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 in 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 an employee on a fixed-term contract and do not plan on renewing your contract when it comes to an end, you will generally not need to provide written notice in a resignation letter unless it was previously agreed to in your written fixed-term agreement. So 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 to serve as notice you intend to leave your job. This will provide your employer with the required “notice of resignation”.
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
- Required under the common law to give notice of a resignation
- Proof that you are leaving your job on a specific date and that your employer was given notice of that
- 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 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 date of your last day
- The date of your letter
- Your name and signature at the end of the letter
You do not need to provide the reason you are leaving your position.
You do not need to say “thank you”, but if you truly were thankful for the opportunity, feel free to state that. It can be 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 so as to leave a good impression on your employer. You may need a reference or to return to this job.
You should think twice before including criticism of your employer in your resignation letter. To that end, if you are quitting because of constructive dismissal, a toxic relationship, harassment or discrimination, it would be better to speak to an employment lawyer before writing an emotional letter to the employer so you don’t spoil a potential lawsuit.
Many times, 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 period for reasonable notice is not always two weeks. The amount of “reasonable notice” you must give your employer when you resign depends on your position, length of service, pay, and the amount of time it will likely take your employer to replace you. Read more here.
However, it is important to look at your employment contract to determine if your employer has specified a different time period to give notice of resignation. You may not owe reasonable notice resignation; you may owe contractual notice. A contractual notice period displaces the obligation to give reasonable notice.
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 (“EI”). 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 a breach of contract, i.e. they 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. As above, if your resignation was because of constructive dismissal, you may be entitled to severance even if you resigned.
Even still, your employer is required to pay you for the entirety of your resignation notice period, including any health and fringe benefits you were privy to during your term of employment. If your employer decides to tell you not to bother to come back into work, it still has to pay for the notice period you gave it.
Additionally, your employer is required to give you your final paycheck, even if the date you are usualy paid falls after your last day of work. Your final paycheck should include any accumulated earnings, including vacation pay.
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.