How much notice to give?
May 31, 2007 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Ontario employment law: I'm quitting my job to go back to school full-time in September. I'm currently employed full-time as an engineer. I want to tell my employer as far in advance as possible that I am leaving so that everyone knows what's going on, but I want to minimize the risk of finding myself unemployed and unpaid early. How much notice should I give?

I've worked at this company for six years, and the company is large enough to pass the $2.5M payroll requirement for severance pay. I want to keep working until the latest possible time because I can use the money, so I don't want to give them an opportunity to let me go early and not pay me for some of that time.

But I also don't want to screw them over by giving really short notice, and I would like to stop having to keep my plans a secret, especially while being assigned projects which will obviously run beyond my last day. And I don't want to burn bridges because I may still be involved in the industry a few years from now when I graduate.

If I give months' worth of notice because I'm going back to school and the company lets me go early, will I still collect termination and severance pay under Ontario law? If so, how many weeks' worth? Is there anything else I should keep in mind when choosing how much notice to give?

(The whole matter doesn't seem big enough to actually involve a lawyer, but are there specialized legal information resources for questions like this I should talk to instead?)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total)
Advice from an Ontario lawyer on Workopolis.
posted by GuyZero at 10:37 AM on May 31, 2007

I cant speak for Ontario law specifically but what does your contract say? Its pretty standard to state the notice period in your employment contract.
posted by missmagenta at 10:41 AM on May 31, 2007

Yes, you will collect severance pay. Six weeks' worth. Whether you have given notice of your intention to leave is irrelevant if your employment is severed.

If you tell them you're leaving on October 15th, and they terminate you on October 14th, you get about six weeks' severance.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:45 AM on May 31, 2007

I think you should not give more than two weeks notice. There are a few very good reasons for this.

1. If there is a budget problem and your manager has to let someone go, you are 100% guaranteed to get the axe. This is pure business and there it would be nothing personal.

2. Your company will likely not be able to assign you projects that will all wrap up nicely on the day you leave, so what are they supposed to do? If they keep you on staff, the next few months could become a long goodbye where you are not doing productive work. It doesn't make much sense for them to keep paying you. Plus, your forthcoming departure would be a distraction to any team you're working on. It won't be healthy.

I think your best choice is to continue doing your job as if nothign is going to happen. PLan for your departure by keeping copious notes and staying very organized so that whoever is assigned the projects you were working on can quickly pick up the slack.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:03 AM on May 31, 2007

Hello, Ontario lawyer here (though not your lawyer and this is not legal advice)...

You are not entitled to any severance pay when you quit your job. See here for the definition of severance under the Ontario Employment Standards Act. Don't be confused by s. 63(1)(e) which refers to the employee giving notice, but that refers to a particular situation where an employee has been informed that they will be terminated in say, 6 weeks, and they have decided to quit before the 6 weeks is up -- in that situation, they are still entitled to severance pay.

So, your company will know this, and there will be no incentive for them to terminate you prior to your quit date once you have given them notice unless you are completely fucking the pooch at work.

I guess then the thing that would make most sense is for you to continue working as long as you can, since you will not be eligible for severance pay (unless you get yourself fired, which I am not encouraging you to do). Further, in case you were thinking of this, you will not be eligible for unemployment insurance once school begins, since you are entering a full time educational program.
posted by modernnomad at 12:27 PM on May 31, 2007

On review, I think I may have missed the point of your question. Sorry. My understanding is that if you gave notice of one month and you were terminated prior to that, then yes, you would be eligible for 6 weeks of severance pay. Given that, it would make no sense for the employer to do that, since they could just pay you for your remaining four weeks of work up to your final day and save money in comparison.

The only wrinkle that I can think of is a provision in the regulations that says severance pay is not payable where the employment contract has been "frustrated". I suppose they could make an argument that if that cannot assign you to any projects because you are leaving, you have frustrated the employment contract. Though I would think that unlikely. (Caveat -- I am not an expert in labour law, and again, this is not legal advice).

You are a professional and work for a large company -- it strikes me as unlikely they treat someone who has worked for them for 5 years by attempting to save two or three weeks worth of wages, for the exact same reasons that you don't want to burn bridges. Reputations in the industry count, on both sides. The one-month idea to me sounds like a nice compromise that should preserve business relationships. The downside is that they will know you have planned to quit for several months since you are going back to school, and they might feel slighted that you didn't inform them earlier.
posted by modernnomad at 12:42 PM on May 31, 2007

I can't speak to the severance issue, but from a professional standpoint I think it comes down to your role on the various projects. If you are just one of several engineers on a project where your work can easily be transitioned to another person, two weeks is fine. If you are a PM managing a several hundred thousand dollar project and the transition is going to be difficult, consider giving a little more notice, like maybe an extra week or two just out of courtesy.
posted by Big_B at 1:16 PM on May 31, 2007

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