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In America, specifically in the Midwest where I live, if I want to leave a job, I walk out. I've seen people go to lunch and not come back in extreme cases. I almost always have given at least a 2 week notice, but there is no law requiring me to give any length of notice. It's seen as a nice thing to do, and in some industries, like IT, where we tend to know a large network of people around the city, it's easy to get a bad reputation if you don't leave on good terms.

I keep reading questions from other people where several weeks are "required". Is it actually a law in other places in the world? Do companies not have a right to hire or fire someone in some places? In my state, it's known as an "at-will" state. My company can fire me for any reason. They are not forced to keep me on if I'm a bad employee. Nor am I forced to remain working for a company I don't like.

I'm curious to know if there are any countries represented by posters here that have laws that actually require it. In the USA it just isn't a requirement that I've seen. Certainly not in the few states I've lived in.

closed as off-topic by sf02, gnat, Dukeling, Rory Alsop, Sourav Ghosh May 20 at 16:19

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    Remember that other countries can have other laws. Are you asking about the case in the US specifically, or more broadly asking about what happens globally? – David K May 17 at 14:56
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    The US perspective that anyone can be fired for any reason at any time seems repressive and horrifying to me. I'm happy to live in a country where I have "strange" concepts like rights as an employee. – Player One May 17 at 15:06
  • @PlayerOne The flip side of it is that the employee is free to quit at any time for any reason, which is kind of the opposite of being repressed since you can always leave a bad situation. But, it is a matter of preference. – Joe May 17 at 15:23
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    @Joe even in countries with notice laws, employees can still quit for any reason although they might have to serve notice, and they can still refuse to show up if it's particularly bad. It's not like companies have many useful options when their employees just refuse to show up. – Erik May 17 at 15:26
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    @Joe I'm free to quit at any time as well, although I am obligated to serve the notice period I agreed was fair when I signed my contract. My manager doesn't have the ability to jeopardise my ability to provide for my family at his whim though. I know it sounds weird to a US person, but it's really way, way more balanced. – Player One May 17 at 15:27
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Yes, it is common for employees to have to serve a legally enforceable notice period when either side wants to end the relationship.

As an employee, it is potentially very serious if your employer decides they no longer want you to work for them. Without the salary you were expecting, will you be able to pay your rent / mortgage payment? Having a mandatory notice period gives you an opportunity to find another job and reduces the harm caused to you by the company ending your contract. There are often related laws that prevent an employee being let go at all. For example it is commonly illegal to let someone go just because they are pregnant.

As an employer, it is potentially very serious if your employee doesn't turn up for work. At best you'll be understaffed, but it could easily cause you to be in breach of contract with your customer. Having a mandatory notice period gives the company time to find another employee, re-arrange rotas for remaining employees, and manage the expectations of their customers.

Notice periods can be anywhere from 2 weeks to a year or more depending on country and role. The longer the notice period the greater the protection for the person who wants to continue the contract, but the greater the cost for the person who wants to end the contract. Countries and contracts try to find a fair balance between the two parties.

  • I would say that in everything first world country there are laws about giving and getting notice. The US, as in so many things, is the exception. – DJClayworth May 19 at 2:29
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In Germany, if the contract doesn't say otherwise, the Gesetzliche Kündigungsfrist (§ 622 Abs. 1 BGB) takes effect. It requires you or your employer to give notice to the other party at least 1 month in advance about the termination of your employment.

The intention is to give either you the chance to find a new job or the company the chance to find a replacement.

  • This doesn't appear to answer the question, though, because the question is about what's required in the USA (the midwest) which has entirely different labor laws. – doppelgreener May 17 at 16:13
  • @doppelgreener I think Basti answered the question before the OP was edited. – KingDuken May 17 at 16:17
  • @KingDuken The question's mentioned being about America since it was initially posted. The [united-states] tag was also added several minutes before this answer was posted. – doppelgreener May 17 at 16:20
  • ... well, either that or Basti's responding to the "just want to know what's common" bit, but if that's really part of the question it's not a very good question and better suited for a forum because it's a discussion prompt. I've requested some clarification from the querent. – doppelgreener May 17 at 16:22
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    @doppelgreener The OP just clarified, and I updated the question. They are asking if it's the law in other parts of the world. – David K May 17 at 16:32
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Other people have other contracts. If your contract states that you are required to give a certain amount of notice, you are required to give that much notice.

Other countries (and in some case states) have other laws. If those laws require giving a certain amount of notice, then you must give that much notice.

I suspect that you might live in a state that not only has no legal notice requirement, but does not permit a contractual notice requirement. That's jut not the case for everyone, however.

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Depends on the jurisdiction (country), but also mainly on your contract. I've never seen one here (UK) in 35 years which doesn't have a notice period of some sort.

Any company has a right to fire someone at any point, and not give notice, but again this will probably be governed by the contract ("pay in lieu" of notice, or they simply tell you to not come into the office or work for the [paid] remainder of contract - "garden leave", here in the UK). Obviously, if the company fires without notice or compensation, they might be in breach of the contract or prevailing employment legislation.

There's also "Force majeure", for example if the company's only office is hit by a meteor and they are effectively out of business, or you (contractor/employee) are in a car accident and bedridden.

** All of the above subject to jurisdiction.

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Depends on what your job is and maybe to a certain extent your age. I only ever see retail or call centers where people just get up and leave. My first job I got was at a fast food resturant and yes, I just called one day and said I won't be coming in anymore.

Now for professioal jobs, yes it is vital you give 2 weeks notice (or per contract if it is not a at-will workplace). Especially in America as you get off in good terms, giving the employer a heads up, and your leave/vacation usually paid to you provided you leave in good terms.

But if you want to burn bridges, not have any good reference, then yes, you can up and leave whenever you want. There's no law against it and your employer can't do anything unless you have a contract. Even if you have a contract, it's a question if your employer wants to bring action against you and even then, they can't do anything until a judge rules against you. Chances are you'll just burn bridge and words get around you're not an ideal person to hire.

To me it seems silly to just leave a job unless you have some sort of qualifying reason to do that.

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In the USA, "employment at will" is a common practice. That means you can quit, or the company can fire you, at any time for any reason or no reason. An employer is obliged to pay your wages for the time you worked, and that's all. Many job-offer letters spell this out.

It's not true in other countries; they have their own specific practices and labor laws.

Still, it's quite rude, and a career-limiting move, to walk away from a job. The world is smaller than you think. If you walk away, that will be the only thing that company and your co-workers remember about you.

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