Leaving your job – giving notice and getting references
If you decide to change your job, you must by law tell your employer that you plan to leave. This is called giving notice. The length of notice you must give is set down in law and is usually stated in your contract of employment.
This leaflet outlines the rules you must follow when you give notice. The full rules are set out in the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973–2005.
What does my contract of employment say about giving notice?
Your contract of employment states how much notice you must give. Your employer must give you a written copy of these rules, even if the rest of the contract has not been written down in full.
Check what your contract says about giving notice and follow those rules. If you want to make a different arrangement, discuss this with your employer.
What is the statutory minimum notice?
Statutory minimum notice is the shortest period of notice you are allowed to give under Irish law. If your contract of employment does not specify how much notice to give, you must follow the rule of law*, which sets statutory minimum notice at one week. You should therefore give your employer one week’s notice before leaving.
*Section 6 of the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act 1973.
When is notice not required?
You do not have to give notice if you:
- Have been working for your employer for less than 13 weeks, and
- Have no contract of employment specifying a notice period
Your employer does not have to give you notice if you:
- Have been working for them for less than 13 weeks, or
- Are guilty of gross misconduct, or
- Agree to waive your right to notice, as follows
Waiving your right to notice means that you and your employer agree that you can leave your job without working to the end of your notice period. The employer may offer payment instead of notice for that period.
(Payment in lieu of notice is covered in Section 7 of the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act 1973.)
Annual leave: If you stop work without taking all the annual leave you are entitled to, your employer must pay you for the days you have not taken. Some employers may offer leave in lieu of notice. However, this sort of arrangement is not covered by legislation, so you would have to come to an agreement with your employer over it.
Can I change my mind?
Once you have given notice, the only way to withdraw it would be by agreement with your employer.
When you apply for a new job, you may want to ask your current or former employer for a reference. The reference may be written or oral.
What will the reference cover?
A reference may include:
- How long you have worked for the employer
- What you were responsible for at work
- Your attendance record
- How well you did your work
- Your suitability for the new job
Must my employer supply a reference?
There is no statutory entitlement to a reference from your current or previous employer, and few contracts of employment include the right to have one when you leave.
However, employers usually provide references when asked to do so. If they do this for some employees, they should do it for all without discrimination.
Must a reference be fair and accurate?
Your current employer has a duty of care to you and your new employer. If they give you a reference, it must be true, fair, accurate and not misleading.
- If your employer gives a reference which you consider unfair or inaccurate, you may be able to sue them for negligence. You would have to show that the reference caused you loss – for example, if it caused your new employer to withdraw your job offer. If you consider the reference defamatory, you may sue the employer under the Defamation Act 2009.
- If your current employer gives a misleading reference which later causes a problem in your new workplace, then your new employer may sue them for negligence – for example, if your referee praises you for skills you don’t have and as a result you are taken on for a job you cannot do.
Can I read my reference?
Under the Data Protection Acts, you are entitled to have access to information held about you including your personnel records. Personnel records include written and (if recorded) oral references.
In many cases you may view personal data in which someone has stated an opinion about you, such as a reference. However, you may not have access if the opinion was given in confidence or on the clear and explicit understanding that it would be treated as confidential.
Where can I get further information
For information on notice, see our document Losing your job – entitlements about minimum periods of notice from employers. You can also contact: