I submitted a verbal notice of resignation last month with effect from 31 December 2008. However, my employers have now came back to me saying I must leave at end of November. Can they do this? Is is legal for them not to accept my selected notice date/period - verbal or otherwise?
Should I now submit a written one stating my effective resignation date as 31 December?
My contractual notice period is 1 month, which has passed.
An employer is not obliged to accept the notice period that you give if they don't want to. Don't get me wrong, they cannot do anything to prevent you leaving if you choose to resign (despite what football chairmen say to the press on occasion!) but they can issue you with counter notice to change your leaving date, which appears to be what has happened in this case.
As long as your employer gives you the amount of notice due to you under your contract then they are free to do as you have described in your post. As a general rule it is never a great idea to give an employer more notice than you are contractually obliged to (and I would certainly not advise giving an employer 4 months notice when there was no need to). The biggest fears for an employer in those circustances is that you will be completely disengaged for the 4 months and you could get up to mischief (taking away company secrets, client details, etc).
Technically you could have a claim for unfair dismissal if you have more than 12 months continuous service with your employer - after all their counter notice is a dismissal. However, the fact that you had resigned would limit any compensation to the difference between your dismissal date and your original resignation date. In addition it would probably be fairly easy for your employer to justify their counter notice. I have been involved in tribunal cases for 10 years and I have yet to see one of this type succeed (although that is not to say that there hasn't been one somewhere).
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