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Ending employment well

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Use this page to understand your responsibilities when you end an employee’s contract, or when staff resign or retire.

For information on conduct dismissals, read our guidance on disciplinary matters.

Resignation

Resignation is the act of an employee ending their employment contract. Typically, organisations require employees to resign in writing.

Once an employee has resigned, you should send them a letter acknowledging the resignation. This should include:

  • details of final pay, when it will be paid and how
  • details of outstanding annual leave or leave owed
  • information on returning company property
  • arrangements during the notice period
  • a thank you for their service.

Notice periods

Employee notice period

If an employee resigns, they must give the period of notice stated in the written statement that sets out the terms of their employment contract.

Employer notice period

Where an employer terminates employment (for example, in the case of redundancy), the employee is entitled to statutory notice or contractual notice, whichever is higher.

Statutory notice is:

  • one week’s notice if the employee has been employed by the employer continuously for one month or more, but for less than two years
  • two weeks’ notice if the employee has been with the employer for two years or more. This entitlement increases by one week per full year of service up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

If the employee’s contractual notice (the notice period stated in the written statement) is higher than statutory notice, then the employee must be given contractual notice.

Exceptions

No notice is required:

  • when a contract expires at the end of its fixed term (unless the contract states otherwise)
  • where an employee is dismissed for gross misconduct.

Acas has more information on notice periods for employers.

Exit interviews

Exit interviews are one of the most direct ways to discover employees' views. They can help you improve your workplace and increase staff retention.

Exit interviews ideally shouldn’t be carried out by the leaving employee’s line manager. Instead, try to use someone impartial – preferably someone who carries out human resources as part of their role.

Try to make the exit interview positive so the leaving employee can be an ambassador for your organisation.

Ask open questions that encourage honest and considered responses. Avoid leading and limiting questions.

Areas to cover include:

  • reasons for leaving
  • the role – the extent to which the employee found the work interesting and was able to develop knowledge and skills
  • relationships with others – including the manager and team members
  • their manager – the extent to which they set clear tasks/objectives, gave developmental feedback and offered support
  • the working environment and culture – physical working conditions, office equipment, communication from senior managers
  • overall view of the organisation as a place to work.

Retirement

Under current UK employment law, an employer cannot ‘retire’ an employee. This applies even where you no longer need a job – this would result in redundancy, not retirement.

You must not apply pressure on employees to retire at a certain age – this would be unlawful age discrimination.

If an older employee isn’t meeting their objectives or performance standards, you’ll need to manage the situation in the same way you would for other employees. If they cannot achieve the required standard, you should sensitively follow performance management processes (in the same way you would for any employee).

Read our guidance on managing underperformance. You may also want to seek employment or legal advice.

An employee can choose to retire, of course – in effect, this is a resignation.

Further information

Last reviewed: 01 August 2022

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 01 August 2022

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