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Employees are entitled by law to terminate their employment at any time, so long as they give notice in accordance with statute and with any terms regarding notice contained within their contracts of employment. Provided such notice is properly given, an employer cannot lawfully refuse to accept an employee's resignation.

Key points

  • If provoked to resign by the employer's actions, an employee may have been constructively dismissed.
  • The employee is bound by his or her contract of employment to work a period of notice, unless the employer agrees to waive the notice requirement.
  • The employer should always accept an employee's resignation in writing, specifying the last day the employee will be expected to work and the day on which the employment will terminate (if different).
  • Provided the contract of employment allows, an employer may pay the employee in lieu of notice in order to facilitate his or her early departure from the organisation.
  • Employers may, provided contracts of employment allow for it, place employees on "garden leave" for the duration of the notice period.
  • It is good practice for employers to carry out exit interviews to establish the employee's reason for leaving and to use this as an opportunity to address any workplace issues.
Government to legislate on non-compete clauses

In May 2023, the government published its response to consultation which closed in February 2021 on "Measures to reform post-termination non-compete clauses in contracts of employment".

In a move to boost flexibility and dynamism into the UK labour market, the government has committed to introducing a new law to limit the length of non-compete clauses to three months (there are currently no laws relating to restriction/enforceability), when parliamentary time allows.