Legal Insights / Employment & Human Rights / What you need to know about Walking Off the Job

What you need to know about Walking Off the Job

Aug 1 2023

At some point in your professional life, you may find yourself in a situation where you feel the need to quit your job without providing any or short prior notice to your employer. While this may be tempting during a time of stress or dissatisfaction, there may be legal implications. In this blog post we explore the consequences and considerations involved when resigning from a position.

Reasonable Notice Period

While it is likely you have heard the phrase “two weeks notice” (and there’s even a romantic comedy of the same name), there is a good chance you are actually responsible for providing more notice than that. There are a number of considerations that go in to determining what the “reasonable notice period” is, including any legal obligations set out in a written employment contract, your length of employment and the characteristics of the job.

Written Employment Contract or Employment policies

Quitting your job without providing any notice could be a breach of your employment contract. Often written employment contracts include requirements to give a specific notice period before resignation. Most commonly, we see 4 weeks and up to 6 months, but it could be any amount of time depending on the position you hold within the organization. Failing to abide by these terms could lead to your employer seeking damages in court for breach of contract.

Sometimes employers have a handbook or policy manual that sets out requirements around notice for resignation. Whether it is enforceable or not depends on some surrounding circumstances, like how and when it was communicated to you. But in general, it would be good to check to see if these sorts of documents have any requirements and to seek legal advice if you are unable to fulfil the notice period that is set out.

Common Law Notice

Where you do not have a written employment contract or it is silent on the issue of notice required for resignation, you are still required to act in good faith and provide reasonable notice of resignation. In general, this time period is to allow for the employer to make arrangements for a smooth transition of clients or tasks, find a suitable replacement and ensure continuity of operations within the organization.

In a “frontline” role like cashier or server, it may be that 2 weeks is sufficient, particularly if your employment is short term (under 2 years) or you are in an industry with regular turnover. In any sort of professional role, however, 2 weeks would be the absolute basic amount and rarely would it be appropriate. As for exactly how long it should be, this is fact specific to the industry, type of role and what may need to be done to smoothly transition customers or responsibilities.

In a 2022 BC Supreme Court decision [Siddhivarn v Dr. John W. Nesbitt Inc.], the court determined a dentist failed to provide reasonable notice of his resignation. In that case, the employer had hired Dr. Nesbitt within 3 months of advertising a position and again had found a replacement dentist for Dr. Nesbitt within 3 months. The judge found that a reasonable notice period for the dentist to have provided was 3 months and he was responsible for damages to the employer as a result.


Generally, the notice period excludes any vacation days. If you have pre-planned vacation time that falls during the notice period, it is expected that this will be cancelled or considered in your calculations. That is, if you have a 2-week vacation coming up and you are required to give 4 weeks’ notice then you would provide 6 weeks’ notice if you still plan to take your vacation.


You may be held responsible for damages incurred by your employer if you breach your employment contract or duty to provide reasonable notice.


Monetary damages could include such things as lost profits or reputational damage if the organization is not able to service its customers or loses out on an opportunity because of your failure to provide reasonable notice. This could be substantial, even if over a relatively short period.

In Dr. Nesbitt’s case referenced above, the court assessed that the dentist was responsible for losses of $21,000 incurred by his employer on account of him failing to provide reasonable notice of his resignation.

If you are immediately joining a competitor or starting a competing business, it is important that you know if any additional restrictions apply to you either from your employment contract or because of the trusted role you may have held in the organization that you are leaving.


Leaving without providing notice or sufficient notice, is generally considered bad form and may damage your professional reputation. Employers often request references from previous employers as part of the hiring process. Leaving a job without providing reasonable notice could result in a negative reference, which may raise concerns in the future for prospective employers about your reliability and professionalism. It is important to consider the long-term impact on your career before making a hasty decision.

Exceptional circumstances

There are certain situations in which quitting without notice may be justifiable, such as when facing unsafe working conditions. In such cases, it is important to get legal advice and document the circumstances leading to your immediate resignation. It may be that this constitutes “constructive dismissal” (a form of wrongful termination where it is the employee who may be entitled to damages).

Further Advice

Quitting a job without providing any or sufficient notice is a serious decision that could have legal and professional consequences. Employees, if you want to know what your obligations are around providing notice, we can help. Employers, if you want to explore options if an employee has walked off the job or would like to include resignation provisions in your employment contracts, we can help with that too. Please reach out to our intake team at 778 666 3723 to schedule a consult with one of our Employment lawyers today. 


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