If you are changing your job, you are required by law to give your present employer notice of your decision to leave. The actual length of the notice you are required to give will depend on your contract of employment and on the minimum notice that you are required to give by law. The principal legislation governing this area employment law in Ireland is the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973–2005. You can read more in our document about minimum periods of notice from employers.
A contract of employment may be agreed by word of mouth or may be set out in writing. Requirements as to notice are among the items in a contract of employment that should, by law, be in written form. You should therefore check your contract of employment for any provisions as to the notice you are required to give and follow those provisions. Remember that it is always open to agree a different arrangement to that contained in your contract with your employer.
If you do not have a provision in your contract of employment dealing with notice, the statutory minimum notice of one week will apply and this is the notice that you should give your employer of your intention to leave. The statutory minimum notice of one week, is set down in Section 6 of the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act 1973.
An employer is entitled to at least one week's notice from an employee who has been working for the employer for 13 weeks or more. If an employee has been working for an employer for less than 13 weeks and has no contractual obligation to give notice then the employee is not obliged to give notice.
An employer is not bound to give an employee the minimum notice of one week if the employee has been working for the employer for less than 13 weeks or in situations where the employee is guilty of gross misconduct.
Employment legislation also sets down that if an employer and an employee agree, the employee can waive their right to notice. In addition, where the employer and employee agree, the employer can pay the employee in lieu of notice. If you accept payment in lieu of notice, then the date of termination of your employment is the date on which notice (if it had been given) would have expired. These rights are set down in Section 7 of the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act 1973.
The legislation does not address the use of annual leave due in lieu of notice. This is a matter for agreement between employer and employee. However any employee leaving a job is entitled to payment for any outstanding annual leave.
Once given, you cannot withdraw your notice to terminate your employment, unless you can reach an agreement with your employer to do so.
The statutory minimum notice requirement by an employee is contained in the the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts, 1973–2005.
If you are moving to a new employer you may want to ask your current or former employer for a reference. This can be written or oral. A written reference may be entirely factual describing, for example, how long you have worked for the particular employer, the level of decision making for which you were responsible or your absentee rate. It may also include an appraisal by the employer of how you carried out your work and your suitability for a particular position.
You do not have a statutory entitlement to either a written or an oral reference from your current or previous employer. Your contract of employment may explicitly state that the employer will provide a reference when you leave but this seems to be rare. It is the custom and practice of certain employers and some sectors to provide references and such a custom or practice may be regarded as part of your terms and conditions of employment. This depends on the facts in each individual case. If an employer gives a reference to one employee but not to another, the issue of discrimination could arise.
The employer has a duty of care to you and to the prospective new employer. If your employer does give you a reference, it must be true, fair, accurate and not misleading.
If you are given a reference which you consider to be unfair or inaccurate, you may be able to sue that employer for negligence. You would have to show that you suffered a loss, for example, that a job offer was withdrawn as a result of the reference. If you consider that the reference is defamatory, you may seek redress under the Defamation Act 2009.
A prospective employer who is misled by an inaccurate reference may make a negligence claim against the employer who provided the reference.
Written references are part of your personnel records. Oral references may also be if the new employer made a note of what was said.
Under the Data Protection Acts, you are entitled to have access to information held about you including your personnel records. You may access personal data which contains an expression of opinion about you unless the expression of opinion was given in confidence or on the understanding that it would be treated as confidential.
The Data Protection Commissioner has held that, in these cases, there is a high threshold of confidentiality to be met. Simply placing the word ‘confidential’ at the top of a page does not automatically render the data confidential. As a general rule, any opinions on an individual supplied by a supervisor or manager may not be restricted under this provision.
Further information on notice can be obtained from:
Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 1890 80 80 90
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.