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.
You must give your employer a certain length of notice (for example, 2 weeks or a month). The length of notice you must give is set down in law and is usually stated in your contract of employment.
How much notice should I give?
Generally, 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.
My contract does not specify the notice period
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 give the legal minimum amount of notice, which is one week.
The legal (or ‘statutory’) minimum notice is set out in Section 6 of the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act 1973.
I have outstanding 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 instead (or ‘in lieu’) of notice. However, this sort of arrangement is not covered by legislation, so you would have to agree this with your employer.
Can I change my mind?
Once you have given notice, the only way to withdraw it is by agreement with your employer.
What if I worked for less than 13 weeks?
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
Can my employer end my employment without giving notice?
Your employer does not have to give you notice if any of the following apply:
- You have been working for them for less than 13 weeks
- You are guilty of gross misconduct
- You agree to waive your right to notice
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 you payment instead of notice for that period.
Payment instead (or ‘in lieu’) of notice is covered in Section 7 of the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act 1973.
Getting references for your next job
When you apply for a new job, you may want to ask your current or former employer for a reference. Anyone who gives you a reference is known as a referee.
The reference can be written or oral, and usually includes:
- 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
Does my employer have to give me a reference?
There is no statutory entitlement to a reference from your current or previous employer. Few contracts of employment include the right to have a reference 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 employees, without discrimination.
Can an employer tell lies in my reference?
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.
My employer gave me an unfair or inaccurate reference
If your employer gives a reference which you think is 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 think the reference is defamatory (you believe your reputation has been injured as a result of the reference), 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 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018, 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 can view personal data in which someone has stated an opinion about you, such as a reference. However, you may not have access to the reference 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?
You can read our page Losing your job – entitlements for information about minimum periods of notice from employers.
You can also contact: