What you should know
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.)
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.
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.
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
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
Who can help
Consider reaching out to these agencies for help if you quit your job.
There are options for free legal advice.
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
Reviewed in May 2020
Time to read: 5 minutes