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Leaving work

Deciding to leave your job is a big decision, but sometimes it’s the right one. You might need to spend more time with your children or take some time out to look after your own or someone else’s health. You may be struggling to balance work and childcare – it might be hard to find affordable, reliable options near you. 

Once you make the decision to leave, there will be lots of things to think about. It’s completely natural to feel nervous about what will happen next. But by taking things step-by-step, you can make your new situation work for your family.

This page offers practical advice and information on what to consider, and how to make sure you’re receiving the help you’re entitled to.

Advice for handing in your notice

If you’re thinking about leaving your job, it’s always a good idea to speak to your employer before you do anything. You might be able to agree time off or more flexible working to help you to stay in your job if you want to. If you’re pregnant or have a new baby, you’ll have special rights at work. Citizens Advice has lots more information on your rights at work.

If you do decide to leave, check how much time you’ll have to work after you hand in your notice. This is called a notice period and will be specified in your contract. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has useful information on handing in your notice and a template resignation letter you can use. 

When you finish work, your employer will give you a P45 form. This tells you your tax code, how much you’ve earned and how much tax you’ve paid. You may need your P45 if you’re going to claim Universal Credit or another income-related benefit. 

You may also get a tax refund at the end of the financial year or if you decide to go back into work, depending on how much tax you’ve paid. See what to do if you’re due a refund.

If you’re leaving because of problems at work

If you feel you have no choice but to leave because of something your employer has done, you might be able to claim for ‘constructive dismissal.’ For example, if you’re being bullied or discriminated against, not fully paid regularly or asked to make unreasonable changes to your working hours. You must have worked there for 2 years to be able to do this – and you have to tell Acas first.

Managing financially

One of the biggest considerations around leaving work is, of course, making ends meet financially. While you’re out of work, there are various types of support you might be able to get.

Government support

Once you know the date you’re leaving, you can claim benefits like Universal Credit to boost your income. Our benefit calculator can help you see what benefits you may be able to get. If you have a complicated situation and need help in understanding what benefits you might be able to get, call our helpline and we can talk you through your options.

If you’re already getting benefits

Make sure you know how leaving work will affect the benefits you’re already getting. For example, you could find that you get less Universal Credit if you leave a job without good reason. This is called being sanctioned.

It’s important to contact the relevant benefits offices to let them know you’re leaving work. This change to your circumstances might change the benefits you can get.

If you’re getting tax credits, you’ll need to let the tax credit office know. This will most likely mean you no longer qualify for Working Tax Credit, but you should still get it for 4 weeks after you finish working. And you can continue to get Child Tax Credit if you’re not working.

Support in certain situations

The financial support you can get will depend on your circumstances. Here are a few common scenarios for single parents.

I’m finding it too hard to balance my job with childcare

First of all, you’re not alone. This is an increasing problem for many people in the UK

It’s worth thinking about whether there are any changes you could make to stay in work – for example, more flexible hours or taking some time off. If you have a very young child, you might find our page on paid time off with a new baby helpful. You can also contact the charity Working Families for advice on your rights at work.

If you decide to leave and claim Universal Credit, your work coach will ask why you left your last job. As long as you have a good reason for leaving, like problems with childcare, there will be no delays to your application going through. So it’s good to be prepared to explain this and be able to show that you looked into childcare options. You’ll also need to agree to actively look for work, unless your children are very young or disabled, or you’ve recently started looking after another child. See more about claiming Universal Credit when you’re responsible for a child.

I need more time to look after someone with a disability or illness

If you’re thinking about stopping work to care for someone, it’s important to really think this through. Are there changes you could make at work or more support you could get that would let you stay in work? Remember that, as a carer, you can take time off to look after someone in an emergency. You also can also ask for flexible working

Carers UK has some very useful advice, including what you can to do get more support at work

If you do have to leave work, their Looking After Someone guide has some very useful information on the financial and practical help you can get. And if you’re looking after a disabled child, the charity Contact has lots of advice and support for families with disabled children

I’m too unwell to continue working

If you’ve had to stop working because of an illness or disability, you may have been getting Statutory Sick Pay – and maybe also occupational sick pay. When this pay comes to an end, you might need to start claiming benefits. See our page on support if you have a disability or health condition to find out what help you might be able to get.

Date last updated: 28 June 2023

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