Quitting a job affects your legal rights to things like employment insurance benefits and compensation you are owed. Learn your rights if you quit, and steps to protect yourself.

What you should know

There are some key things to know if you quit (or intend to quit) your job.

A key factor affecting your rights when you’re leaving a job is your employment contract. It may include terms that deal with how your employment can be ended. (Note there’s always an employment contract between a worker and an employer, even if nothing is in writing.)

Many employment contracts set out how much notice the worker must give to the employer if they quit.

Make sure you’re aware of any term in your contract that might limit your future activities. For example, a non-compete clause that tries to limit your ability to take a similar job.

If you quit your job, you have a legal obligation to tell your employer ahead of time. The main purpose of the notice is to give the employer a reasonable time to adjust to your departure.

Your employment contract may set out how much notice you need to provide.

If not, the amount of notice must be reasonable in the circumstances. The factors in play include the duties and responsibilities you have, how long you’ve been in the job, and the time it would reasonably take the employer to have others handle your work or to hire a replacement.

For more junior workers, two weeks’ notice is common. For workers with a lot of responsibility, four weeks’ notice is more typical. However, these are only general guidelines.

The best way to tell your employer you quit is to give them a letter of resignation. To be effective, your resignation must be clear. Your employer should have no doubt about your intention to quit. Uttering the words “I quit!” as part of an emotional outburst is not enough.

If you do give notice, your employer can accept or refuse.

If they accept, you’ll continue to earn your regular wage until your last day of work.

If your employer refuses (and says “take your things and go home, you’re done here”), they must pay you compensation. They must pay you for the amount of notice you have given. Or if your legal entitlement to notice on dismissal is a shorter period, they can pay you for that shorter period.

Regardless of whether you notify your employer ahead of time that you’re quitting, your employer must pay all wages owed to you through your last day of work. This includes annual vacation pay, statutory holiday pay, and overtime.

If you’re covered by employment standards law, your employer must pay your outstanding wages within six days of your last day of work.

If you quit your job, you will usually not be eligible to receive employment insurance (EI) benefits. The exception to this rule is if you had no other reasonable choice except to leave your job.

Some examples are:

  • you experienced sexual or other harassment
  • you needed to move with a spouse or dependent child to another place of residence
  • your employer made major changes to your work duties or pay

When you apply for EI, you will have to describe your situation and explain what steps you took to fix the problem before you quit.

Work out the problem

Taking these steps can help protect your rights if you quit your job.

Step 1. Try to fix the problem

Step 2. Figure out if you have no other reasonable choice but to quit

Step 3. Check your employment contract

Step 4. Start looking for another job

Step 5. Give your employer notice

Step 1. Try to fix the problem

If you haven’t quit your job yet, consider options to fix the problem. You might consider:

  • talking with your employer
  • talking with a trusted colleague or union representative
  • asking for new duties or to work under a different manager

Step 2. Figure out if you have no other reasonable choice but to quit

If you quit your job and you want to get EI benefits, you must prove you had no other reasonable choice except to quit your job.

Step 3. Check your employment contract

Check the terms of your employment contract to make sure you meet any notice requirements on quitting your job.

Step 4. Start looking for another job

You can start looking for another job before you quit. If you don’t want your current employer to be contacted, indicate on your application that you’re applying “in confidence.”

Step 5. Give your employer notice

It’s best to prepare a letter. It doesn’t need to be overly detailed. It should fit on a single page and include:

  • a clear statement that you're going to resign
  • the date of your last day of work
  • your appreciation for what you have learned
  • an offer to help with the transition

Hand the letter to your employer in person. Even if it’s uncomfortable. It’s the professional thing to do.

We explain these steps in more detail and have more information on your rights if you quit your job. See our in-depth coverage of this topic.

Who can help

Consider reaching out to these agencies for help if you quit your job.

Employment Standards Branch logo
Employment Standards Branch
Administers the law in BC that sets minimum standards for workers.
Employment and Social Development Canada logo
Employment and Social Development Canada
Administers the law that protects workers in federally-regulated industries.

There are options for free legal advice.

Access Pro Bono logo
Lawyer Referral Service
Helps you connect with a lawyer for a free half-hour consult.
Access Pro Bono logo
Access Pro Bono Clinics
Volunteer lawyers provide free legal advice to people with limited means.
People's Law School logo
People’s Law School
See more options for free or low-cost legal help.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada

Reviewed in May 2020

Time to read: 5 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

Richard Johnson, Kent Employment Law

This information from People’s Law School explains in a general way the law that applies in British Columbia, Canada. The information is not intended as legal advice. See our disclaimer.

Related

On Dial-A-Law

Dial-A-Law has more information on Leaving a job in the section on Work.