Is Two Weeks’ Notice Mandatory in Ontario?

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That’s it – you’ve had enough. You’re ready to quit your job. You know you’re supposed to tell your employer beforehand, but you’re not sure exactly when you’re required to do so. It is commonly believed that two weeks’ notice is required. However, this is not necessarily the case. As we will see, some employees may be required to give notice much further in advance than just two weeks.

Is Notice Required At All?

Just as employers are required to give employees reasonable notice of termination, employees are likewise required to give their employers reasonable notice of resignation. The purpose is to give employers a reasonable opportunity to hire and train a replacement for the departing employee.

How Much Notice is Required?

The amount of notice you will be required to give your employer will vary. For this reason, two weeks’ notice may or may not be appropriate. The factors to consider in determining how much notice is appropriate include the employee’s responsibilities, their length of service, their salary, and the length of time it would reasonably take the employer to either replace the employee or take steps to adapt to its loss. Obviously, if you have worked with a particular employer for a very long time and in a very specialized role, it will be more difficult for them to find a replacement and therefore you should expect to give a greater notice period than if you were employed in a minor role for a relatively short period of time.

For example, in the case Sure-Grip Fasteners Ltd. v. Allgrade Bolt & Chain Inc., three employees resigned: one was a general manager, and the other two were salespeople. The general manager was found to owe their employer a greater notice period than the two salespeople. Specifically, the general manager owed 6 months of notice whereas the two salespeople only owed their employer ¼ months.

It is also possible for your employment contract to provide a specific period of time during which notice of resignation must be given. These can be greater than two weeks. It is therefore essential that you review your contract of employment prior to submitting your notice of resignation.

Can an Employer Fire You After Giving Two Weeks Notice?

When an employee gives notice of resignation, he or she may be asked to work their notice period or be sent home for the duration of it. Either way, the employee must be compensated for the entire period. Moreover, if the employee gives notice of resignation and is subsequently terminated, the employer must still pay the remaining notice. For example, if an employee gave their two weeks notice of resignation and was terminated after a single week, that employee would still be owed the remaining week from the notice period.

Notice According to the Employment Contract

The Employment Standards Act (ESA) provides that employees with less than two years of service, must give one week of notice. If the employee had two years of service or more, he or she must give two weeks notice. It is common for employees to believe that they must always give two weeks notice of resignation. However, as the ESA states, it can be even just one week.

The employment contract is also relevant for this subject. The contract may include longer notice periods than the ESA. If an employer believes the position could be very difficult to fill, a longer notice of resignation clause may be included. Therefore, if an employee is planning to resign, they should check the employment contract to see how much notice they must provide their employer.

Consequence of Failing to Give Notice

If you do not give your employer reasonable notice of your resignation, you might be liable to your former employer for damages. These damages are measured by assessing the cost to the employer resulting from your failure to give such reasonable notice. The employer must prove that it incurred costs, expenses or damages that were greater than what the employer saved by not having to pay your salary during what would have otherwise been your notice period.

However, it is not enough for the employer to show only that your unexpected resignation inconvenienced them. Furthermore, the employer also has an obligation to mitigate their losses (i.e., they must actually make an effort to find a replacement for you).

Play It Safe

Giving notice of your resignation is understandably an awkward and uncomfortable thing to have to do. But, it is also the safest thing to do.

You might be concerned about how your employer will react once you’ve given your notice. Can they fire you immediately? Unfortunately, they can. However, you don’t walk away with nothing! When this happens, courts generally hold that it is the employer who has terminated the employment, not the employee. Giving your notice of resignation is not grounds for your employer to summarily dismiss you. If they do, you will remain entitled to compensation in the form of pay in lieu of reasonable notice.

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