The statutory minimum notice period that an employee should give when leaving a job in the UK is one week. However, most employers will build a longer notice period into the contract of employment, typically one month but up to three months for more senior staff. When an employee wishes to leave a job, he should write to his employer announcing his resignation and stating that he is giving the notice required in his contract. A failure to do this can have negative consequences for the employee.
The employer's side of the contract states that, if the agreed notice is given, the employee will be paid his normal salary up to his leaving date, plus any pension contributions, benefits and accrued holiday pay that may be due. If the employee leaves without giving notice the employer will not make any of these payments. In addition, as the employee would be breaking a contract, the employer would be entitled to sue him for any money lost because of his abrupt departure. In practice, this does not happen very often but employers may consider it for senior jobs with a large amount of financial responsibility.
An employee who leaves a job without giving notice cannot expect to receive a very complimentary reference from his ex-employer. Even if it is the company's policy to give only factual references, the fact that the employee left without giving notice is likely to be something that is included. The ex-employer may even refuse to give a reference. If provision of a reference is part of the contract of employment, the ex-employer can argue that the contract has already been broken. This can have a detrimental effect on the ex-employee's future employment prospects.
Leaving a job without giving notice is inconvenient for the employing organisation but is likely to cause serious problems for the employee's manager and colleagues. They may suddenly be left without cover or with unfinished projects that they have to complete. With the increasing popularity of LinkedIn and other business networking sites, prospective employers are not relying solely on the formal reference to assess a candidate's suitability, but look on networking sites to glean insights into his reputation amongst his peers. Colleagues who feel they have been let down may not be interested in keeping in touch or providing a ringing endorsement of their ex-colleague's skills. In addition, as people change jobs frequently, it is possible that one of the ex-colleagues may become a future recruiting manager at another organisation. They will be unwilling to recruit someone who has already proved himself unreliable.
A possible exception
It is still not advisable, but one occasion on which it may be possible to leave a job immediately without repercussions is on the first day of a new job. If someone does this, he will generally not include that job on his CV (curriculum vitae), therefore the problem of a negative reference will not arise. It is likely, also, that he will not have had enough time in the job to make an impact and his colleagues will not remember him.