I started a new job 5 months ago and stupidly signed a contract which gives both my employer and me a 6 month notice period (I work in a senior role in a professional capacity, but it's hardly rocket science) I'm not happy in my role and am looking around for a job. Assuming I get something suitable, I would imagine that I would be expected to start within about 3 months or so (if not less). I don't want to take the risk of resigning now, before I have a new job, what with the current economic climate. What recourse does my employer have if I don't want to work the full 6 months?
It depends a lot on where you would be going, how senior you are and whether you would be working for a competitor.
Your employer cannot force you to work (i.e. frog march you into the office), but could bring a damages claim if they lose out as a result of you breaching your contract. This is really only likely if you are either key to a project (which falls apart because you don't work your notice) or key to deal (again, which falls apart because...).
However, it all gets very messy if you will be working for a competitor, particularly if you are in a sales or development role.
In that situation, an employer can very easily get an injunction preventing you taking up the new employment until your notice period would have ended.
Also, bear in mind that you will get no (or a poor) reference. Your new employer may not mind this, but if you need to move again quickly, you may need your current job to give you a reference too.
My probationary period ended after 3 months and I passed, so no chance of getting out for that reason I am unlikely to work for a competitor (want to get out of this industry!) but I am fairly senior at this place. However, my role is relatively standard eg let's say I am HR manager, which I'm not, but using it as an analogy, then what I do is the normal stuff expected of an HR manager, except that obviously some stuff is particular to this company and its employees. In the examples given by RibenaBerry, I'm not key to any particular project, pretty much anyone at my level within my profession could come in and do what I do. It would be easy enough for them to get a temp in while they looked for a permanent replacement, but I don't know if they would be difficult about it. I could get difficult too though, as I know stuff that has been going on here which is absolutely not kosher (one reason why I want to get out) and I doubt they would want that getting out. They are unlikely to sue me, I would say. Aaarrgghhh....it's just so horrid, the thought of another 6 months here...
Well, if the reason you want to get out is dodgy doings, I would be inclined to wait until you resign and then try and negotiate to be released early. If that that will avoid you kicking up a stink about other things, it may well seem a good deal from their viewpoint...
Wait until you resign then negotiate an early release. 6 months is a long time and most employers wouldn't want someone with 9 toes out of the door counting the days and generally not focused sitting in a senior role for that length of time ime. They are likely to agree an early release date rather than make you sit there all disgruntled, particularly if you 'know stuff'.
I'm not the type to make threats and so on, but there's always a first time! I've made it very clear to my boss all along that I'm not happy with things so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise I hope. There's a possibility with one role that I'm up for that they would want me for only a few hours at the start, which I could work around my current hours here, whilst I worked my notice period. Another role, however, that I'm applying for, starts in January and there would be no negotiation.
Changed - if you might be working two jobs for a while, have you checked your contract? Some have clauses saying that you cannot have other jobs during your employment. Others have clauses saying that you can, but not with competitors. Some contracts are silent entirely, in which case you probably can as long as you are not (i) so senior you are basically a director or (ii) actually competing with and harming your first employer.
Depends what you do and if you are off to work for a competitor. Usually employers do not want people who do not want to be there and can negotiate either 'gardening leave' or a compromise agreement which means you don't do your whole six months. For senior roles we anticipate that normally someone will have 3 - 6 mth notice periods so take that into account when advertising roles.