4 Things You Need to Know About Employee Notice Periods

About Employee Notice Periods

You never want to see a good employee quit. But the reality is that it’s going to happen. And that means employee notice periods will come into play.

There’s a lot to take into account when you’re dealing with an employee giving notice. It’s important to know what you can require, what you can politely ask for and what happens if the legally required notice is too long — or not long enough.

Let’s take a look at four important factors you need to consider when working through an employee notice period.

1. Understanding the legal aspect

Canadian employers and employees enjoy an array of employment protections, as well as a few legal duties, in employment standards legislation. In most provinces, employment standards state that an employee must give the employer a written notice of termination of at least one week if the employee has been employed between three months to two years, or at least two weeks if the employee has been employed for longer than two years. Visit the Government of Canada’s Canada Business Network website to learn about the legal requirements in your province when an employee leaves your business.

2. Planning for a successful exit

Managers can require outgoing employees to keep working full steam ahead during their final days. However, their motivation often wanes as employment begins drawing to a close. Therefore, the time after giving notice is most effectively used as a handover period. Have exiting employees update their existing job descriptions, and work with them to delegate their duties and determine which projects they’ll need to complete before leaving.

Immediately remove departing employees from sensitive or confidential projects, especially if they’re headed for a competitor.

If employees have fulfilled their usefulness or their presence is detrimental to the working environment, you can ask them to leave before the end of their notice periods after consulting provincial laws — or a lawyer — to make certain you’ve provided departing employees with all the necessary documentation such as a T4 slip (a statement of remuneration paid) and a Record of Employment (ROE).  Most likely you'll also have to pay the employee's salary to the end of the employee’s notice period.

3. Extending notice periods

While employees may legally be free to walk away within two weeks of giving notice, you need time to delegate duties and recruit a suitable replacement. In this case, you can negotiate with employees to extend their tenure at your organization. Clearly, you’ll want to do this as soon as possible. Also, remember that they’re free to decline your request.

4. Handling employees who just want to leave

If employees want to leave immediately after giving notice, you have the right to require them to honour the period dictated by their province’s law. However, it may be difficult to keep them productive or prevent disruption. So in this situation, it’s best to give the employee a cooling-off period to process emotions. Ask to speak to them the next day, and explain why everyone would benefit from them staying through the set notice period.  

Notice periods are an inevitable fact of business life, and you may see more of them as job hopping loses its stigma. Regardless of the reasons employees choose to leave, it’s important to stay on good terms with them to ensure you both achieve your objectives over the final days and beyond. One of the best means of ensuring that your professional relationship doesn’t sour is to work closely with human resources and your firm’s lawyers to make sure your employee’s departure aligns with internal policies and the law.

Are you concerned about employees leaving your firm? Bolster your retention efforts today.