Breaking Up With Your Employer

Employment law is at times complex and just a little bit confusing, but it sure has come a long way. The right to “break-up” with your employer is a key element of all provinces’ Employment Standards legislation. Among the most common frustrations expressed by employers is employees who walk away from a job without providing notice. It’s viewed as rather poor form to just pack up, leave and never come back, but quitting a job without giving notice happens more often than one would think. In this day of multiple forms of communication, even a text break-up is better than not showing up.

If you’re an employee and you’re thinking about leaving your job, consider the reasons. Are you feeling stuck or restless? Do you feel as though the job isn’t contributing to your longer-term goals? If that’s the case, there are some things you can do to help yourself. Before you quit, you may wish to:

  • Talk to your manager about how you can improve your skills
  • Network, seek out a mentor, or go back to school
  • Invest in your own career development by selecting and paying for professional development experiences such as training or conferences.

However, if the time is right and you’re ready to make the move, check out your employment agreement first. Be sure you know what your obligations are. Even if you have a written agreement, consider giving your employer a longer notice period. Your goal is to provide reasonable notice. In most cases, one to two weeks of advance warning is considered to be reasonable, unless you’re in a management or key role. You and your employer can come to an agreement on how long the notice period will be, and once accepted, it’s a binding change to your employment arrangement. That way you can expect to continue to do a good job for your remaining time there, and to get paid according to whatever terms and conditions existed at the moment that you gave notice. This can be really helpful if you’re ever in need of a reference. In past rulings, Courts have established that notice periods should allow the employer sufficient time to hire and train replacements with minimal disruption to the business.

If the employer prefers that you leave immediately, you’re still entitled to receive your usual income for the notice period. That means, even if the employer feels it is inappropriate for you to remain in the company for whatever reason, you are entitled to receive payment.

As you leave your job, here are six tips to make the experience respectful:

  1. Put it in writing. It doesn’t have to be a work of art, just say when you’ll be leaving. If you wish, you can include the reason, but it’s not essential.
  2. Tidy your desk or work area and take your personal belongings with you. No one wants to open your drawer to find a handful of gummy bears or a half a dozen end-chewed pens.
  3. Talk to your manager or payroll person to confirm your mailing address. This will make sure your T4 finds its way to you.
  4. If asked, agree to participate in an exit interview. This is a terrific tool that gives you an opportunity to share your perspective. Typically, the information is used to help companies improve their human resources practices.
  5. Say farewell to your colleagues.
  6. Keep your bridges intact. If you’re not leaving on the best of terms or are feeling disgruntled, tell your family, not the world. Don’t impede your chance of securing another position by bad-mouthing your former employer.

Since the circumstances around leaving a job are so variable, if you’re feeling uncomfortable or have questions or concerns, it’s a good idea to seek out professional advice before you make your decision. Consider contacting an employment lawyer or an HR consulting firm. Most HR consultants won’t charge you for quick questions. You might also try speaking with a job coach or employment counsellor at a government-funded employment resource centre such as Job Gym and the Employment Help Centre. If you’re in college or university, your school’s job centre may be able to help. It’s worth the extra effort. Even if you decide to break-up with your employer, life will be easier for both of you if you make the extra effort to try and stay friends.