Resignation rates have been abnormally high in the UK and globally for some months now. The ONS overview of the labour market in November 2021 noted that total job-to-job moves had increased to a record high, largely driven by resignations rather than dismissals during the July to September 2021 period. Interestingly some reports suggest the greatest increase in resignation rates are for those between 30 and 45.

Management teams will need to work hard in 2022 to understand what may be playing on the minds of senior executives and partners and reflect on what they can do better to retain their talent, particularly at the mid-level.

Many of those individuals who do resign will want to take a different career path. That can be hard to do without an understanding of how to make a good career choice, a plan and a toolkit to drive your plan forward. The starting point is to carry out a self-examination exercise to understand your personal strengths, transferable skills, values and motivations and develop self-awareness to help clarify your decision making. Researching and evaluating new career options by way of a combination of external analysis of markets, competitors and trends, tapping into contacts, using purposeful internal reflection, practical exercises and psychometric testing will be essential. However, for those who owe fiduciary duties such as partners and statutory directors, it is important to ensure this exercise does not stray into using an opportunity acquired to produce an advantage for the individual personally. Practical legal advice at an early stage in the process is likely to be useful.

Planning is vital for a smooth career transition. After an initial review and take stock phase the next step may be a career plan, followed by developing a personal marketing plan. Again knowing where not to cross the line as regard duties owed to your current employer or firm is vital. Having a good coach or mentor to act as a sounding board can also make a real difference.

An individual will need to know what they can and cannot do on the road to exit and thereafter. Leadership teams can react in a suspicious or confrontational way where an exit could destabilise a team, so it is worth being clear sighted on the implications of the service agreement or, in the case of a partner, partnership agreement and related documentation. A proper understanding of any post-termination restrictions, what they mean, if they are likely to be applicable or enforceable is also important. There may also be covenants in other contracts such as shareholders agreements, which may act to restrain certain activities for longer that covenants in an employment contract. Those in regulated professions have professional obligations to have regard to and should take utmost care to properly understand and abide by those obligations every step of the way.

There is also a very important issue of timing. Rushing a big career decision is usually a mistake, but if there is an argument that the implied term of trust and confidence has been broken by your employer’s conduct, then time will be of the essence if an employee is considering a constructive dismissal. On the other hand, sometimes it is better to have a delayed exit, where valuable stock and incentive awards may vest by a certain future date. Conduct post-termination or retirement may also have an impact on retention of such awards.

For members of LLP and partners, it is vital to have an understanding of the routes to exit and implications, and what the partnership agreement says about the financial arrangements on exit, the timing of return of capital and payment of accrued undistributed profits.

In summary, prepare a plan that is tailored for you, put in place the tools to drive it forward (e.g. early legal advice, CV, LinkedIn profile, credible interview technique, network mapping and personal brand) and if you can, work with a coach or mentor; someone trained to champion and challenge you.

Please listen to our podcast for a discussion between Ivor Adair and Rachel Brushfield about the issues explored in this blog. Do get in touch with us at podcast@foxlawyers.com if you have any questions or thoughts about anything.

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