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It was certainly a shock on The Apprentice this week, one of the candidates – who shall for the moment remain nameless unless you’ve had chance to watch – announcing that the process was not for them and effectively resigning before Lord Sugar could even begin to raise his finger. The first ever surely?

As an employer, it can be just as much of a shock to hear that someone is leaving you, whether for a new job or because they don’t feel the position works for them. In a small business especially, the impact is felt much more, but what can you do to ensure that the process is as smooth as possible?

Straight home in a taxi – your rights in the event of a sudden resignation

Not everything is so sudden as in the world of The Apprentice, but sometimes staff just want to leave and there’s a couple of situations relating to this that small businesses especially find concerning.

For example, what can you do when an employee doesn’t want to work their notice period? Well, it’s always best to try and find a compromise as dropping all of their work load is not ideal, but at the end of the day if they don’t want to work then you don’t have to pay them. Would you rather spend money on an employee that will be forced to work and become unproductive, or cut ties with them? We now know for certain which Lord Sugar would choose…

Sometimes, employees can resign from their post ‘in the heat of the moment’ too. But what if they change their mind just as quick? Depending on the circumstances you may not be able to rely on it as a formal resignation. If they walk out for example, you may just need to undertake a disciplinary procedure for their actions. However a resignation letter is much more concrete, and so you may not need to allow them to retract their resignation should they change their mind.

“Get out of my sight” – what to do when you don’t want them to work their notice

You may choose to phrase it more diplomatically than Lord Sugar would, but in some cases you may feel that it would be better for the employee not to work their notice period. Employers have two options here – Garden leave or PILON.

Garden leave essentially enables you as an employer to keep the employee away from work, whilst still paying their notice period. This helps you also in cases where the employee is still covered by any contractual duties such as confidentiality, and they can even be brought back to work if needed. They remain employed by you and therefore can’t start any other job straight away.

PILON – or Payment In Lieu Of Notice – essentially means that the contract ends on their last day of work, and you pay them the amount they should get for their notice period. Depending on the contract wording they would usually only accrue benefits like holiday pay up to their last day of work.

A PILON clause should usually be added to an employment contract, however if it hasn’t been added you will need to agree this with your employee as it will technically be a breach of contract.

There’s a whole host of ways to deal with an employee who chooses not to work for your business any longer, and there are of course best practices as to how to cope with them. Other questions like “can an employee go and work for a competitor?” raise their head, and that’s where you need to think about Restrictive Covenants. But that’s for another time.

Until next week, which I’m pretty sure won’t be as interesting as this one – although I thought that last week too…

If you want to find out more about how to deal with an employee who decides to quit, then why not start a FREE trial of citrusHR and see how our management guides and other great features can help.