As a general rule, giving two weeks notice is a courtesy extended by an employee to the employer. It is not a legal requirement, particularly when it is at-will employment.
So how do you get your employees to provide such advance notice when they resign? After all, an employee who leaves abruptly generally puts your company in a pinch because you’re short-staffed without a replacement to fill the worker’s duties.
According to Business Contracts Attorney Mike Young, it’s important to create a system of rewards and punishments (carrots and sticks) that encourage the employee to do the right thing by letting you know at least 14 days in advance of the last day of employment.
Reward the Employee for Providing Two Weeks Notice
Even if you’re upset that an employee is leaving, it’s important to have a policy in place that encourages the right behavior, particularly for giving prior notice of quitting.
For instance, you may have a severance package that the employee gets. This can include receiving payment for paid time off (PTO) that was not used during employment, a positive letter of reference, and even a reduced workload during the final two weeks.
If a portion of the departing employee’s responsibilities is train a replacement, you may include a little extra something (e.g. a Starbucks or Amazon gift card) to express your appreciation for the employee making your life easier by doing so.
Handling the Employee Who Leaves Without Notice
Although there is certain conduct you cannot do in retaliation for an employee quitting, there are plenty of opportunities to provide economic disincentives for terminating employment without adequate notice.
For example, you may want to take away compensation for unused PTO from an employee who quits abruptly. Instead of a positive letter of reference, you may simply agree to confirm dates of employment and the employee’s title/role at the company.
Things Not to Do to an Employee Who Quits
Business Contracts Lawyer Mike Young says that you should not wallow in the muck trying to punish an employee for leaving with or without notice. In addition to being petty, such misconduct can expose you to legal liability to the employee.
Unless there is a genuine risk to your business or coworkers’ personal safety, do not have an employee escorted in a “perp walk” out of your company by security upon providing notice.
If the employee is extending you the courtesy of providing advance notice of leaving, don’t terminate the employee upon the spot when providing notice unless there are specific articulable grounds for believing ongoing employment would jeopardize your company or other employees.
Never give out a negative reference to the departing employee’s future prospective employers. When in doubt, give a neutral reference with regard to roles, responsibilities, and dates of employment.
You should also take into account federal and state laws that may affect your ability to enforce your two weeks notice policy on a case-by-case basis. For example, if an employee is quitting without notice because of becoming disabled, you may have to accommodate such in your response to the employee leaving.
Make Your Quitting Policy Clear
Your policy for advance notice should be clear and in writing. This may be a separate policy, incorporated into your employee handbook (if you have one), or included in a written employment agreement.
Make it Easy to Give 2 Weeks’ Notice
Every employee should know exactly how to give advance notice of resignation and to whom it should be given (e.g. immediate boss or designated HR employee).
Should the notice be given as an email, in letter format, or some other type of written communication?
Whatever format you pick, provide your employees with a template they can use so there’s no additional stress and anxiety created by the thought of preparing such notice. This is not a time for an employee to be reinventing the wheel trying to come up with a proper way to “I quit.”
Implementing Your Advance Notice Policy
Your business lawyer will help you create and implement a two weeks notice policy that makes the most sense for your business. The mechanics of your policy will vary depending upon your specific needs, including whether it applies to new employees, existing staff, full-time employees, and/or part-time workers.