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Resignation: How Much Notice Should I Provide?

Trevor R. Thomas

Co-Founder + Partner
February 14, 2022

We are frequently asked how much notice an employee is required to provide to resign from their job. While there is a general assumption that two weeks is sufficient, that may not always be correct.


What does the contract say?


The starting point is the employment contract. If there is a contract in place, it (hopefully) contains information about the length of notice required for a resignation. If a contract does not exist, the general rule is to consider the position, role and industry; how long will it take the employer to recruit, train, and transition the new employee? This period of time could be, for example, two weeks for filing a sales role. However, for more specialized roles, it could take upwards of six months.


What are the considerations?


What happens if an employee fails to provide enough notice? Let’s assume a valid employment contract is in place and it requires four weeks’ notice. The employee decides to leave after only two weeks. Can the company sue? Yes. If an employee breaches the contract by failing to honour the required period of resignation, the company can sue. However, the company faces some challenges in pursing such a claim. The company would have to prove that it mitigated it’s loss – i.e., that it took all reasonable steps to minimize the damage caused by the employee. This could include, for example, having other employees step in to work more hours, posting the job opportunity, or hiring a recruiter. Perhaps the most important question in deciding whether to sue an employee is: what impact will this have on our brand and reputation?


What if the company ends the notice early?


What if the company tells the employee to leave before the resignation period is complete? Let’s assume that the employment contract requires four weeks’ notice. The employee give the four weeks’ notice, and the company accepts it. However, after two weeks the company realizes that they no longer need this employee, and tells them to leave. What happens to the remaining two weeks? In this scenario, the company would be required to pay out the remaining two weeks to the employee.


Get advice


If you are an employee thinking about resigning, review your contract to understand how much notice you are required to provide. For employers, make sure that your employment contracts are up to date and reflect the current needs of the business.


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