The short answer is no, a two week notice does not have to be exactly two weeks. While the standard practice is to give your employer two weeks notice before leaving a job, the notice period can be shorter or longer depending on the circumstances.
What is a two week notice?
A two week notice is a letter or email informing your employer that you are resigning from your job. The purpose of a two week notice is to give your employer time to prepare for your departure by beginning the process of hiring a replacement, redistributing your workload, finishing projects you’re involved in, etc.
Two weeks is considered the standard and professional notice period in most industries in the United States. However, some roles may require a longer notice period, such as a month or more. These extended notice periods are usually outlined in an employment contract.
Do you legally have to give two weeks notice?
In most cases, employees are not legally required to give any notice at all when quitting a job. The vast majority of employment in the U.S. is considered “at will,” meaning the employment relationship can be terminated by either party at any time for any reason.
However, it is considered courteous and professional to provide at least two weeks notice before leaving a job. Giving proper notice allows you to maintain positive relationships with managers and colleagues you’ve worked with. It’s the respectful approach.
When can you give less than two weeks notice?
In some cases, it may be appropriate or necessary to give less than two full weeks notice:
- If you’re leaving for a new job that requires you to start right away, you may need to negotiate a shorter notice period with your current employer.
- If there are issues like workplace harassment or safety concerns, you may choose to resign effective immediately.
- If you’re being laid off or fired, your employer may ask you to leave immediately and provide pay in lieu of notice.
- If you’re in a temporary or entry-level job, one week notice may be considered sufficient.
The most important factors are communicating professionally, handling your duties and transition properly for the time you’re there, and making the notice period as long as realistically possible.
When you might want to give more than two weeks
Reasons you may want to provide more than two weeks notice include:
- You hold a senior or executive position where more time is needed to transition your duties.
- You are the sole person handling critical projects or responsibilities that require extensive handoff.
- You want to leave on positive terms and make the transition as smooth as possible.
- Your employment contract requires an extended notice period.
Some companies may appreciate the courtesy of extra notice, while others may prefer you leave sooner. It’s best to discuss an appropriate notice period with your manager.
How to submit your notice
Here are some tips for providing notice professionally:
- Submit your resignation in writing (letter or email) to your direct supervisor and the HR department.
- Specify your last intended day of work in the notice.
- Thank them for the opportunities you were provided.
- Highlight your plan to complete priority work and transition your responsibilities.
- Offer to assist with training your replacement or finishing important projects.
Working productively during your notice period
It can be challenging to stay motivated and productive during your last couple weeks at a job. Here are some tips:
- Maintain professionalism and keep doing good work – don’t slack off or “check out.”
- Document your responsibilities, contacts, projects, etc. to help transition the next person.
- Offer to help hire and train your replacement.
- Finish up any outstanding projects, reports or tasks.
- Clean up your files, email and workspace so it’s organized for whoever’s next.
By making the most of your remaining time and leaving on a positive note, you maintain goodwill with colleagues which can benefit your career down the road.
While two weeks is the standard notice period, the most important factors are giving professional notice, transitioning your work properly, and making the notice as long as realistically possible. Extenuating circumstances may require departing sooner or allow you to provide extra notice. Communicate respectfully with your employer to handle the situation appropriately.