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Lottie Mayland6 Mar 2020
  • Advice
  • Insight
  • Work Advice

What’s The Ideal Notice Period For An EA?

A client recently asked us for our advice on setting a notice period for their assistant, questioning what we thought the ideal length of time was and whether it was something candidates took into consideration when accepting a job offer.

It’s a tricky question to answer as the ideal notice period will depend on the specifics of the role, for example, your EA may handle extremely confidential and personal information with passwords and data needing to be changed after they leave, which can therefore require a longer notice period and handover. Alternatively, you might need to cut ties with your assistant as soon as possible if they are quitting on bad terms or leaving to work for a competitor and this might need to be written into their contract.

From a legal perspective an employee that has been with you continuously from between one month and two years requires a minimum statutory notice period of one week. This goes up to two weeks’ notice after two years.

Most of the candidates we see will either be on a one month or a three month notice period. One month is the industry standard for assistants but we do see candidates on a three month notice period and when this is the case we’re finding that it’s hindering both our clients and our candidates in the job application process.

Why do some employers set a three month notice period?

The most likely reason for an employer setting a three month notice period is so that their exiting assistant can do a thorough handover with their replacement. While an in-person handover is useful and can save time in the short-term it’s worth considering a few reasons why a long cross over between an exiting and incoming assistant isn’t always a great idea. A long handover can inhibit the introduction of new ideas and fresh processes and result in your new assistant doing things exactly the same way as your previous one – this might sound like a good thing in the short term but new ideas are a huge benefit of hiring a new employee and should not be shied away from. Additionally, if your assistant is on a 3 month notice period it means they have 3 months when they will have psychologically ‘switched off’ from their job. With all the best intentions in the world they are unlikely to be as hardworking as they previously were and when starting new projects unlikely to be as enthusiastic or thorough. Bear in mind that if you want a long handover that includes a lengthy cross over between both assistants you will also be paying the salary for 2 assistants during this time.

Setting a three month notice period can be tempting as it gives you a longer buffer of time to find a replacement PA or EA but if you are working with a good recruitment agency that you have synergy with and you provide a clear and thorough job spec then one month should be plenty of time to find a replacement assistant. From a client’s perspective a one month notice period keeps the momentum up during your search and ensures that the search doesn’t drag and everyone from your side prioritises interviewing candidates.

What does a three month notice period mean for a candidate?

Candidates on a three month notice period are instantly on the backfoot when they start their job search. They will be applying for jobs which are currently vacant, or most likely to be vacant in a months’ time. This means that they are essentially asking a prospective employer to wait 3 months for them – a big ask if the role is competitive. With this in mind, some candidates are put off accepting jobs that have three month notice periods.

In summary, if possible, we highly recommend setting a one month notice period. In our professional opinion three months is too long, it results in unmotivated employees, the cross-over of bad habits and can put off potential candidates from accepting a job. One month should be sufficient time in which to hire a new assistant, if you are worried about this at all then read our blog on how to reduce your time to hire or get in touch with one of our consultants, we’re always happy to chat.

For more legal information on notice periods take a look at the uk.gov website here. For more information on our recruitment process and how we work with clients take a look at our client page here.