Choosing to leave 

How much notice do I have to give to my boss before I leave?

Your employment agreement should state how much notice you have to give. If there is nothing specific in your agreement about giving notice, then you need to give your boss ‘fair and reasonable’ notice.

What is fair and reasonable will depend on how long it might take to replace you and how much training will be needed for the person taking over your job. You can also ask your employer how much notice they would require from you.

More information is on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Employment website.

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What should be in my final pay?

Your final pay should include:

  • payment for the hours you have worked since your last pay, until your last day of employment:
    • if you gave notice, your employer must pay you up to the end of the notice period (this is relevant if your employer asks you not to work out your notice period);
    • if you gave less notice than you were supposed to, your employer only has to pay you up to your last day of work. 
  • payment for any annual, public and alternative holidays that you haven’t taken 
  • any additional lump sum payments included in your employment agreement or negotiated as part of a leaving package.

Any authorised deductions can be taken from the final pay.

You should receive your final pay on the pay day for your final period of employment, at the latest.

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After I handed in my notice, my employer told me that for the next three months I can’t work for anyone in competition with them. Why would they do this?

If an employee has access to commercially sensitive information (for example, a secret recipe or a list of clients), this could put the employer at a disadvantage if the employee goes on to work for a competing organisation.

To avoid this happening, an employer may ask certain employees if they will agree to the inclusion of a “restraint of trade” clause in their employment agreements. Like the rest of the employment agreement, this clause has to be signed and accepted by the employee. A “restraint of trade” clause must to be fair to the employee.

If your employment agreement contains a “restraint of trade” clause, when you leave the job you will be restricted in the kind of work you can do for a period of time (e.g. six months). For example, you may not be allowed to work for a competitor within a specified geographical area, or start a business which would compete with your previous employer.

Your employment agreement may also state that you are entitled to receive a “consideration” in return for respecting the restraint of trade (e.g. three months’ wages).

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I have to give four weeks’ notice to leave, but the office closes down for two weeks over Christmas. Can the four weeks’ notice period include the close-down period?

Unless your employment agreement specifies that the notice must be in business days, the notice period can include days that the business is closed. It is important that you ensure your notice is received by your employer though. If you send it to the office when it is already closed, your employer might be justified in claiming that in effect you did not give adequate notice.

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Can I withdraw my resignation if I have changed my mind?

Yes you can, but it is up to your employer to accept the withdrawal of your resignation.

An exception to this is if you resigned “in the heat of the moment” e.g. in the middle of an angry outburst. In this situation your employer should allow for a “cooling-off period” - for example by giving you a day or longer to provide them with a written resignation. Asking you to confirm your resignation in writing reduces the risk of misunderstanding about the matter. 

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I gave the required notice but my employer says I have to change my last day of work to a couple of weeks earlier. Can they do this?

As long as you have given the required amount of notice (as specified in your employment agreement) your employer has to pay you to the end of the notice period even if they want you to leave before then (unless you are being justifiably dismissed during this time). They also have to include any unused annual leave and public holidays in your final pay.