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Can you require workers to give two weeks’ notice?

On Behalf of | Sep 6, 2023 | Contract Law

As an employer, you would like your employees to give you notice if they’re going to quit their jobs. Ideally, you would like to have at least two weeks to prepare for this turn of events. You may have to shift other employees around or hire someone new to replace the outgoing employee. The new employee would also then have to be trained, and this can all take time.

This is part of the reason that it is generally accepted that employees will provide two weeks’ notice before they leave. Some company owners even outline this protocol in their employee handbook, saying that this is what’s expected of their workers. But does this mean that this approach is/can be required?

There’s no legal requirement to give notice

No, an employee handbook stating that a worker has to give two weeks’ notice is not a legally binding contract. Under at-will employment laws, an employee is not required to give any notice at all. They could simply call their boss on a Monday morning, tell them that they’re not coming in again, and that would be the end of it.

As an employer, the primary way that you can require advance notice is by drafting contracts for your employees that carve exceptions into at-will employment defaults. Without contracts, most employees automatically qualify as at-will employees. But if you give them a contract and they sign it, then you can include stipulations that go beyond the law. The employee still wouldn’t have broken the law by refusing to give advance notice, but you may be able to take some sort of legal action against them if they fail to give notice because they will have breached the terms of their contract. For example, a large corporation may have a handful of executives who are all subject to contract that help to ensure that they can’t just jump ship and join the competition at a moment’s notice.

As a business owner, you need to determine how you would like to proceed and which employees should be subjected to contract terms in an effort to better protect your company’s interests. It’s quite important to understand the legal steps you’ll to take to set up enforceable contracts and what actions to take if an employee does breach their agreements with your company. As such, seeking legal guidance proactively is generally a good idea.

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