What happens if you quit a job before your contract expires?

Written by dirk huds | 13/05/2017
What happens if you quit a job before your contract expires?
Both fixed and ongoing contracts specify notice periods. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

If you've secured employment that has a fixed term, there will typically be conditions written into your contract concerning resignation. These will concern the amount of notice you are required to work and the compensation you receive for leave days accrued. It's important that you don't simply stop coming to work, as your employer can institute legal proceedings against you.


There are a variety of reasons why an individual may want to leave an employment position before the end of a contract. Particularly with fixed-term contracts, the individual may wish to leave having secured a permanent position. She may also decide that the job is not right for her or is not as advertised. Legally, a company cannot force an individual to stay for the remainder of her contract, as long as she abides by the conditions of resignation stated within it.


Notice periods can vary between companies, so read your contract. Typically, if you've worked for an employer for one month or more, a week's notice is required. However, many employment contracts state a month's notice, particularly after three months of continuous work, which is often classed as a probationary period. Employees in more senior positions are often required to work longer notice periods.


Always hand in your notice in writing, making sure you date the letter. This provides an official record of your resignation, and is used to work out your notice period. Confirm verbally with your manager and ensure that the letter is given to the relevant human resources worker so it can be officially logged.


Typically, you earn a certain number of leave days for each month of work you complete. If you leave before your contract ends, you may be entitled to receive monetary compensation for untaken leave days you have accrued. Alternatively, you may be able to take them within your notice period, allowing you to leave earlier than the stated month or week. It will depend on your contract and negotiations with your manager, who may be willing to let you go earlier rather then pay extra for leave.


If you wish to leave your job, do not simply stop turning up for work. Technically, you are in breach of the terms of your contract. You employer could then institute legal proceedings against you for financial losses suffered due to your absence. Leaving in an unprofessional manner may also jeopardise your reference. A new employer is likely to ask for a reference from your previous place of work. If you left unprofessionally, this could be noted in your reference.

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