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A Guide to Negotiating Your Notice Period

Posted on July 2023

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​In Germany, the average notice period is 3 months but can be as long as 6 months. There is a good reason behind this - to protect your rights as an employee in case of redundancy or termination. However, while a notice period should be treated with respect, there might be situations where proactively discussing your leaving date with your employer could be of benefit for you as well as both your current and future employers.

This guide provides you an overview of factors to consider in this context and guidelines on how to professionally navigate the process.

Benefits of shortening your notice period

There may be several reasons for wanting to leave your current employer earlier, including to:

Avoid awkwardness in the workplace

There is a reason for the maxim, “Always leave the party when you’re still having fun.” The longer you stay, the more chance for things to sour. The last thing you want is to feel like a guest who has outstayed their welcome. You want to be remembered as a great employee who made a fantastic contribution to the success of your current employer, while you were there. Simultaneously, it is in the interest of your current employer and colleagues to maintain a harmonious work environment.

Stay interested in your current work

Inevitably, once you have told an employer you plan to leave, they might start removing you from important projects. They may even place you on gardening leave if you are going to a competitor. Companies use gardening leave as a protectionist measure to ensure that the departure of senior executives has minimal impact on their reputation and success. But as an employee, a lengthened period of less responsibility in your current position or complete time away from the job might have a negative effect on your motivation.

Gain a higher salary or better career experience sooner

There is a reason that you are embarking on a new job. Whether it is the chance to work for a specific company, on an incredible project, in a unique role that only comes once in a blue moon, or simply for a higher salary – something attracted you to go. The sooner you leave, the sooner you begin the next stage of your career. Whether it’s a new gadget or a new job, our brains are hardwired to seek new stimulus. A new job offers a huge amount of novel stimuli, but the longer you have to ruminate on it, the less exciting it might seem. Exiting within a reasonable time frame might help you to capitalize on the excitement of just having secured a new job.

Have cross-over with your incumbent

Generally speaking, the more time you are able to spend with your predecessor in your new role, the more valuable information you will be able to acquire. No-one else will be a greater foundation of knowledge regarding the role ahead. They will also be able to define the rest of your team’s organisational structure. Furthermore, by building a rapport, not only will you build your reputation within the new firm, you might also be able to ask for their advice, if you ever face a difficult situation regarding the position in the future.

How to negotiate your notice

As the notice period is usually part of your official employment contract that has to be respected, it is not a simple conversation you have with your employer in passing. Proactively seeking a discussion while considering all of the following factors will demonstrate your respect for your current employer and underline your professionalism.

Know your contract inside and out

To avoid any unwelcome surprises, you need to know the terms of your employment inside and out. Check for any specific exit clauses, anti-competition clauses, and any clauses regarding your bonus or training repayments. Properly prepared, you’ll be in the best position to competently negotiate terms and understand what the best outcome can be.

Hand in a formal resignation

Usually, all you need to resign is a one-line letter letting your employer know your intention to resign, your official and preferred last date of employment. In Germany, your letter must be handwritten; your employer is not obliged to accept a resignation communicated digitally (see: Civil Code (BGB) §623).

Your notice period starts when your employer acknowledges they have received your resignation, not when it is delivered, so try and get it signed as soon as possible. Your letter should be kept brief, remain professional, and doesn’t require reasons for your resignation. Express that you have appreciated the opportunities provided by the position, including developing your skills, building on your knowledge of your sector, or responsibilities or challenges you have felt particularly proud of. When seeking to shorten your notice period, it is vital to mention your willingness to assist your employer with the transition period around you leaving the company. State those projects you will be able to complete within your notice period, and what you can do to help your handover process go smoothly.

Be realistic about the outcome

While your employer might accept your suggested exit date straight away, it is unlikely to happen without a formal conversation. Once you both agree on a leaving date that is earlier than your contractual notice period, you can both sign an "Aufhebungsvertrag" or compromise agreement. This agreement will terminate your contract on a mutually agreed date that you want to leave. Be realistic when making suggestions. What is the earliest that you can leave while being considerate of their needs? Empathize with your current employer.

Your resignation is likely to be a shock. After all, you are a brilliant employee who has a significant impact on the success of your business (no wonder that you’ve been snapped up hungrily by someone else). Immediately, your boss will be concerned about several factors including loss of valuable expertise, an increased workload for the rest of the team, the cost of finding a suitable replacement, and even the potential damage to their reputation. For this reason, it’s best to revisit the notice period a few days after the initial resignation when your boss will be further along the change curve.

Next, it is time to show that you’re prepared to help mitigate any negative impact from your departure. You can formalise this as part of the aforementioned compromise agreement with your employer for agreeing to a shortened notice period. This type of contract can be agreed after discussing factors such as sourcing and training your successor or completing projects within a certain time frame.

Source and suggest a replacement

Most likely, your employer’s primary concern is filling your shoes. The best way to allay their concerns and to successfully negotiate your notice period is to help them find a replacement. After all, you’re the ultimate resource for knowing what a good replacement looks like! If you did your research and developed relationships throughout your time with the company, you most likely know who would want to be in your role and also who would be a good replacement for you.

Whether they are in your team or another department, reach out and explain the job requirements and why you think they would make a great match. The nature of your role may have evolved since you started, so it is advised to draw up a new job description and requirements. They will appreciate the effort and you will show that you are willing to go the extra mile to make your exit as smooth as possible. Sharing the position with your wider network on LinkedIn will also show you are still an advocate for the company; alleviating their concerns about any possible damage to their reputation. If you need any specialist help, get in touch. Glocomms can source a temporary or permanent replacement.

Prepare a thorough handover or ‘operating manual’

As tempting as it may be to ‘wind down’ during a notice period, it is important to leave a job on good terms. This will involve a last extra push of effort in creating a comprehensive handover process between you and your replacement. Work alongside your boss to see how your work and responsibilities can be picked up by others on your team, and how you can help your replacement hit the ground running when they join the business.

In a longer notice period, you may even have time to train your replacement on workplace processes and the details of your work. You can brief the new employee with important information about clients and project status. Helping with your transition period is a great way to end your role on a positive note, and lessen the effect of your departure on your company. It will be appreciated both by your supervisor and your company’s new hire, and can result in a glowing reference.

Use your annual leave

Next to a proactive and considerate conversation with your employer, you might also be able to shorten your notice period through using up your outstanding annual leave for the rest of the year. This time can be offset against your notice, meaning you can take all of your remaining annual leave, effectively shortening your work days. Employers also find this compromise attractive, as they are obligated to pay you for outstanding leave. While this can reduce the awkwardness of lingering in the workplace, you’ll nevertheless be considered an employee.

At Glocomms, we’ve also helped candidates wield their annual leave as a bargaining chip. By giving up their remaining annual leave, tech professionals have successfully traded the days or weeks for an earlier termination date – enabling them to get started in their exciting new role quickly.

Good to know

The employment relationship is governed and regulated by statutory laws, the contract, and any collective agreements with the works council or collective bargaining agreements with the union. You can visit the website of the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection for an overview of your employment rights.

Securing your bonus

From tech candidates, one of the most frequent concerns we hear is about securing their bonus during negotiation. You will doubtless expect to receive your bonus if you have worked a full year, or a pro-rata payment if you leave before the year’s end. However, most contracts have bonus clauses that state:

  • You need to be employed at the bonus payment date and/or

  • You must not be working under notice

It is important though, to pay attention to how your bonus is formulated within your contract. If your bonus is partly granted in recognition of your performance during the relevant financial year, then your employer is legally obliged to pay it. Accordingly, if you leave before the end of the financial or calendar year, you should receive a pro-rata bonus payment.

If your bonus is in no way tied to your performance but as an incentive to stay with the company, then your employer can make the payment conditional on your employment contract not being under notice. Moreover, if you resign within a certain date of receiving such a bonus your employer can demand you pay it back, so keep this in mind during the process of terminating your employment.

Note: The law around bonuses in Germany is constantly under review. Stay up-to-date.

Next steps

Avoid negativity

Handing in your notice does not mean you have free reign to openly complain about your job, or slack on your work entirely during your notice period. Even if you are leaving a difficult atmosphere, be respectful and mindful on how you communicate this. Keep your (soon to be former) colleagues in mind, who may be facing a more difficult time without your support. Offer to help them the best you can so you don’t leave them in a tight spot.

When discussing your reasons for leaving, try and stay on positive subjects and instead emphasise the benefits of the current role, what you have learned and how it has helped your career. There is little to gain from being negative, but there is a lot to gain from leaving on good terms.

Leave on good terms

The tech market is surprisingly small, so don’t burn bridges. You’ll never know when you run into an old boss or colleague again – and you may return to them in the future! If it is in-line with the company practices and culture, you may wish to send individual farewell messages to your team members thanking them for the specific support they have provided throughout your time in the role. Bear in mind not to exclude colleagues that you did not get along with; a neutral message wishing them all the best for the future will still be appreciated.

Look to the future

As a specialist recruitment partner, Glocomms is here to support you throughout your career journey, including transition periods. Get in touch with the team for personal advice.

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