I recently started a new job and the employment contract says we need to give one month's notice. Right away I knew it wasn't a good work environment and I wanted to leave. I recently got a new offer but they need me to start in two weeks. What happens if I leave with less than one month's notice, as stated in my contract? Can the old company sue me?


Both your employment contract and the employment standards legislation in your province or territory should be considered in answering the question.

Many employment contracts provide for a trial or probationary period in which you and your employer decide if you are a good fit for the job. If your contract provides probation, and you are within the probationary period, you can usually leave without notice, unless your contract specifically states otherwise.

If your contract does not provide for a probationary period, or it does but that period is over, your employer may sue you for costs incurred as a result of you failing to provide proper notice ("wrongful resignation"). This does not include the cost of your replacement. A lawsuit is unlikely to happen unless you are a valued senior executive, top salesperson or your position can only be filled through an expensive recruitment process, as these lawsuits can be very costly.

Employment standards legislation also provides for the amount of notice of resignation an employee has to give an employer. Depending on the jurisdiction and the length of employment, this usually ranges from zero in the first short while (often 30 days) to two weeks. At present, it is a little unclear as to whether a contract requiring more notice of termination than the statutory requirement is valid, as the case law is developing in this area.

If there is a union at your workplace, other rules may apply, and you should consult with your union representative.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.