What options are open to the employer where an employee resigns but indicates that he or she will not work the full notice period?

An employee who resigns and refuses to work the full notice period provided for in his or her contract of employment will technically be acting in breach of contract. The only occasion where an employee is entitled to resign without any notice is in circumstances where the employer has acted in a way that represents a fundamental breach of contract.

Courts and tribunals do not have the authority to compel an employee to work for an employer, either by injunction or by an order for specific performance. The employer may, however, be able to seek an injunction to stop the employee going to work for a competitor during the outstanding part of the notice period.

One course of action that the employer could in theory take would be to sue the employee for damages for breach of contract. In practice, however, this is not usually worthwhile financially. To succeed, the employer would have to show that the business had suffered a quantifiable loss as a direct result of the employee's leaving without working the full notice period. This might be possible where the employer had brought in a temporary employee at a higher rate of pay to cover the employee's work during the notice period, or been forced to pay other employees to work overtime. Even then, a court would, in calculating the amount of loss, offset these costs against the value of the employee's salary that had been saved. Unfortunately for employers the likelihood of success in recovering damages in court is, therefore, very limited.