When an employee has a contract, it may include many terms that define the relationship and the expected steps that should be taken. For instance, the contract may say that the person will stay with the company for the next 24 months. It may also say that they can only be fired for cause, giving them a bit more protection than at-will employees – who can be fired at any time and without a reason. The contract can stipulate that, if the employee decides to quit, they have to give a certain amount of advance notice.
But the important thing for employees to remember is that, if they are at-will employees, there’s no legal obligation to do so. It may be common practice for people to give two weeks’ notice, for example, but it is not required by law. Even if an employer says that the person “has” to provide notice, they don’t actually have to do so. The only thing they risk is getting a bad recommendation from that employer in the future. They have not broken the law and the employer can’t take any legal steps to seek compensation for this lack of advance notice.
Why do people think this is required?
The main reason that people think that a two-week notice is required is just because it’s the standard in most industries. Many people want to switch jobs, but they’re not interested in burning bridges. They still want a good recommendation from a previous employer in the future. Giving that employer notice that they’re going to quit is beneficial and can help preserve that recommendation and that relationship.
But just because something is common doesn’t mean that it is legally enforced. Employees need to know that they can’t be compelled to provide notice or threatened with legal action if they don’t do so. If this does happen, they must know about all the legal options they have.