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The Great Resignation: Real or an illusion?
Not a week goes by without hearing or seeing some reference to the Great Resignation – the tsunami of full-time employees supposedly ditching their jobs for greener pastures.
But is this phenomenon real?
Is now a good time to look for a new work caused by the surplus of job vacancies?
Or is the Great Resignation all an illusion?
An economist at the job-search website Indeed says Canada has yet to see a surge in voluntary resignations characterized by the hype. And while resignation rates in the U.S. hit record highs in November and December 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has only been tracking and surveying job openings and turnover rates for two decades (since December 2000). So, it is difficult to determine whether the Great Resignation is a unique phenomenon or something that is cyclical in nature.
There’s no denying that many people are thinking about, if not actively searching for, new employment opportunities. Some economists speculate that the psychological pressures brought on by social, political, and economic strains have compelled many to rethink their priorities and seek new and different work. But some of the high resignation rates are simply accelerations of pre-existing trends.
For example, many provinces were grappling with a decline in the number of teachers prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Ontario for example, the unemployment rate for first-year teachers was on the decline, dropping from 38% in 2013, to 14% in 2017 and single digits in 2019.
And even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers in some industries were dealing with labour market shortages and wars for talent. A November 2019 survey conducted by the World Economic Forum, found that nearly 8 in 10 global CEOs said that the lack of available people with the right skills kept them awake at night.
Rethinking Our Priorities
That said, the uncertainty of employment felt by many during the pandemic, combined with the trauma of being isolated from friends and family (or in some cases cooped-up with family) caused some people to reassess their priorities both personally and professionally. Workplace changes, as well as the hiatus from long workday commutes and the daily grind caused others to take stock and consider whether their jobs still brought them joy. For others, the switch to remote work erased the boundaries between work life and personal life, causing many to consider both life and employment changes.
If you are reassessing your priorities and thinking of resigning, it’s wise to carefully evaluate what’s happening in your local economy and job market before making the leap. When you do find that better opportunity, it’s best not to burn bridges with your current employer as doing so could have professional and legal repercussions.
Legal Obligations When You Resign
Should you decide to leave your current position, remember that you may have a contractual obligation to provide a resignation notice period. Ontario employers have legal recourse against employees whose unexpected departures result in economic harm. Failing to give your employer a reasonable amount of notice to transition your work could make you liable for wrongful resignation damages to your former employer.
Employees in management positions who resign unceremoniously may face additional economic penalties for breaching their duty of good faith and fidelity. This duty includes adherence to policies and clauses in your employee handbook or employment contract. Examples include the duty not to solicit your former employer’s customers or employees, and the duty to refrain from misappropriating confidential business information and trade secrets. Breaching your duty of good faith and fidelity could result in monetary penalties payable to your former employer, as well as a court injunction to stop you from working for or doing business with certain entities for a specified period of time.
Consult a Professional
Advocation is an employment law firm that understands Ontario employment laws and can advise you of your rights. If you or someone you know in the Greater Toronto area needs legal advice about an employment matter, contact us today to schedule a consultation.