Do I have to give my employer notice that I’m quitting?
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 the company. 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. If an employee resigns without enough notice, the employer’s only remedy is to sue for its losses. But even this is unlikely. Most employers won’t sue because legal actions are time-consuming and expensive. It is also extremely difficult for most employers to prove that they suffered lost profits just because an employee did not provide enough notice of resignation.
Having said that, an employee’s risk of a lawsuit increases if multiple employees leave at the same time or a high-ranking employee leaves to join a competitor. In addition, if a key employee leaves without notice and, as a result, a deal or a sale falls through, the employer will have an easier time proving damages and may sue on that basis.
Employees should also be sure to review their employment contract. It may set out how much notice they’re expected to give. 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.
Millard & Company provides expert advice to both employers and employees seeking to end an employment relationship. Contact us today to see how we can help.