The Legal Implications of Quitting Without Proper Notice

Written by Ashley Prommer

It goes without saying that most employers like to receive some form of notice before an employee decides to quit their job. In fact, many employers include a term in their employment contracts that require employees to provide two or three weeks of notice before resigning. This notice period gives employers more time to adjust to the change and to assist the employee with their departure.

Since there is no law in B.C. that requires employees to provide notice of resignation, setting out a notice requirement in the employment contract is one way to prevent employees from quitting unexpectedly. If an employee decides to quit without providing the amount of notice set out in the employment contract, their employer would have the ability to sue them for breach of contract.

Recent Cases

In January, the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal heard the claims of two employers that attempted to recover lost income from their employees for quitting without notice. Each employer sought thousands of dollars from their employee, claiming that their sudden departure had caused the employer to suffer financial losses. Both employers argued that the lack of notice was a breach of contract, as each employment contract contained a term requiring three weeks’ notice of resignation.

While the Tribunal agreed that the lack of notice provided by the employees did breach the terms of their employment contracts, the Tribunal dismissed both claims for the same reason: Neither employer could actually prove that it had suffered financial losses as a result of their employee’s actions.

The Employer’s Burden of Proof

The purpose of a claim for breach of contract is to recover financial losses known as “damages”. However, a successful claim requires actual proof of the damages that are alleged.

In the employment context, an employer seeking damages from an employee must be able to present real evidence of lost income caused by the breach of the employment contract. This can be a difficult burden to overcome, as revealed by the two claims that were dismissed by the Tribunal earlier this year. In both cases, the Tribunal ruled in favour of the employees because of the insufficient evidence provided by the employers.

Nevertheless, employers have been successful at recovering damages by relying on evidence that clearly shows the connection between a loss in revenue and the employee’s unexpected departure. Other evidence that supports an employer’s claim is the costs for onboarding new employees after the employee had quit without notice.

Takeaways

Employers should be aware of the challenges of pursuing legal action against a former employee. As discussed above, there must be tangible evidence that clearly connects the employee’s sudden resignation with the damages that are claimed. As an employer, you can prevent the risks of legal action by including a notice requirement in the employment contract. It is also beneficial to ensure that your employees are made aware of their contractual obligations at the time of their hiring. As long as the term is well-defined, understood by your employees, and valid under the applicable laws, you will be better protected in the event of an employee’s resignation.

As an employee, it is important to adhere to the obligations set out in your employment contract, particularly when you decide to quit your job. Although B.C. legislation does not require employees to provide notice of resignation, you should be cautious when working under the laws of other provinces where the laws around employee resignations may vary.

All things considered, providing notice of resignation eliminates the risk of costly and time-consuming legal action for employers and employees alike. Adequate notice ensures a smoother transition for all those involved in the employment relationship.

In navigating the complexities of employment law, it’s essential for both employers and employees to seek legal counsel and fully understand their rights and obligations to avoid unnecessary legal conflict. For prudent advice on how to best approach your employment contract, please contact Kent Employment Law today.

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