What is a resignation letter?
A resignation letter is a written notice to your employer that you are planning to leave your job on a specified date. Resignation letters are a form of professional courtesy so that your soon-to-be former employer has an opportunity to find a replacement. A formal resignation letter may also be a requirement of your employment contract. After all, many employment contracts require “advanced notice” of some amount of time before an employee can leave work. To that effect, a resignation letter serves as this “notice”.
When should you give your employer a resignation letter?
If you are within your probationary period – generally specified at the beginning of your term of employment, a letter of resignation is not necessary, and verbal notice will suffice. Similarly, if you are a contractor, and do not plan on renewing your contract when it comes to an end, you will likely not need to provide written notice unless it was previously agreed to. However, check your contract to see what it says about advanced notice of resignation.
For permanent employees, a resignation letter should be given to your employer two weeks before the date you intend to leave your job. This will provide your employer with time to find a replacement. This amount of time is a professional courtesy. However, check your contract to see what it says about advanced notice of resignation. You may owe notice (or even less or none).
Why should you give your employer a resignation letter?
There are many reasons to give your employer written notice that you will be leaving your job:
- Required by your employment contract
- Proof that you are leaving your job on a specific date and that your employer was given notice of that
- Employment insurance if you are not able to find another job immediately
- Maintain a positive relationship with your employer and secure a good recommendation
Submitting your resignation in writing rather than verbally informing your employer you will be leaving can avoid disputes that you failed to give reasonable notice, and avoid any claims of wrongful resignation by your employer.
What should you include in your resignation letter?
Your resignation letter should be a formal letter (or email) and should take on the standard letter format. This format will include formal greeting such as “Dear Mr” or “Dear Ms”, and a formal sign off such as “sincerely”.
Resignation letters tend to be short, and can be written in very little time. You should include:
- Your name and the position you are leaving
- The name of your HR coordinator/manager/supervisor (do not write “to whom it may concern”)
- The reason you are leaving your position (it is not necessary to go into detail)
- The date of your last shift
- The date you give the letter to your employer (ideally the same day you write it)
- Your name and signature at the end of the letter
It is a good idea to include a thank you to your employer for the opportunity to work for them, and any particular lessons you are taking away with you as you move on to your new job.
You should not include criticism of your employer or your job role in your resignation letter. Any constructive criticism you may have is best saved for an exit interview or face-to-face conversation with your employer.
Leaving your job is not simply saying “I quit”. There are legal obligations that arise between yourself and your employer when terminating your employment.
A permanent employee has a legal obligation to give reasonable notice. The standard period for reasonable notice is two weeks, however, it is important to look at your employment contract to determine if your employer has specified a different time period. It is also important to consider your position, length of service, pay, and the amount of time it will likely take your employer to replace you. These considerations should affect the notice period you provide your employer.
What are the financial effects of a resignation letter?
Whether or not you are leaving for a new position that will begin right away, it is important to understand some of the financial impacts of leaving your job.
Employees who voluntarily leave their jobs are not eligible to collect Employment Insurance. The exception to this would be circumstances where an employee can show they left a position as a result of harassment, a toxic work environment, or were constructively dismissed.
Severance pay, similar to Employment Insurance, is generally not available to employees who leave their jobs on their own terms. However, this is a conversation that you may want to have with your employer when informing them of your resignation. In addition, if your resignation was because of a constructive dismissal, you may be entitled to severance even if you resigned.
Your employer is required to pay you for the entirety of your notice period, including any health and fringe benefits you were privy to during your term of employment.
If your employment contract says you must give two weeks notice, but your employer then says not to come back, it will still owe you two weeks pay because your employment contract contemplated a two-week resignation period. If your employer accepts your resignation but says you do not have to come back for the next two weeks and that you will not be paid, then your employer has breached your employment contract. Additionally, your employer is required to give you your final paycheck, even if the date you are paid falls after your last day of work. Your final paycheck should include any accumulated.
Sample Resignation Letter
You can use find a sample resignation letter here on this blog post.
Jeff is an employment lawyer in Toronto. He is the Principal of the Dutton Employment Law Group at Monkhouse Law. Jeff is a frequent lecturer on employment law and is the author of an employment law textbook and various trade journal articles.