Get me out of here!
January 26, 2010 6:14 PM   Subscribe

Best strategy to negotiate out of a lengthy notice period for leaving a job.

Essentially I've been offered my dream job, however they cannot sort out the contract until I give them a start date (and I don't want to give notice from my current job until I have the contract either, safety first).

My current contract says that I have to give one months notice of resignation. I'm an 'apprentice' (as my boss labels me), and don't have any critical projects, or anyone to train in my job. And my own training was very much self-learning, with probably 3 hours with a senior staff member. So as I see it the notice period of one month is fairly unreasonable and serves little purpose for the functioning of the company.

The new employer seems a little unsure about waiting over a month to get me on deck, so I'm hoping to jump ship ASAP. What are some good arguments I can present to my present employers to let me go shy of the contractually obligated one month period? We get paid weekly, and at worst they could withhold my final pay, but I'm hoping to not get into that kind of passive-aggressive crap and go out with bridges intact.
posted by chrisbucks to Work & Money (7 answers total)
If you're as junior as you say it's likely not worth your current company's time or money to pursue you for breach of contract. Move on and don't worry about it.
posted by dfriedman at 6:16 PM on January 26, 2010

Actually, I see from your profile that you're located in New Zealand. I don't know anything about New Zealand labor relations; you should rely on someone who does.
posted by dfriedman at 6:19 PM on January 26, 2010

Talk to your current employer NOW and negotiate something reasonable.

You're in NZ, you say? I don't remember secrets (especially regarding employment, but then, I worked in hospitality) being easy to keep. Everyone seems to know everyone else. Your current employer may even know you've been interviewing.

Just be up front. You are low on the totem pole - what can they really do to you? Nothing. You circumvent bad blood by being honest.

There is no argument to be made other than, "I've been offered employment more in-line with my long term goals. I've really appreciated working with you and Acme Industries, but I want to give notice and leave Acme with only a fortnight's notice - not 30 days - what are my options?"

Don't ask your co-worker's prior to speaking to your boss. Word travels fast and you will look unprofessional.

Above all, remain professional.

PS. You might put the above into the most professionally worded and super appreciative business letter you can manage. Mention some specific skills you've learned from your direct boss. Don't over do it! But do convey your appreciation for current job and the experiences it afforded you.

I think being humble and appreciative is the key here. Really.

PPS. I'm wondering why your new employer won't give you a contract. Worse comes to worse, they wait 30 days. You might ask them how they've handled other new hires in this position w/ current employers in the past. It's not wise for you to risk the good relations you have with your current employer based on a handshake with them. Framed the right way, they may also be amenable to working with you on the start date. Again, professionalism is key.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 6:46 PM on January 26, 2010

How about getting the other company to commit to paying any fines or fees that may be incurred as a result of breaking your current contract? The only other thing I can think of is talking with your current employer and explaining why they should let you out of the contract because it's obviously not a win-win for both parties involved. This, of course, could lead to you being terminated right away (and still not sure that you have the other job).
posted by robtf3 at 6:54 PM on January 26, 2010

Do you have any annual leave accrued? Maybe book that in?
posted by pompomtom at 7:08 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

We get paid weekly, and at worst they could withhold my final pay

For a start that's illegal and I can point you to the website where you complain if it does happen (same goes for holiday pay and the like). I don't know what the penalty would be for you leaving early though. If it doesn't say in the contract take a look around the Department of Labour's website, NZ government is very good about putting their laws and policies online. They may also have a number you can ring for advice although this is probably just get a lawyer territory.

But yeah, you need to negotiate. Remember that when you signed the contract you were agreeing to it just as much as them. In my experience most employers will be reasonable about your notice period and will happily negotiate something sooner than what's on the paper, it's likely that four weeks is a company wide default rather than something just for you. The main thing to think about is how essential the work you do is and how long it would take to replace you. If you think they're not going to be without cover for very long (which in this employment market is likely true) then definitely mention that. Your points about not having critical projects and no need for handover training are also good as is the bit about the new job being more in line with your future goals or whatever, but don't give an opinion about the month thing being unreasonable. Also keep in mind that three weeks is a really standard notice time so if the new job doesn't want to wait at least that long they're the ones being unreasonable.

At the same time read your current contract carefully, I've had a contract which basically said that if you don't come to work you're fired, and if you have another job to go to being fired isn't necessarily a problem. Several people at that job used it as a way to just up and leave (note they were totally burning their bridges in that whole industry, NZ is a small place).

As for the new job, I've been in a situation where the job wasn't able to get me a contract until my first day (I was coming from out of town and starting on very short notice) so I asked for a formal job offer to start with. This takes much less time for them to sort out and doesn't need formal details like a start time, although mine did have the position title, who I was reporting to and the offered salary. I don't know how much cover it really gave me but it did make me feel better, so don't be afraid to ask for something like that if they really are balking on the contract. It might make negotiating easier too, going in with a formal job offer rather than non-binding promises.
posted by shelleycat at 7:26 PM on January 26, 2010

NZ employment contracts are a legal requirement, and while there is room for negotiation, you should get official advice on this: Department of Labour.
posted by Paragon at 7:26 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

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