04-05-21
Recruitment Guide

You’re not going anywhere – the creep of notice periods

Written By
Andy Bristow

It’s become clear by now that the IT jobs market is experiencing something of a boom.

The internet is full of adverts (although they have never been less effective), agencies are busy and IT specialists are being approached about new opportunities on a daily basis. This has led to increased competition for talent among hiring companies and a greater choice of employer than ever before for in-demand candidates.

How have companies responded?

Companies have responded by reviewing benefits and salaries whilst also sharpening up recruitment processes to be as competitive and nimble as possible; whilst candidates are enjoying the fruits of being in short supply as businesses fall over themselves to offer the best working conditions or most exciting projects.

One of the less overt measures taken by companies to protect themselves from being over-exposed in this market that we’ve picked up on is the steady creep of notice periods. We’ve noticed a marked trend across all IT disciplines to tie employees into ever-longer notice periods - we’ve seen examples of Service Desk Analysts on 12-week notice periods.

In many ways this is understandable, it gives the business more time to replace any leavers whilst having the added benefit of making your staff less desirable to other employers if they have to wait 12 weeks for them. Many candidates are resistant to changes but are unwilling to push back too hard, reasoning that it isn’t worth the fight.

The upshot of course is longer recruitment processes for all. Historically we have advised clients that from the moment a role is released, assuming a four-week notice period, it would be eight to 12 weeks before a new starter arrived. This is based on typical times for candidate sourcing and submittal, CV review and various interview stages before getting into negotiations with chosen candidates and issuing paperwork, all of which has to happen before a candidate gives notice to their current employer. With a 12-week notice period, this can result in a relatively mid-level role turning into a 16-20 week hiring saga. 

The advantages for businesses can’t last however, as more and more people become subject to long notice periods so more companies respond by issuing revised contracts to their own staff. This creates a knock-on effect of increased lead times for hiring across the industry and this is happening now - as I write this in early May we are currently booking starters for August.

Job application

How have candidates been responding?

With such a vibrant market there is little risk in handing their notice in before even starting a job search. They seem increasingly willing to do so knowing that they are likely to have their pick of roles to go to, that they’re more attractive to future employers and recruiters given their known exit date and that there’s significantly less risk of counteroffers derailing the process. All this, whilst having the added benefit of sparing themselves the need for the cloak and dagger interviewing charade that was previously a feature of job hunting, now it’s all upfront and out in the open.

Overall, is this a good or a bad thing? From a free marketeer’s perspective, it’s a drag on the vibrancy and potentially the productivity of a business and I know our US-based hiring managers are often aghast at some of the waiting times to hire. 

And though I strongly sympathise with this view and believe a more dynamic hiring environment would be a benefit for the UK tech scene, the trends indicate that hiring companies feel differently, so for now it’s just an observable feature of the market that it pays to be aware of. 

For businesses haemorrhaging staff it’s a sticking plaster that isn’t going to solve their problems, whereas for those looking to grow and expand they need to factor it into their planning and adjust expectations accordingly. 

Some candidates may take comfort in the added security of a longer notice period whereas others will feel it’s an over the top imposition but will be unlikely to fight it too hard.

Are you looking for your next role or need support finding the right candidate? Get in touch with our team today.