You want to end your employment. It should be easy. You have a job offer that you have accepted, and your resignation letter is ready to go.
Do you click ‘send’ or do you contact you trade union? The vast majority of people will simply click ‘send’. Unfortunately for some, that innocuous email can start an unexpected chain of events, and that is when members contact the IPA.
Many of you will read this thinking how can anybody get that wrong? It does happen, and more frequently than you might think. So, what can the pitfalls be?
Your resignation letter confirms your last day of employment, but there are two things to consider – the minimum statutory notice periods and any contractual notice period that may be in excess of the statutory minimum. The contractual requirement will prevail. Did you check the notice period in your contract? We have acted for members who gave three months’ notice (industry standard), but the contract provided for four.
Do you have a bond? Are you sure of its terms? Before accepting another job and handing in your notice, check the wording of the bond. Again, assumptions can incorrectly be made as to when the repayment period is triggered and thus when the bond expires. This can catch people out and has indeed done so.
What are the provisions in your contract relating to garden leave? Some employees assume that once their employer knows that they are leaving, they won’t want them flying for them and will trigger the garden leave provisions. Whether to place you on garden leave is a discretionary matter for the employer, as an employee you have no legal right to insist on it.
Alternatively, you may be asked to undertake other tasks during your notice period. As long as those fall within the remit of your contract of employment, it is legitimate for the employer to allocate different tasks. This change may be because you have been operating for one particular client, and as you are leaving the employer does not want you having contact with them. Or it may be that you have held a senior position within the company, and they now want to distance you from sensitive commercial matters.
At the point of resigning, some employees have accrued annual leave and expect this to be paid in lieu of taking the leave when they leave. Subject to meeting the relevant statutory requirements, an employer can allocate your annual leave during your notice period, reducing or even extinguishing any entitlement to a payment accrued for untaken annual leave.
Linked to all the above is whether you have given your new employer a start date. If your notice period is wrong, you may not be able to start on the agreed date. If there will still be a bond liability when you leave, can this liability be met? If you were expecting not to work (some of) your notice period, will you be in breach of contract by starting with the new employer? Were you hoping to take all your accrued annual leave at the end of your notice period to enable you to effectively start sooner? If you do that, there are other considerations which fall outside the scope of this article.
A further point that employees are often unaware of is where their employment provides for a bonus (and this might also apply even where it is discretionary). If you are fortunate enough to be in this situation, check the small print. Many bonuses will only be payable on certain conditions being met, and they may not be met once you have confirmed you are leaving.
We always encourage members to talk to us before they make any changes in their employment. Whilst it is ultimately your decision, we can help you make an informed decision about what is best for your career, and possibly your finances! We are often reminded that whilst being a global industry, it is a small community of pilots. This means that the employer you are leaving may have known someone, or several people working for your previous employer. It also means that your new employer is likely to know one, or several people at your current employer. Taking advantage of your union’s legal services before making any career changes can protect reputations and ensure that bridges are not burnt unnecessarily.