How much notice is an employee required to give when leaving?

Question: How much notice of resignation must an employee give to her employer?

Answer: An employee has a duty to provide her employer with reasonable notice of resignation. The obligation to provide notice of resignation is found both in statute and in the common law. Generally, provincial standards legislation sets out a statutory minimum period of notice which an employee must give to her employer when quitting. The length of this period varies from province to province.

To determine the length of notice required under the common law, one must first look to any express or implied terms in the contract of employment. In the absence of any such provisions, courts will determine what a reasonable-notice period would be. It should be noted that this period will not automatically be equivalent to the reasonable-notice period an employer is required to provide an employee upon dismissal without cause. The objectives of the two types of notice are different and therefore will, more often than not, result in different amounts.

Reasonable notice of resignation is provided to an employer in order for it to make sufficient provisions for the continuation of the business in light of the employee’s departure. In other words, the period of notice will generally reflect whatever would be a reasonable amount of time for the employer to find someone to replace the former employee. Accordingly the reasonable notice period for a resignation will tend to be much less than for a dismissal. Having said that, a lack of skilled employees able to fulfill the particular position in question would result in an increase to the notice period that an employee is obliged to provide to an employer.

Peter Israel is counsel to Goodman and Carr LLP in Toronto and is head of the firm’s Human Resource Management Group. Peter can be reached at [email protected] or (416) 595-2323.

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