I have signed a contract with a company and am due to start next week. However, recent events made me reconsider starting this new role. The contract mentions that I need to give a week's notice to quit.

Can I resign or give notice before I start at the new role?

  • Hi, welcome to The Workplace. This would likely vary per company policy, and may also depend on the local laws. What is your location? Good question though.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 7:42
  • 4
    I suspect they would rather you didn't start at all rather than only join so you can work out your notice period.
    – Robbie Dee
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 9:28

4 Answers 4


Short answer: It's always better to inform them before you commence, rather than afterwards.

Think about the processes involved in onboarding:

  • Set up user accounts and access
  • Building/safety induction
  • Walk through/induction of code
  • Introduction to staff
  • ...

These all cost the organisation time and money. More than anything, they take people away from their normal duties to make sure you are properly set up and ready to start. By turning up and then quitting, you have wasted lots of people's time.

One other very good reason is that if there was another strong candidate, if you notify them as soon as possible of your intention to break the contract, they have half a chance of getting their next best person in to fill the role without having to go through the whole expense and time of advertising, shortlist, interviewing and selecting.

If you've decided to not proceed, you need to let them know now.

  • 1
    In addition, they'd likely have to pay you for being there that one week when you will accomplish virtually nothing.
    – ptfreak
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 15:52
  • Not virtually nothing. You actually produce negative work because you would take up someone else's time.
    – Nelson
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 14:09

I would tell them as soon as possible.

You are going to piss them off anyway and it is better to get that out of the way fast, so they can get on re-recruiting the role and you can do whatever it is you have decided without having to work for a week at a new place which will benefit no one.

  • 4
    Quite. The first week will be little more than inductions and finding your way around, so it's pure expense and time-wasting for them if you're not going to stay. Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 9:43

Yes, you can. The contract comes into effect as soon as its signed and exchanged. Therefore you can resign to a job you have signed the contract for but have not yet started.

However, its highly unlikely that they would ask you to come in and serve the notice period unless they are really desperate.


Look at your contract. It all depends on the contract, local laws, provincial laws, and federal laws. We can't say whether you can "resign or give notice before you start at the new role", only a lawyer can.

Honesty is probably best, literally explain the circumstance as best as your comfortable with (I assume life circumstances caused this sudden change). Your contract or provincial laws or federal laws may have a No Fault or a Probation clause where either employees or employers are legally allowed to spontaneous breaking the contract without reason and without liability (or limited liability) for the first N days/weeks/months, excluding discrimination against protected persons.

Most important: unless you have a killer story........you're probably not going to be working in that area if you quit ever again. Your reputation will go down the drain. Especially if this was for a small or start-up company.

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