Could an employer hold an employee to the notice period in their contract when they resigned early, in breach of their notice period?
Yes, according to the High Court in Sunrise Brokers LLP v Rogers.
This meant that the employee had a continuing duty of good faith during the notice period, which would prevent him from working for competitors and, as he was not attending work, the employer had no obligation to pay him during this period.
When an employee resigns in breach of their notice period, the legal position is that they have “repudiated” the contract. It is then open to the wronged party to either accept the repudiation, bringing the contract to an end, or not to accept it, in which case the contract continues to exist.
This is usually relevant when an employee has been wronged by an employer, and they need to decide whether to accept the breach and bring a claim for constructive dismissal, or to continue working.
This is a rare case where the employer was the wronged party.
The High Court held that the employee continued to be bound by his contract for a very long notice period of over one year.
This case, on the face of it, is great news for employers, who now have a way of enforcing the notice period in their contracts of employment.
The question of whether they could prevent the employee from working altogether whilst not paying them remains unanswered, but this decision indicates that this may indeed be possible.
Employees therefore need to act carefully when resigning early.