While providing advance resignation notice may have become a customary practice in many organizations, there are no federal or state laws that prevent employees from quitting without two weeks notice. Given that, you cannot legally require one. This is mainly due to the at-will employment doctrine, a predominant employment agreement in the US that allows employees to leave their jobs for any reason and at any time. Similarly, this enables employers to terminate workers as they see fit—provided the reason isn’t discriminatory or retaliatory.
In this guide, we’ll go over a few exceptions and also provide some suggestions on how you can encourage workers not to quit without two weeks notice.
The Exceptions: Workers & States Without At-Will Contracts
You may be wondering, is it illegal to quit a job without notice if the worker doesn’t have an at-will employment agreement? The answer is, yes, this can be considered illegal if:
- The worker has an employment contract that requires them to work for you for a specific period (e.g., two years)
- The same contract has a notice period clause for voluntary resignation (e.g., two weeks or three weeks)
In such cases, the employer and employee are both legally obligated to follow the terms of the contract. Non-conformance may lead to potential legal issues.
Tip: To avoid conflicts over employment contracts and to ensure compliance with federal labor laws, we recommend consulting with a legal counsel who can determine if the terms and conditions stipulated in the agreement apply to your business and location.
Additionally, the state of Montana doesn’t allow at-will employment. Also, some states have certain exclusions to this doctrine (check out our at-will employment state guide to learn more about the exceptions), but the conditions primarily cover wrongful and unlawful terminations. And while it isn’t a legal requirement for a worker to provide two weeks’ notice, a few states (such as California) have paid time-off and final paycheck laws if an at-will employee quits without notice.
Note that two-week notices don’t apply to involuntary termination cases, wherein the employer initiates the worker’s separation from the company. This can be due to company downsizing, the employee’s poor work performance or inappropriate workplace conduct, and a reorganization resulting in employee layoffs instead of worker furloughs (mandatory temporary leave).
Benefits of Two Weeks Notice
Having to deal with employees voluntarily leaving your company can be stressful, but with the advance resignation notice, you and your HR staff can better manage the entire process. Workers can also benefit from providing a two-week notice. Here are some of the advantages:
Benefits to Employers
Benefits to Employees
Provides more time to find a replacement. You can use the two weeks to start the recruiting process and interview qualified candidates. Or, you can hire from within—look for one of your employees who has the skills to assume the resigning worker’s position.
Presents an opportunity to get good employment references. If an employee provides a two-week notice and leaves the company in good standing, then their manager is highly likely to provide good character references in case this is required by a future employer.
Allows on-the-job training. The leaving employee can conduct on-the-job training to help the new hire or their replacement learn the various responsibilities of the role.
Enables workers to retain positive co-worker relationships. Leaving employees can prepare and complete a transition plan that (hopefully) doesn’t include their co-workers assuming some of their work responsibilities. This also allows them to retain good professional relationships with former colleagues.
Ensures the smooth transition of work responsibilities. The resigning employee can use the days they have left with the company to complete or hand over tasks and projects to their replacement.
Lets workers leave a positive impression. Giving ample advance resignation notice (coupled with having a positive work ethic) leaves a positive impression on your employer and manager, which may be beneficial for you, especially if you decide to work for the same company again.
Gives you time to prepare a counteroffer. For high-performing employees you don’t want to lose, you can work with your HR team to make a counteroffer that would entice them to stay.
Need help managing your resigning worker’s exit from the company? Read our guide to employee offboarding, which contains a free checklist and tips on how you can efficiently manage this process.
Tips to Encourage Employees Not to Quit Without Notice
Having to deal with staff resignations is just one aspect of running a business. If not managed well, it can disrupt company operations and negatively impact employee engagement. To help encourage your workers not to quit without two weeks notice, here are a few suggestions.
- Create a company culture that promotes open dialogue, mutual respect, and communication. This way, employees can share work challenges with their managers and get the support they need to achieve business goals. Not only is this a good way to coach workers, but it can also build strong employee-manager rapport. This can help prevent your staff from leaving their jobs without providing you ample time to process their resignation.
- Include the two weeks notice in your company handbook—not as a legal requirement, but to help set expectations on what employees should do if they plan to leave the company.
- Enhance your managers’ people management skills so that they know how to effectively communicate with their staff, manage employees, improve team morale, and encourage team members to follow the notice period.
Did You Know? 82% of U.S. employees across 10 industries said that they may quit their jobs because of a bad manager, according to a GoodHire survey. If you want to improve employee retention, invest in your managers’ people management skills.
Can employers legally require two weeks notice? No, because nearly all US states follow the at-will employment policy, wherein workers can leave (or employers can fire employees for legal reasons) at any time. While there are a few exceptions to this, it’s important that you consult legal counsel who is well-versed in federal and state labor laws to ensure compliance.