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Quitting a contracting position without two weeks notice, right or wroHelpful Member!(7) 

iblearnen (Instructor) (OP)
26 Aug 07 16:54
I have a friend and fellow IT contractor that had a job change dilemma. He has been a private contractor for small company for some time, 1.5 years. The company was going to hire him originally as a fulltime employee but backed out and instead went the contractor route. My friend has now been offered a fulltime position (they found him) with an awesome company. The problem is they want him to start in just a few days. Is it ethical / ok to not give the standard 2 weeks notice? My friend has a very small window of time if he wants this job.
Thanks in advance           
rosieb (IS/IT--Management)
26 Aug 07 17:42
If they are that good a company, and they want him that badly, why can they not wait 2 weeks?  

What does it say about him, if he's willing to dump a company that's employed him for 1.5yrs?

I'd be suspicous.

"It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." Richard Feynman

Helpful Member!(3)  SQLSister (Programmer)
26 Aug 07 18:00
I would not consider going to work for a company that would not allow me to give the standard two weeks notice. Any company like that will have ethical challenges that I don't want to deal with. I have never in over 30 years experience known a good company that would not wait out the standard two week period and I've seen a lot of bad companies that insisted they needed you sooner. These companies always treat their employees badly and they know they can get aaway with it because you were willing to behave unethically to get hired. If he tells them he needs to give two weeks notice and they won't wait for him, he's probably better off than going to work for a company this bad. Plus he's burning his bridges with the company he contracted with. He might need his contacts there some day.

"NOTHING is more important in a database than integrity." ESquared

mrdenny (Programmer)
27 Aug 07 0:17
I'm going to have to agree with SQLSister.

If they don't want to wait to the standard 2 weeks, there may be something fishy going on.  I'm starting a new position tomorrow and while they flat out said they wanted me to start right away, they would see me in two weeks.

Leaving without giving notice is bad practice, and come back to haunt you later on.  You neer know when you will interview with a company where the people are from a prior company.  If this happens you could end up not getting the position because of prior acts.

MCSA (2003) / MCDBA (SQL 2000)
MCTS (SQL 2005 / Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0: Configuration / Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007: Configuration)
MCITP Database Administrator (SQL 2005) / Database Developer (SQL 2005)

--Anything is possible.  All it takes is a little research. (Me)

Andrzejek (Programmer)
27 Aug 07 15:07

Since he is a Contractor - he has a CONTRACT with his employer.  Check the Contract and see what it says about the termnation of the deal.  It may say he HAS to give a two weeks notice, it may be one month.  If he breakes the Contract, they may say - "See you in court", and that's not the way to go.

Just my $0.02

Have fun.

---- Andy

Helpful Member!(4)  kmcferrin (MIS)
28 Aug 07 10:11
Agreed, check the terms of the contract.  Though the term "contractor" is often used in place of short-term non-employee help.

However, I am going to disagree with everyone saying that it's wrong not to give two weeks and any company that would ask you to is being shady.  That's not always the case.  Consider:

1.  Not all countries/states require notice.  In Ohio (where I live) it is considered an at-will employment state.  That means that in the absence of a contract there is no legal requirement to work for someone, or to provide employment for someone.  That means that you can be terminated at any time for any reason (or for no reason).  It also means that you can resign at any time and for any reason (or for no reason).

2.  Two weeks notice is generally considered a courtesy, not a requirement.  It is rarely a hard rule.

I have seen many employers who were willing to "waive" the notice period.  In other words, you tell them you're giving them two weeks notice, but you'd really like to get out a week earlier and they agree to settle for only 1 weeks work.  

On the other hand, I've also seen a lot of employers that will not let you work out your two weeks after giving notice.  In other words you turn in your two weeks notice and you're escorted out of the building that afternoon.

3.  In most cases (at least in at-will employment states) the company will offer some sort of incentive to give two weeks notice.  Sometimes they will pay a bonus to stay the two weeks.  Other times they will hold your "eligibility for rehire status" hostage, i.e., if you don't give and work two weeks then they "can't hire you back later".  Usually that's not much of a threat though since you're leaving them, and if they get in a real pickle and know that you can save them they'll look the other way.

4.  Just because a company isn't willing to wait two weeks doesn't mean they're a bad company.  Companies get into trouble all of the time.  Perhaps someone in a key position left without notice, and they need someone to start ASAP.  Perhaps they're hiring to work on a specific project, but because of the timelines they need to start immediately.  In business sometimes the window of opportunity can be small, and their ability to succeed can be heavily influenced by timing.

Of course, there's also the possibility that this new position is a highly desirable position with a great company.  Those sorts of things aren't exactly a dime a dozen, and in a market where there are more skilled workers than jobs (not to mention recent college grads) they may not have any problems finding someone to start immediately.

In any case, your friend has to decide what's more important, filling out 2 weeks notice contracting with the company that passed him over for a full-time job, or taking a full-time job with a great company.  His "current company" chose to stick with the contract route, presumably because they would have fewer obligations to him and less expense related to his benefits.  But they would hopefully have recognized that there is a potential downside to that loosening of obligations as well.

Assuming that the new employer has already said that they can't wait two weeks, this is what I would do:  I'd bring it up with the "old company" and tell them that I had been offered a full-time position with another company, and that they want me to start in a few days.  I'd explain that I'm sorry that I couldn't give them more notice, but that I had been looking for full-time work all along and this opportunity is too good to pass up.  I would offer to help them as much as possible/practical with the transition, and possibly make myself available on evenings/weekends to help out until the two weeks is up.

This way they know why you can't work the notice period.  Some people won't care, but I think that most people are reasonable enough to understand that when it comes down to making a choice between a company's needs and your needs, your own needs should come first.  And then you have softened the blow by making yourself available to help when possible.
aarenot (Vendor)
2 Sep 07 2:57
     First of all, the two week notice thing is really more a figment of historical imagination from the days of some concern on corporate part to at least look like they have any concern at all for the well being of, or fairness toward loyal employees.
     Sorry as it may be, those days are gone, and the anamoly of a company with a conscience is rare, and often only because of it being a small business owned by someone of religious convictions from my experience.
     Secondly, the full time position which your friend was origianlly  offered, I assume as a verbal contract was not honored, even though it was understood to be the offer pending.   If they had honored the offer of a full time position they may have *earned* a two week notice.   Since they did not, they have only what the contract states under which the company has secured his services.  
     The stipulated time the company has guaranteed the contract term is the only expectation they have earned.   If they have not guaranteed the contract term for any period of time, then they have not secured the services of the contractor for any certain time.   This would exclude if their is a clause in the contract for a period of notice to be given by either party to end the contractual relationship.  
     If there is no written contract, then there is no guarantee of contract term, and no obligation by either party to continue the term beyond its own best interest.  

*earned* two week notice requires that the company accepts, and honors two week notices by continuing the compensation for the two week period, even if they decide to terminate the employee, and escort them out.   If they do for any reason not honor the two week notice of all employees by paying the employee for the period, then they in practice have set a company policy which does not include requiring, or accepting notice periods.   

     In most cases, an employer will not give any negative reference to those seeking a reference from them.   They will give data like start date, pay, end date, end pay, and graduations in between including titles held.   Beyond that companies have to really be able to provide evidence of their statements, or they are liable for what they say, and still are liable for anything they say about former employees.   Subjective information is not something a company should be giving out on former employees, even in the positive sense, as it may come back to haunt them either way.   
     This is all somewhat irrelavant as he is not an employee, so none of the usual employee, employer traditions are even part of the equation.   

     He could offer to work after hours for any period of time the customer wants, but I would charge after hours rates.   If not, they can always just find another outsource resource to do the duties, like they did with your friend.   They will probably offer him(the new guy) a full time job as well, until he decides not to do contract work for them any longer.   I would guess this is not the first contract worker they "offerred" a full time job to for this duty.


LadySlinger (IS/IT--Management)
4 Sep 07 8:22
I view the 2 weeks notice as an attempt not to burn bridges before you leave a place. Its strictly a courtesy and if you don't give 2 weeks then you risk the option of using that employer as a reference.
jeffwest1 (MIS)
4 Sep 07 11:28
In the uk most companies have it written into contracts that you  give and receive a minimum of 4 weeks notice, however, that does change based on length of service, and can be as much as 3 months.

I have never left a job without giving that, and would think twice about taking a postion where the new employer was asking me to break it.

I was asked to do it by an agency once, who got very funny with me when i refused.

Luke: But tell me why I can't...
Yoda: No, no, there is no why. Nothing more will I teach you today. Clear your mind of questions.

aarenot (Vendor)
4 Sep 07 11:53
Any contract itself is rare in the usa outside union contracts, at will employment reigns.

kmcferrin (MIS)
4 Sep 07 14:19
Yes, I get the impression that most full-time jobs in the UK are governed by some sort of contract, whereas I know that here in the US a contract is the exception, rather than the rule.  In most cases you're viewed as being fairly interchangeable, and they usually only bother with a contract in areas that are highly competitive like senior executives, athletes, salespeople (not floor or counter sales types) Hollywood types, etc.  The closest that the average worker in the US gets to an employment contract would be a non-compete agreement or intellectual property statement.  Obviously if you have a contract that stipulates a notice period, then it's not just a courtesy it is a legal requirement.

It seems strange to me that people (and companies) are so keen on having contracts for employment.  I suppose that it prevents there being any grey areas regarding what is expected, but it seems like it would limit your options more.  If you wanted to leave and take another job someplace you might have to give 1-3 months notice to your current employer, which it seems would have a very negative effect on your ability to find another position that could wait so long.  At my last employer we were bought out by another company that required us to give 4 weeks notice, and most people found that to be too much of a burden.  A lot of people decided to quit before we officially became employees of the other company because they weren't sure if they were going to like their new jobs, and they knew it would be difficult finding a company that would wait an entire month before they could start.
jeffwest1 (MIS)
5 Sep 07 3:59
Most companies in the UK see it as a needed inconvenience, they know that if you are already in employment, you almost certainly, even if you have not technically signerd a contract, are bound to the standard notice period, which is 4 weeks from recipt of your letter telling the company that you are leaving.

The exceptioon in most cases is gross misconduct, (far too much of a mine field to go into here), in which case the company can sack you on the spot.

There are also a whole slew of rules and regs covering redundancy and take overs, in essence, if you are being made redundant and it is more than 30 people, then they have to give you a minimum of 30 days notice, any less then that, and this comes down as low as nothing. They also cannot employ anyone in that postion for at least 6 months, and yes there is a whole catolouge of rules governing how much can be paid to those who are made redundant as well.

Some companies drive a truck through that by only making a few people redundant at a time, and also changing a job description, so that they can re-employ when they need to, been there, done that

Luke: But tell me why I can't...
Yoda: No, no, there is no why. Nothing more will I teach you today. Clear your mind of questions.

pinkgecko (Programmer)
5 Sep 07 15:25
If I am hiring professionals, I expect them to have respect for the company and their coworkers.  Someone who abandons their job (leaves without sufficient notice) IMHO demonstrates a lack of respect.  I would not hire someone who left their previous position without sufficient notice unless I knew the previous and future employers had worked out the issue before setting a date.  I would also mention in references that the person did not give sufficient notice before leaving their position.  Companies invest a great deal of money to train their employees; while I do not expect employees to thank the company for that, I do expect them to show respect and not dump all of their tasks on a coworker when they choose to accept a new position.

Never listen to your customers.  They were dumb enough to buy your product, so they have no credibility. - Dogbert

SQLSister (Programmer)
5 Sep 07 17:09
Agree pinkgecko, that is why a company that would expect someone to not give notice is behaving unprofessionally as well and they will most likely behave unprofessionally on other issues making them a bad company to go to work for.

Additionally there are many more unofficial references (or lack of references) than many people realize in the workplace. IT is a small community and we know each other.

The company I work for has people who came from pretty much all the other major players in town and they all have contacts there. Many times people are called and asked unofficially about someone that they used to work with long before the hiring officials decide who to interview.

Someone who left you in the lurch will not get the benefit of the doubt in these conversations and likely the friend calling and asking about him or her will get an earful about how much work they caused when they left because of not giving notice. None of this has anything to do with the official line that the company gives when formally asked for references. But it can and often will prevent you from being considered for jobs.

"NOTHING is more important in a database than integrity." ESquared

aarenot (Vendor)
6 Sep 07 9:32
1st, in this case the person who posted this thread is not an employee, this person is self employed, and runs their own business in all reality.   While it may not be good business to dump a client, that is all the relationship is between the two companies.   It does not constitute an employee, employer relationship, so notice is not really an issue.  

2nd, because you verbally tell someone they need to give notice of a month, et do not put it in writing, does not contitute an agreement, or even a reasonable request.   If you want a month notice, negotiate it in the position reviews.   

3rd, notice is only valid if contractually obligated, and beyond that is a tradition as long as the company does not ever send employees packing as soon as they give notice.   If they send people packing for giving notice, then they do not accept notice, and therefore it is not required, unless they still pay the person for the month, 2 weeks, or however long the notice period will be(yes, this is about money for the employee, and they deserve to be paid for the notice period, or do not give it).   

   Having a notice policy is not the way to retain employees for longer than they want to stay, and if the company was all that, they would not have people bailing without notice.   If you want to keep good employees start before the notice period point in the relationship.   

Final observation, most bosses, companies, etc., do not IMHO treat employees properly, so it is not a big suprise if they do not get bent over backwards for in the end of the relationship.   If it was such a great relationship, it would not be ending.

Yes, I give notice, 2 weeks, in writing, and informally let my most respected person in management know I am leaving as far out as any project I am a key player in is slated for my attention.   I mat not tell the longer notice to my direct boss if they are a jerk, I will go to whom I respect above them to let them know I am leaving farther than 2 weeks down the road.

jeffwest1 (MIS)
6 Sep 07 10:32

Verbal contracts as far as employment law are concerned in the UK are binding.

Luke: But tell me why I can't...
Yoda: No, no, there is no why. Nothing more will I teach you today. Clear your mind of questions.

kmcferrin (MIS)
6 Sep 07 11:50


Verbal contracts as far as employment law are concerned in the UK are binding.

Verbal contracts can be legally binding in the US as well.  The only problem is, how can you prove in court what was verbally discussed, verbally agreed to, etc.  How can you demonstrate that the employer made the request for at least 2 weeks notice, and that the employee actually agreed to that request?  Also, typically for any contract to be legally binding both parties have to offer some form of consideration.  What does the employee get in return for agreeing to give two weeks notice?  And of course, was all of this clearly explained verbally and agreed to before the person was employed, or was he only told it after the fact?  If it was after the fact then it probably would not be legally binding, and since it is a verbal contract it's going to be next to impossible to prove/disprove what someone said, let alone when they said it.


I would not hire someone who left their previous position without sufficient notice unless I knew the previous and future employers had worked out the issue before setting a date.

And how, pray tell, would you know that?  A candidate could tell you whatever he wanted, and you would have little choice but to believe him.  A disgruntled manager could simply lie when you call and ask for references.  Maybe they think that if they can make the candidate look bad then they won't be able to get another job and leave.  Frankly, you have no way to be sure what sort of notice the candidate provided their employer or what sort of arrangements were made for a transition period.  More to the point, it's none of your business, ethically or legally.  It is impossible to know the true circumstances.


I would also mention in references that the person did not give sufficient notice before leaving their position.

You certainly could do that, but in the US you could very well be opening yourself up to legal action if your negative report affected their employability.  Again, it comes down to what you can prove, and you can't prove anything definitively.  More to the point, what constitutes sufficient notice?  In "at-will" employment states, there is no legal requirement to give notice, it is merely a courtesy.  Providing someone with a negative reference for  failing to comply with your "company's own internal policy"  when that policy is clearly contradictory to employment law could certainly be actionable.

That's why in most cases (again, in the US) you have to be very careful about giving and getting references.  At most companies (at least those with competent HR and legal departments) they require that all employment verification requests go through HR.  Typically they'll only verify factual statements that can't be disputed, like your dates of employment, starting position, last position held, and in some rare cases, salary level.

The only other question that sometimes comes up is "are they eligible for rehire?"  Getting "no" to that answer could mean that they were fired for cause, or left on bad terms, didn't give the kind of notice period that the company wanted, etc.  But they don't go into details for fear of being sued.  The definition of "sufficient notice" varies widely as well.  Most companies in the US would say two weeks.  I've worked for one that said 4 weeks was the minimum sufficient notice.  In fact, I was working for a company that had a 2-week notice standard that was bought by a 4-week notice company.  Where does that leave me?  I agreed to give 2 weeks notice when I hired on, but suddenly the game was changed after 3 years of service.  A company could get really crazy and require 16 weeks notice AND hold vacation pay or other benefits hostage (depending on how vacation time is given this may or may not be legal, but most people wouldn't challenge it).

Let's go a step further and talk about consultant firms.  I'm an employee of a consulting company that contracts me out for projects and other work of varying lengths.  Sometimes I'm doing work on a T&M basis that's only supposed to last a week.  Sometimes I'm doing work on a long-term project that could run 6 months or more.  That project could be billed on T&M for a specific deliverable or on a fixed cost basis, whatever.  If I'm only working on small projects then 2 weeks might be sufficient notice to finish them.  If I'm working on a 6-month project and it's only 2 months into it, then is 2 weeks still sufficient, or do I need to give 4 months notice?  Keep in mind that I am assigned to projects rather than getting to pick and choose.  How can notice that would be sufficient one month not be considered sufficient the next?  Could my employer make my life hell by continually assigning me to overlapping 6 months projects that make it impossible to give reasonable notice?  That makes it pretty difficult to leave a company.

How many employees actually know what the "sufficient notice" period for their new employer is before they've quit and started the new job?  Usually that sort of info is in the company handbook, which you get in orientation on the first day of work.  How can you expect to hold someone to that standard when they don't even know what the standard is when they get into it?  The point is, the notion of "sufficient notice" can be (and is) abused by employers, and it's hardly grounds for disqualifying a candidate.


Companies invest a great deal of money to train their employees; while I do not expect employees to thank the company for that, I do expect them to show respect and not dump all of their tasks on a coworker when they choose to accept a new position.

Not all companies invest "a great deal of money" to train their employees, and not all companies treat their employees with respect.  While you may work for a great company that does everything right, you have no way of knowing what sort of company the candidate is coming from.
jeffwest1 (MIS)
7 Sep 07 5:12
Rule of thumb in the UK is that you are not allowed to give a bad reference, you can refuse to give one or just offer scant information, i.e. length of service, start date, postion/job title, current salary.

A lot of companies now are sending out forms to the current employers HR departments or line manager and ask them to fill in, often with more information on them, especially, as with my job, if it is a sensitive area or postion, I had a verbal reference, then written and criminal records bureau check done, all of which can take time, but will fill in the 4 week notice period i had to give as per my contract of employment

Luke: But tell me why I can't...
Yoda: No, no, there is no why. Nothing more will I teach you today. Clear your mind of questions.

Crowley16 (TechnicalUser)
7 Sep 07 12:18
my last job required 3 months notice period from me... but I still worked it all and the new place didn't mind too much...

Procrastinate Now!

rosieb (IS/IT--Management)
8 Sep 07 18:36
I always ring the referees for a verbal reference, amazing what you hear...

"It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." Richard Feynman

lionelhill (TechnicalUser)
11 Sep 07 13:21
Hm, I'm not sure bad references are actually illegal in the UK (provided they are factually accurate). I've certainly seen bad references in UK job interviews, way beyond the "damning with faint praise" stage.

It's not nice behaviour, though, and it says as much about the referee as the candidate.
rosieb (IS/IT--Management)
11 Sep 07 16:52

Quote (iblearnen):

...instead went the contractor route.
Simply, the question is, what is his contract?  If it has a notice clause, he is obliged to comply.  If not, he has no problem.

"It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." Richard Feynman

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