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Do I have to give my employer notice that I’m quitting?

Nov 17, 2016

How many of your employees are in a hurry to leave at 5pm?

The short answer is, yes, employees must give their employer “reasonable” notice before quitting.

Quantifying how much notice is “reasonable” depends on the circumstances. The basic idea is that employers ought to be given enough notice to find a replacement or make alternative arrangements.

There is no clear-cut formula (e.g. I worked X number of years therefore I must give my boss X weeks’ notice). Rather, it often boils down to how essential the employee is to company profit and/or success. A lower ranking employee might be expected to give notice in the range of two weeks, but it can be longer for senior employees.

While employees should take these legal obligations seriously, they can’t be forced to keep working. Instead, the employer can sue for its losses. But even this is unlikely. Most employers won’t sue because legal actions are time-consuming and expensive.

Having said that, an employee’s risk of a law suit increases if multiple employees leave at the same time or a high-ranking employee leaves to join a competitor.

Employees should also be sure to review their employment contract. If it states how much notice they’re expected to give, this may be deemed the “reasonable” amount in the circumstances. An employee who leaves earlier still can’t be forced to work, but it may mean the employer has an easier path to a lawsuit.

As a practical matter, employees should consider giving as much notice as possible. Ending on amicable terms and getting a positive reference can be hindered when an employee leaves abruptly.

Symes Street Millard LLP provides expert advice to both employers and employees seeking to end an employment relationship. Contact us at the number above if you would like to discuss your legal options.

By Mika Imai; photo by Alan Cleaver (Flickr) used under cc licence


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