Careers advice

Everything you need to know about notice periods in NZ

What are your rights and responsibilities during this transition period?

Last updated: 21 April 2024

If you’re thinking about changing jobs, one of the things you’ll need to factor into your considerations is your notice period. This is particularly true if you’re already going through a recruitment process with a potential new employer, because they’re going to want to know when you’re able to start.

Added to this situation is your current company. Navigating your notice period is a crucial part of resigning well, without burning your bridges.

So, to help you understand your rights, know what’s expected of you, and to answer some additional questions, let’s dive into everything you need to grasp about notice periods in NZ.

What is a notice period?

A notice period is a predetermined duration of time that an employee must provide to their employer before resigning from their position. It serves as a formal notification period during which both the employee and employer can prepare for the transition.

Usually outlined in an employment contract or company policy, notice periods vary in length depending on factors such as the nature of your role, and how senior you were. During the notice period, you’re expected to fulfil your normal job responsibilities, wrap up ongoing projects, and facilitate a smooth handover of tasks to their successor. Similarly, your boss can use this time to find a replacement, redistribute your workload, or initiate necessary procedures for the departing employee.

It’s important to understand that notice periods can also apply when you’re leaving a role against your will as well, i.e. you’ve been made redundant or been fired. Unless you’ve been summarily dismissed (which only happens for serious misconduct or negligence) your employer has to give you notice if they’re intending to terminate your employment. In this article, we’re going to be focussing on the most common type of notice period, which is when you’re leaving your position because you want to.

Your manager should be the first person who knows you're resigning.

How long is a typical notice period in NZ?

There’s no legal minimum notice period in NZ, and it’s essentially up to you and your employer to decide this. The length of time should be specified in your employment agreement.

A typical notice period in NZ is 2-4 weeks, and will depend on a number of factors. Industry sector is a big one, as well as the seniority of your position. For example, entry-level jobs in the hospitality industry, where staff are often quite transitory, can have very short notice periods, while senior jobs in banking or law firms are more likely to be a month at least.

What’s expected of you during your notice period?

By the time you’re into your notice period, you’ll probably already be pretty excited about what’s next on the horizon, particularly if you can’t wait to be out of your current role!

However, it’s important to remember that, during your notice period, you’re still very much an employee of your current organisation. This means there are certain things you’ll be expected to do, if you want to leave your job on good terms:

  • Keep working: you’ll be expected to keep working up to and including your final day on the job. Just because you’re leaving, the organisation isn’t ceasing operations, so things need to keep ticking over. After all, they’re still paying you!
  • Continue contributing to the culture: the only thing worse than a colleague who stops working on their notice period, is a colleague who’s mentally checked out and has stopped caring about their co-workers. Don’t be that colleague. If you want to be remembered well, you’ll continue to be a ray of sunshine in the office.
  • Assist in the transition: your boss will likely ask you to help them with various elements of handing your role over to whomever replaces you. This might include things like creating handover documents, or even assisting with interviewing new candidates for your job.

Remember, the business will continue after you've gone!

Can I reduce my notice period?

Unless you specifically agree otherwise with your employer, then no, you have to stay for the agreed notice period.

However, if you can make an arrangement that works for both you and them, it might be possible to shorten your notice period. This can be handy if you’re in the final stages of applying for a new role, and you know they want you to start ASAP. Of course, if you agree to end your notice period early, you won’t be paid for the time that was written off.

Another way you might be able to shorten your notice period is by requesting to take annual leave. Yes, you can take annual leave during your notice period, but, like always, you’ll need to agree this with your boss. Depending on how complex the transition process is, employers can actually be quite open to this, as it means they won’t have to pay out any outstanding leave you have accrued.

Your rights during your notice period

By the same token that you’re expected to continue with the duties of your role, your employer has to continue to uphold their end of the bargain.

This means that you’re still entitled to everything you were entitled to before you handed in your notice. This includes things like being paid the amount specified in your notice period, being able to take sick leave and taking your normal breaks.

Another crucial right to understand is that your employer can’t decide to shorten the notice period written into your contract without your consent.


Al Hall
Al Hall

Al Hall is a regular contributor at Trade Me Jobs and Trade Me Property. He’s dedicated to helping people succeed in their aspirations to find their dream job and place to live.