However, for employers it is important to bear in mind that whilst you are not obliged to give a reference if you decide to do so a number of legal obligations kick in. Make sure that your reference is accurate. Whilst it will often be a case of what to leave out as opposed to what you put in, eulogising about a poorly performing departing employee can have consequences down the road if their new employer relies on the reference to their detriment and similarly denigrating a departing employee unfairly can also come back to bite the employer. It’s for these reasons that employers increasingly give what are called Statements of Record as opposed to the traditional character references.
Not exactly the most exciting topic in the world but not having one is not cool. Are you a member of a private pension scheme or a member of an occupational group scheme? What happens to your pension when you leave your job? Does it travel with you? Can you still contribute to it in your new job or have you to start a new plan with your new job? It is vital that you speak with someone in HR or the trustee of your pension scheme to find out what happens with your pension when you leave your job.
As you prepare to hand in your notice you dust down your old C.V. and think about getting it updated. Whilst there may still be a place for the neatly typed and strongly bound C.V. bear in mind that your work history and more importantly your life history are unlikely to be confined to a written document.
We now live in a digital age and the odds are you are creating a big digital footprint online which is only a click away for your new employer. Your online presence also extends to the virtual world of your family and your “friends” – both the real and electronic ones and not surprisingly this is increasingly fertile ground for prospective employers to find out about you.
So, like lots of other life changes leaving your job can be smooth and painless or fraught with problems you never anticipated. Finding out about your legal rights and entitlements when leaving will help to minimise the stress involved and hopefully will ensure that the new job marks the start of an exciting new chapter in your life.
Brian Gill, Partner in employment law Callan Tansey