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Your guide to properly handling employee resignations

Article co-written & researched by Tyler Anthony

As an employer it should come as no surprise that you have obligations to your employees. These obligations include things like providing reasonable notice or severance pay upon termination and respecting your employees right to privacy. While you have your responsibilities, it’s important for you to understand that your employees also have obligations to their employers, which extend beyond the duties of their job. When an employee decides to resign they are obligated to provide their employer with a resignation notice prior to their last day.

Here’s everything you need to know about employee resignations.

How much notice does an employee need to provide?

Notice periods (as defined in the Alberta Employment Standards Code) are as follows:

  1. If an employee was employed for more than 90 days but less than two years, one week’s notice is required
  2. If an employee was employed for more than two years, two weeks notice is required
What should a resignation notice include?

Resignation notices must clearly express an employee’s intent to resign before an employer can accept it.. For example, if an employee quits during a heated argument with a co-worker, or while expressing job dissatisfaction, it would not be considered as a valid resignation notice.

What if an employee resigns and then changes their mind?

An employee can retract their resignation notice unless the employer has begun to act on the resignation, and it would be to their detriment to stop. For example, if an employer has already started interviewing replacements, it’s not likely the employee will be able to retract their notice.

How can an employer determine if a resignation is valid?

Employers need to consider these five factors before they can accept a resignation notice as valid:

  1. The length of employment
  2. The employee’s emotional state at the time of the resignation
  3. If there were any signs of duress
  4. How long has it been since the resignation was handed in
  5. If the employer has relied on the employee’s resignation to their detriment

As straightforward as these considerations may seem, navigating employee resignations can be tricky. Here are a few examples to demonstrate what we mean:

  • An employee of a Volkswagen dealership told his employer that he intended to resign and take a job elsewhere if he did not receive a raise. The employee continued to work at the dealership for three more weeks until the dealership decided not to give him a raise and accept his resignation. When the employee discovered his resignation had been accepted he claimed wrongful dismissal. The resignation was found to be valid since his threat to resign was clear and unequivocal and he had not retracted his resignation for three weeks.
  • In another instance, an employee quit during a conversation expressing their dissatisfaction with the employer. This statement was found not deemed a valid resignation because the employee hadn’t taken further action or indicated any immediate intention to quit.

By now you understand the complexities that may arise while determining if an employee has submitted a proper resignation. To mitigate risk, it’s is important for employers to:

  1. Speak with employees who resigned in an emotional state or under duress to determine whether it was actually their intention to resign;
  2. Get resignations in writing;

Give employees time to change their mind

  1. Seek legal advice if they’re not certain the employee has provided proper resignation notice.

If you would like further clarification about anything mentioned above or need some assistance with employee resignations our team is here to support you.

Contact us today to learn more.

Phone: 403.718.9877


Written by:

Claudius is an experienced commercial lawyer who specializes in acquisitions, financing, and securities law in relation to corporate commercial law.


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