misleading reference requests, holiday gifts to clients, and more

It’s five short answers to five short questions. Here we go…

1. Misleading reference request form looks like it comes from me — but it doesn’t

I’ve recently been asked to fill out an online/outsourced reference form for a job application and was a little bit disturbed to see that the program generated an email to be sent to my references that looks like it was personally sent from me (and signed by me!), rather than from the company I’m applying with.

The wording was fairly standard and inoffensive, though it sounded nothing like an email I would write and send to a reference of mine. Minor quibble. I think the most uncomfortable thing is that it is a request from the institution asking for information about me, but they are making it appear as though the email request is being sent by me and the request for information about our relationship is coming from me. It was clearly designed to look like a personal email I wrote to the reference, asking them to go to a link to fill in information about me/our relationship. It even ended with “Thank you, (my name).”

I understand that companies are moving in this direction, but seeing as how I’m uncomfortable with these faux-personal emails, is there an option I have? Can I contact the HR person and ask her to contact my references directly (she has the list and their contact information) or am I just stuck?

How strong of a candidate are you? If you’re a candidate who this company is wooing, you could certainly say something like, “Since this email isn’t actually coming from me, I’d prefer if it didn’t appear that way — can you make it clear that it’s coming from ABC Company?”

But if you don’t have a sense that you’re a particularly strong candidate, then you have to decide if you’re willing to risk turning them off by raising this. To be clear, it shouldn’t turn them off; if they’re reasonable, they should see it as the reasonable request it is. But of course, if they were reasonable and had common sense, why would they be using this system to begin with? So you risk them thinking you’re a pain or high-maintenance or someone who wants special treatment, and you’ll have to decide how much you care about speaking up about this.

But yes, that’s a terrible system.

2. Giving holiday gifts to clients when you work in their home

I know you’ve done the topic of presents to death (presets upwards no, presents downwards yes) but I just wanted to check one variation – clients.

For example, I work in people’s homes with their kids as an independent contractor type position. I will often get the child something small for their birthday or Christmas but usually not for their parents. This year I was thinking of getting the parents something little (small box of chocolates?). Is this appropriate?

Nope. This is another case where if someone is going to get a gift, it should be you getting a gift from them. For a parallel, think about other types of workers you might have in your home — a nanny or house-cleaner or contractor. It would be fine for you to give those workers a holiday gift, but you wouldn’t expect (and might be uncomfortable with) a gift from them. (But it’s fine for you to give one to the kids; that’s a bit different.)

3. When HR doesn’t protect your personal information

I’m writing about a situation that just happened to my mother. Her employer recently had their open enrollment, where she was looking to sign up for new health insurance. She works in a hospital, and HR usually sets up a table on the floor with new benefit applications and different information for staff to look at. She ended up completing one of the insurance applications, and brought it directly to HR’s office where she handed it off to the proper HR rep (and assumed it got processed).

A few days later, a coworker stopped her in the hallway and handed her the completed form that she had given to HR, thinking she had accidentally left it at the open enrollment table. It turns out, her fully completed form was just sitting out in the open among all the other blank applications (and somehow made it there from the HR rep’s office).

Very concerned, she quickly made an appointment with HR to reconcile the situation, and find out how the situation could have happened. A very nervous and embarrassed HR person gave her an apology, and basically just left it at that. My mother is now pretty paranoid that her identity is at risk to be stolen, since all of her personal info was left out in the open (SSN, address, date of birth, etc.). I’m wondering if she has any legal standing in this situation or what good advice would be when an employer compromises personal information. She ideally would like to try to get reimbursement for an identity theft protection service, but isn’t sure what to do from here.

I can’t think of any legal standing she’d have here (HIPAA, for instance, covers the information your medical professionals release about you, but in most cases it doesn’t apply to your employer), but she certainly has ethical standing. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for her to go back to HR and say, “Hey, I’m really concerned that this might have compromised my personal information and made me vulnerable to identity theft. I realize it was an accident, but now that it’s happened, I need to worry about that. Would the company be willing to reimburse me for a year of an identify theft protection service, to make sure that nothing bad comes of this and that I’m alerted immediately if there are any problems?”

4. I need time off during my company’s vacation black-out period

I work for a company that sent out an email regarding restrictions on days that couldn’t be taken off unless there’s an emergency. Many employees complained, so they shorted the time from Dec. 1 to Dec. 19. I’m in a position where I need to take some days off for some contracting work being done in my apartment, and yes, I have the time to take off but was advised the days wouldn’t be approved due to this black-out period. If these are not approved, what are my rights with this? I am required to be home for this work to be completed. I was told that they don’t want other coworkers complaining if they approve the time for me, but this is my issue and my emergency and doesn’t have anything to do with them.

You can certainly ask for an exception and explain the situation, but those dates are probably blacked out for a reason (generally it happens when a busy period is anticipated) and so they might not be willing to approve the days off. If that’s the case, you don’t really have any “rights” in the sense of being able to force them to grant you the days. But why not see if you can either change the dates of the work or have someone else be in your apartment during that time?

5. My manager wants eight weeks of notice from resigning employees

I’m in England and here the cultural norm for notice when you resign is 4 weeks, and my contract states 4 weeks notice. My employer now wants to change this for a large group of staff from 4 weeks to 8 weeks, citing recruiting difficulties in getting posts filled before the quitting employee leaves.

While I’ve got no current plans to leave, I’m a bit worried that it might hamper me in a future job search if a potential new employer would have to wait twice as long for me to be in post than most other applicants. Do hiring managers use length of notice as a factor in recruiting?

First, your employer is silly if they think the notice period is supposed to let them find, hire, and train a replacement before you leave. That’s not what it’s for (not in most fields, anyway). It’s just to give them some time to transition work, tie up loose ends, find out the status of your projects, etc. So yeah, of course they’re not finding four weeks sufficient to bring someone new on board. Frankly, changing it to eight might not solve that problem either, depending on the position.

In any case … yes, it could cause problems for you when you leave, depending on your job. In some jobs, waiting two months for someone to start is no big deal. In others, it would be. You need to know your field and what’s typical — and if this seems like it’s going to be a problem, I’d recommend that you and your coworkers push back on this as a group.

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann Furthermore*

    #2: I think Alison is right. We have people who clean our house, and I always make them baked goods for Christmas. But I would never expect them to return the gesture. I actually do this for lots of people, among them my daycare lady, the woman who does my nails, and my hairdresser, and my daughter’s teachers.

    It’s a way for me to thank them for everything they do for me. Also, things happen sometimes: I need to change an appointment at the last minute (or every once in a great while just completely space it), or I’m late picking up my daughter from daycare, and so on. So I like to make baked goods for them at Christmas to show them that I don’t take them, their time, or what they do for granted.

    #4: I really hate vacation black-out periods. If your people are so overworked that you have to ban vacation time altogether, then you have a serious problem. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. I’m working on an ERP implementation that’s going live on January 1, so clearly I can’t take any significant amount of time off during the holidays this year. If you work in Finance, chances are you can’t take time off over month-end, quarter-end, or year-end. But in general it should not be necessary to just ban vacation time altogether.

    A director at my company (not over my area, thankfully) recently tried to say that there would be a vacation blackout period for everyone on his teams from the 19th through the 8th of the next month, EVERY MONTH. You can imagine how well that went over. And given that we have a significant presence in Europe, it was actually illegal according to the employment laws of most or all of those countries for this director to try to do that.

  2. ScaredyCat*

    #5: As someone who recently left a job where I had to give 12 weeks notice, I can totally sympathize with you.

    Yes, availability plays a huge role in hiring decisions. I’ve been to lots of interviews where I was told I was a great candidate, but when we got to my availability everyone blanched.

    My advise is pretty generic, but good to keep in mind, I guess:
    1) Be prepared for the job search to take at least 3 times as much as otherwise
    2) Be a great candidate, although this is true for all job searches.
    3) Target companies with 100+ employees, where a few months waiting won’t make such a big difference.
    4) Start networking, connecting to people in your industry on LinkedIn, always keep an eye on the current job offers, etc.

    Good luck! Hopefully, you won’t need to worry about this too soon.

    1. Kerry*

      I’ve been to lots of interviews where I was told I was a great candidate, but when we got to my availability everyone blanched.

      I’ve had this experience too with a two-month notice period in England. I’d definitely try to push back on this.

      1. Marmite*

        A friend of mine had to give three months notice, she ended up giving her notice before having anything lined up because nowhere would wait three months to hire her (she was an excellent candidate otherwise).

        1. ScaredyCat*

          I did briefly entertain that idea, but there was no way for me to know how long it would take me to find a job.
          Plus, doesn’t Alison always stress how important it is to have an firm offer, when resigning?

          In the end it took me about 3 months to find something that didn’t make me feel like I was settling (due to the long notice period).

  3. Apollo Warbucks*

    #5 if your contract says 4 weeks notice then you should find out if it can be unilaterally changed to 8 weeks, and what rights the company have to alter your employment contract. I am only on 4 weeks notice but a lot of people I work with are obligated to give 3 months, but in practice those that have left always manage to negotiate a shorter notice period when the resign.

    1. Jen in RO*

      Yeah, are you sure they can change the notice period to 8 weeks? I would doubt that’s possible without your signature… can you refuse to sign or would that have repercussions?

      Depending on the company, the notice period will or won’t matter. I also have 4 weeks of notice, but I started with my current company after 6, because I had a previously scheduled vacation and they didn’t mind the wait (but I was pretty much the only candidate). Someone I know did lose out on a job because the other candidate was available immediately… so I would personally try to fight against the longer notice period.

    2. Scamel from the rocks*

      I also very recently left a UK employer that required a 3 (!) month notice period! In practice, though, virtually no one actually worked all three months, unless they were retiring. Given my experience, I would advise you not to worry too much — it’s very likely you can simply negotiate your notice period when you are ready to leave. It was quite common for people at my job to give, for instance, six weeks’ notice. If worst comes to worst, the most your employer can do to you is to write a reference that says you didn’t fulfil your contractual notice period. Once you explain to prospective employers that that period was 3 months, you shouldn’t have any problems.

      1. Anonymous*

        Another UK 3 month notice here. My experience is that high level people have to give longer or people working in an academic setting (I was the latter). In academia it’s normally tied to terms so you want someone to finish out the term they’re teaching.

        I want to give Alison a giant hug for pointing out that it shouldn’t be expected that you have a replacement within the notice period. My job wasn’t even advertised within the 3 months I was working my notice (although that says more about the company than anything else).

      2. LondonI*

        I’ve got a 3-month notice period too. It’s normal for the field, but less so for people at my rather lowly level.

        Of course, the good thing is that the notice period works in reverse, too. I would get 3-months’ notice before the company could make me redundant.

        OP, would the notice period also work to your benefit? Or would they still be able to make you redundant after one month’s pay?

        1. OP #5*

          Thanks to Alison for answering my question and thanks for the insightful replies from everyone. Our employer is being a bit silly.

          @Apollo and Jen – my understanding is that the employer can as long as they follow consultation with the employees which is where we are now.

          @Scamel – interesting that people can negotiate an early exit. It seems like where I am everyone does fulfil their notice though so it might burn a bridge or two to even suggest that I get out early.

          @LondonI – no changes to the notice that the employer has to give is changing but I’m already at 12 weeks (the law says one week per year of service with an employer up to a maximum of 12 weeks)

  4. Tony*

    Regarding #1 – it’s beyond terrible.

    An unexpected email claiming to be from someone you know but that doesn’t look like they wrote it, and even better there is a link to click! These people have no clue…

    I’d email the recipients warning them to expect the email, and that it looks like a virus spam but it isn’t! I’d CC the twits who provide the system.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I’m just hoping, retroactively, that nothing was autosent “from me” without my knowledge when I was filling out Taleo applications earlier this year. Yikes.

    2. Natalie*

      I once got a reference request from a temp that must have gone through a similar system – it looked like an email from her. Even worse, the subject was something vague and spammy like “please take 5 minutes of your time…”

      It was, in fact, spam filtered and I ignored it and the subsequent emails because I assumed it was some sort of mass-charity blast or similar. I wouldn’t have known anything about it if she didn’t follow up with me directly.

  5. Cari*

    #5 – Have you considered contacting Acas? A quick look at their site doesn’t say much other than there’s two types of notice (statutory and contractual – http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4096) and that the legal minimum notice an employee needs to give an employer is 1 week. There’s also a bit on changing the terms of a contract (http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3971) that suggests it needs to be agreed with the employee or their representatives.

  6. Anne*

    #5: I’m up in Edinburgh, hey. *waves*

    Our contracts stipulate a very long notice period as well – 3 months, if I remember correctly! There was (of course) some push back when this was first put in, and we were told that they really want to keep it in for safety’s sake as 1) the skills we have here are very specialized and 2) if a lead developer leaves right in the middle of a huge project, we’re stuffed.

    But, for the most part, it’s very much open to negotiation. 3 employees have left since we got those contracts and they’ve given a month each. As an admin/finance person, I think I could give 2 weeks without it being a huge deal.

    So it might be worth checking whether management expects there to be any room for negotiation when the time comes, too.

    Worst come to worst, remember that notice periods in the UK are only actually binding to the employer – they MUST give you notice before firing you, but you don’t HAVE to serve out any notice. You can walk at any time. I’d check with Citizens Advice or someone before doing it, but if you gave 2-4 weeks and future employers asked why you walked out early, saying “The notice period asked for was a full 8 weeks, I gave as much notice as I possibly could” seems reasonable to me. I wouldn’t discount a candidate for that, anyway.

    1. LadyB*

      Also in the UK, 3 months notice is fairly standard at my level and I’ve seen more senior posts requiring 6 months.

      However, because these are quite common – especially as you get higher up the management/specialist tree – recruiters factor them in to the timescale. When I got my current job I was able to start immediately as I’d been made redundant, but it really messed up their time lines for getting the paperwork etc done.

      Also, it’s absolutely possible to negotiate an earlier departure from a reasonable employer. Most will expect this, but it helps to have a clear plan in place for how the transition will happen when negotiating.

    2. Carrie in Scotland*

      Hi Anne *waves* I’m in Scotland too – just further up the country!

      I have only ever had 4 weeks notices in all my jobs but then I’m not in highly skilled positions. Is it just your manager that wants this or the whole company is changing?

    3. UK HR Bod*

      Anne, I’d have to disagree strongly – never walk out (in normal circumstances, clearly different there are times when it’s necessary, but that’s not about notice). Someone walking out early would be a huge red flag for me – it makes you look flaky and unreliable, and you are basically saying you’d walk out on my organisation if you thought the notice was a bit much. Even though you had presumably read and understood the contract that you signed. And actually, notice periods are legally binding on the employee. You could be sued for breach of contract if you left early. It’s highly unlikely, but just because it may not happen doesn’t mean that it could.

      Having said that, I always encourage managers to negotiate if someone wants to go early, as when you’ve handed in your notice you’ve left in mind if not body. Just make sure you have a plan for handing over fully and properly when you ask to negotiate an early release. As Lady B says, it’s entirely normal to have 3 months and 6 months at certain levels (and a year at very senior or very specialist roles – there are two on that notice in my organisation). Recruiting managers understand this (because the person leaving is on three months too), and frankly, if you’re the right candidate, 3 months doesn’t matter.

    4. AVP (OP)*

      Hello! I’m here in Scotland for vacation this week and it is so beautiful here! And I love that the town signs say “haste ye back” when you leave.

  7. Mimi*

    #1: OP, is the reference company called Checkster? I worked for an organization that uses Checkster, and that’s exactly right. You enter your references names and email addresses, and Checkster sends them an email, asking them to click on a link and complete a survey. The email does, in fact, read as though it’s coming from you: “Dear Ed, I have applied for a [job title] position at [name of company]. Please click on the link below…..” etc.

    1. Elise*

      I would be very tempted to set up false email addresses for this and fill out my own surveys. Automating reference checks to an online survey does not seem like a reliable method.

      1. PEBCAK*

        This is common in some fields (notably, academia) where you expect a reference letter instead of a question-and-answer sort of thing, but the emails all have to be institutional (@schoolname.edu or @companyname.com). When I did my master’s, the emails couldn’t get past my company filter, so none of the managers who had agreed to write me reference letters ever got the requests, and we ended up having to do them the old-fashioned (paper) way. What a pain.

      2. Mimi*

        Actually, some candidates did just that. Apparently Checkster checks (ha) the IP addresses of the computers being used to complete the surveys, as well as the time of day when each survey was completed. Checkster then sends you an alert if “potential fraud” on the candidate’s part, noting that, say, 3 references from 3 separate employers completed the survey from the same computer – all within minutes of each other.

  8. OmarF*

    #3. At my wife’s hospital, leaving someone’s personal health information in the open would likely be a firing offense. There’s a reason why the person was nervous and apologized and did nothing more. If more was done, then this person was in serious trouble as the story would come out.

    I would personally leave it at this. It’s highly unlikely that there is any risk of identity theft in the situation as described. Maybe document a few things, and watch carefully for signs, but keep it quiet until problems come out.

    1. FiveNine*

      1) OP made it clear her mother is quite concerned about the risk of identity theft. That in itself really is its own issue not just for the mother but for HR to be aware of and investigate and address both in this instance, possible past instances handled by this employee, and in going-forward practice.

      2) We have no indication whatsover that this HR employee has even processed the OP mother’s change in insurance request at this point, or done so in time, or what possible consquences there are for the mother as a result of this mishandling and it too in itself is something that needs to be addressed (by both the mother and HR office).

      3) HR is charged with handling sensitive personal information, HR personnel are fully aware of the seriousness and consequences of failure to do so, and yes it’s likely a firing offense — for good reason. And no, this shouldn’t be swept under the rug so that only the OP’s mother is dealing with the fallout and HR is left in the dark about the mishandling of information.

      1. Julie*

        I was writing my comment below at the same time FiveNine was writing his /hers, so I’m just going to add that I completely agree with FiveNine.

      2. OmarF*

        FiveNine, fair enough. I wasn’t thinking of a repeat scenario where people are sloppy as a rule. I certainly don’t want to help cover up this type of problem. My concern was a one time slip up may result in a firing if pursued. That seems drastic, but I also recognize that privacy is a basic standard of employment at a hospital, so I shouldn’t help to cover it up.

        I still highly doubt that a form that stayed inside the building has had information copied off of it, but I can understand the concern.

        1. Cloudy*

          The form doesn’t have to leave the building for the information on it to be misappropriated. According to the OP her mother didn’t get the form from her co-worker until a few days later. In those days it could have been sitting on a table in the open for anyone to be able to see. Mom should absolutely address this with HR as Alison recommends, and not worry about getting someone else in trouble.

          Whether or not the hospital agrees to provide identity theft protection, Mom should take steps now to mitigate the risk of ID theft. Search the web for “ID theft credit reports” – the FTC has a good reference document.

    2. Julie*

      I disagree because it’s so much easier to deal with identity theft before it happens (preventing it) than after it occurs.

  9. Anonymous*

    For OP #3 with mom working in the hospital. Wow. Just wow. Aren’t these the very same people who have signs in the elevators talking about the importance of confidentiality?
    I guess stuff happens, but I wonder if HR has implemented new precautions to prevent this from happening to anyone else.
    I think Alison gives great advice about the identity theft protection. I hope your mom goes to the higher ups, such as the head of HR with this idea, and does not talk to the same person again.
    If this happened to me, I would be plenty upset. I have had my credit card number stolen a couple times now. (Computers were hacked.) I cannot imagine sending my SS number out to the universe. Although I can understand the HR rep did it accidentally, that has no bearing on what happens to my information once it gets “loose”.

  10. Anonymous*

    My apologies for the TJ, but I just heard an actual chocolate teapot reference! In the pilot episode of “Monarch of the Glen,” someone is referred to as being as useful as a chocolate teapot. I thought we all could enjoy that.

    1. Anonymous*

      It’s a common phrase in the UK, implying that whatever/whoever’s being referred to is useless, much as a chocolate teapot would be. Chocolate fireguard is sometimes a substitute for teapot too.

      1. Anonymous*

        I did not know that! I thought Allison had just come up with the expression herself. I would have thought that in my years watching British TV I would have heard it before. :)

  11. NylaW*

    #3, your mom works for a hospital so she should follow up with her organization’s risk and compliance officer. Depending on the state your mom’s hospital is in or what accreditation or certifications your hospital may maintain, HR’s actions regarding personally identifying information could result in a fine or loss of accreditation if it is determined to be serious enough. At a minimum it will be recorded and it could trigger a review of your HR’s policies and procedures, or be tallied with other violations that could result in loss of accreditation. It’s something that should be taken very seriously by the compliance officer. Your mother’s organization may also run afoul of any state privacy laws. HR is often one of the most lax departments with personal data, which is quite frightening considering how much they maintain on each employee. This is often because staff do not report these kinds of breeches, even if they are small.

    Disclosure: I work for a healthcare network in IT dealing specifically with HR and Risk Compliance/Compliance Reporting.

    1. alfie*

      Yes I totally agree with this. Your mom should report it to her director, and maybe the safety/compliance officer too.

      I’m surprised if employers don’t have to keep this information private and protected for the same reason organizations protect their clients! There is nothing more identifying than someone’s SS# and birthday!!

      1. NylaW*

        I’m a big fan of if a business is going to say they hold themselves to X standard and show that they have a certification to prove it, then call them on it and make them prove it. I think more states will be passing even more privacy laws in the coming years, because clearly our federal government is not taking it seriously.

    2. PurpleChucks*

      I’m not sure, but I don’t think the risk/compliance officer is appropriate for this case. Don’t they deal with PATIENT and COMPANY risk and compliance, but NOT for employees? HR would be completely separate from risk/compliance officer, right?

      1. Suzy Schmoe*

        Yeah, I was thinking this too. Risk/compliance is there to minimize the hospital’s risk, not each employee’s risk. I doubt hospital accreditations would be affected by an HR rep accidentally placing an employee’s personal information where the public can see it. I would think accreditations would be more dependent on hospitals following processes that protect the patient’s privacy, not an individual employee’s.

      2. NylaW*

        In healthcare, risk and compliance is huge and covers all aspects of the organization. If you’re doing it right that is. It’s a very different animal from the corporate world.

  12. Sourire*

    #4 – I acknowledge that blackout periods are awful and annoying, but your contracting work is not an emergency. It just isn’t. If you have had this planned for months and the rescheduling would take months more, or if for some reason you would lose some type of deposit, I would explain that to your employer. It makes a much stronger case. However, it’s still their prerogative to say no, and unfortunately there isn’t much to be done in that case beyond finding someone else to be home or rescheduling.

    1. NylaW*

      Agreed. Emergencies are things like a death in the family or a medical issue. It is possible that since it’s an apartment the OP did not schedule the work and it was scheduled for her by a building manager or landlord. And if that’s the case then that person should be able to be there instead of the OP.

      1. doreen*

        Emergencies also include broken furnaces and pipes – but that kind of work really isn’t scheduled in advance . Barring a natural disaster if my furnace goes out or a pipe busts today, it’s getting fixed by tomorrow, not three days from now.

  13. Brett*

    #3 Some states may allow for a cause of action on negligent disclosure of social security number (others, like Illinois, specifically do not). Social Security Act and many states laws may cover intentional disclosure (but this is probably not intentional).

  14. Anoners*

    #3 – Ugh. Unrelated, but last year the Canada government “misplaced” a USB with over 100,000 student loan profiles (including basically everything needed to steal ones identity, including SINS). So there is probably someone out there living their life as me, great! Maybe said thief will pay back my loans.

      1. Anonymous*

        This is my reaction!!!! I never heard about this.

        Though if somebody stole my identity they’d be pretty disappointed.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Same here. I’ve always said that any thief who wants my identity can have it. It’s like robbing a homeless person at this point what with all the student loans I’ve got. LOL!

      2. Susie*

        It was only for people who took out Canada Student Loans between 2000 and 2006. The credit bureaus have flagged those files and are watching for fraud.


        Not only did they lose the drive they then sent some people two notice letters in the same envelope, so people were getting other people’s complete info in the mail as well. Way to go NSLSC!

    1. Ruffingit*

      Actually, that’s not the biggest problem here. They are talking about changing the terms of a contract so what they could be allowed to do if someone doesn’t meet those terms ranges from “do nothing” to “sue the person.” When something is codified in a contract, not fulfilling the terms becomes a bigger deal depending on who you’re dealing with.

      1. OP #5*

        Yep, in England an employer can sue you for breach of contract if you don’t work out your notice. It’s rare that it’s worth the bother to sue someone but running the risk of being sued isn’t high on my list of things to do before I’m 50.

        I think that Paul McCartney was paid £1 to perform at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics because that would then form a contract that he could be sued if he didn’t meet his obligations.

        The other reason that I would want to work my full notice is that if I left (presumably to get a more senior position elsewhere) I would want to come back later in my career and being known as someone who walks out on an employer wouldn’t be good either.

  15. Kit M.*

    For #1, I would use the system, but send my references a preemptive email to let them know that the automated email was coming.

  16. KLH*

    I also ran into one of those ridiculous automated reference systems recently. I just called/emailed my references and let them know there was a system involved and they’d get an email. I was delayed in getting those out because you had to have 5(!) references, and the system sent out all the emails at the same time, and I was not going to have some random email going out without letting people know what was going on. And it turned out to be a link to a rather lengthy questionnaire, which took them about 30-45 minutes to fill out.

    Actually I was going to write to Alison about this just for the sympathetic eyeroll and exasperation, because this was for a permanent, full-time job where I had been working for a year part-time, and when I was hired a year ago they did not check my references at all. Not only was the system a PITA, but they wanted me to fill it out within two days of my initial phone screen with the HR rep but before my interview or an offer. AND then, it was a good month before I heard anything about the job. But now that’s over, thank heavens, and I’m quite happy.

  17. Jamie*

    I never thought about this before, because we don’t have at home help (at least none that aren’t related to me by marriage or genetics), but I guess the rule is for personal services the customer gifts (when gifting is done) and in a business the vendor buys the gifts?

    Because at work all of our vendors send us stuff at Christmas (we have a no gift policy so they go into the raffle) and we send to our customers. But my family’s personal stuff we give to the waste disposal guys, mail delivery person, all hair stylists, manicurists, delivery people, etc used around the holiday…with the exception of my hair and nail salon we don’t even know them personally so everyone just gets cash. Makes life easier…it’s hard enough to buy for people I know and love.

    1. Julie*

      I’ll bet that the people you get gifts for (hair stylist, mail delivery person, etc.) would love to receive cash (instead of a gift), and that would be easier for you, too.

  18. ew0054*

    What if you do work as a consultant for a company? I was thinking of a cookie tin since they were my only client this year and it helped me show some business income. Would a card suffice?

    This is a tough call. If there is still time, perhaps you can get someone close to sit in the house or does it HAVE to be you? Perhaps you can get someone to sub at your job? If it is a big company they probably won’t allow that. Small businesses are much nicer to work for and more understanding.

    I’d like to see that! What company will give any notice when they let someone go?

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