Giving notice

There are more than a few things to consider before walking out the door

Giving notice
Stuart Rudner

By Stuart Rudner

Perhaps you once enjoyed your job, but things changed. Maybe you have a new manager, or a new colleague, who is making your life miserable. Or perhaps you've always hated the job and dreamed of leaving. Whatever the reason, here are some things to consider before you give your notice.

Be prepared to leave

Every now and then, you will hear stories of someone who walks into her boss's office and announces she is resigning, only to be offered a significant increase in pay if she will stay. Don't expect this to happen in your case. In the vast majority of cases, the resignation will be accepted, and the individual will either be walked out that day, or left to work through her notice period. This is not usually an effective negotiating tactic, so don't do it if your goal is to stay but improve your working conditions.

Provide appropriate notice

Contrary to popular belief, there is no law that says you must give two weeks of notice. If there is no resignation term in your contract specifying the amount of notice required, the law requires that you provide "reasonable notice." While two weeks is the norm, for some executive or harder-to-replace positions, it can be substantially more.

Check your contract

Your contract of employment may specify how much notice of resignation you are required to provide. If so, you should ensure that you do not inadvertently breach your contract.

Don't assume that you won’t have to work through the notice period

In many cases, employers do not want someone to continue working after they have given their notice. However, in many others, they will keep the person around, at least until they can fill the position. As such, you should not assume that you will not be required to work. Above all, do not plan to start your new job the next day.

That said, if your employer says you will not be expected to continue working through the notice period, you are entitled to be paid for that time.

In recent years, some clever individuals have tried to abuse this requirement by providing ridiculously lengthy periods of notice, knowing the employer would not want them around but expecting to be paid. That is why when we draft contracts for employer clients, we set out exactly how much notice of resignation is required, rather than a minimum.

Consider the timing

Bonuses, commissions or other variable payments may be made at certain times of the year. While the law is evolving to support the notion that such payments should be made if they were earned, even if the individual is no longer employed, most policies and plans state that such payments will not be made if the individual resigns. As such, you should ensure that you do not deprive yourself of a significant payment by resigning at the wrong time.

Don't resign if you are being forced out

Some employers try to avoid severance obligations by driving employees to resign, changing their working conditions or making their lives miserable. Do not let your employer get away with this. Raise your objections to any such conduct in writing, and if nothing changes, and you have no choice but to leave, you should make it clear you're not resigning, but are leaving your employment because of the way that you have been treated. You should set all this out in writing so there is a clear record. You may well have a claim for constructive dismissal, and you do not want to have to subsequently "explain" the fact that you did not really resign voluntarily. Make it clear from the outset.

Understand that you will not be eligible for employment insurance (EI)

Employment insurance is available to employees who otherwise meet the criteria if they were dismissed from their employment without cause. However, if they are dismissed due to willful misconduct, or if they resign, then they will not be eligible for benefits. Do not bank on such benefits in order to bridge you to your next job.

Don't burn bridges

Is a very small world. As above, if you are effectively being forced out or constructively dismissed, then make that clear. However, you can still do so in a respectful manner. You do not want word to get around that you are a hothead or you may find that nobody else will hire you. Even though it might feel good to tell the boss what you really think of him in front of everyone and then walk out, it is not worth it.

Beware any restrictive covenants

Make sure you are aware of any non-solicitation or non-competition clauses in your current contract that might limit your future activities. While these may or may not be enforceable, you will be much better off if you obtain a legal opinion in that regard before you act, rather than after you receive a threatening lawyer’s letter.

Understand your legal rights and obligations

First of all, as mentioned above, if there have been changes to your terms of employment or you feel that you are being forced to leave, you may have legal remedies available to you. And regardless, you should be aware of your rights and your obligations before taking any action. For example, you should understand how much notice you are required to provide before resigning. Furthermore, you should understand what compensation you are entitled to collect, even if you do resign.

We often work with individuals who find themselves in untenable employment situations. We can help you understand whether you have any remedies available to you, and determine the best strategy for moving forward.

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