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At-Will Employment

What is At-Will Employment?

At-will employment refers to a type of employment relationship in which either the employer or the employee can choose to terminate their working relationship at any time and without cause, except in the case of certain legal protections.

This means that an employer can terminate an employee's job without providing advanced notice or a specific reason. In the same way, an employee can also resign from their position without being obligated to give any kind of notice or reason.

What is typically included in at-will employment agreements?

As the term suggests, at-will employment does not have a fixed duration or contract period. It is an ongoing employment relationship that can be ended by either party at any time. In addition, employers do not need to provide a specific reason or documentation for terminating an employee's job. Likewise, employees are not required to provide any kind of notice or a reason for resigning – they may choose to leave their employer at any time without cause.

Despite at-will employment allowing, on its face, termination without cause, there are always a few exceptions. For example, employers cannot terminate workers for reasons that are illegal or in violation of anti-discrimination laws, labour laws, or other protected rights. Employees who feel they were terminated for unjust reasons or in violation of their rights might pursue legal action, especially if they believe they were subject to discrimination, retaliation, or other illegal practices.

Though at-will employment agreements don’t require organisations to keep specific records to be used as evidence for termination, it’s wise to maintain clear documentation anyway.

Where is at-will employment legal?

Outside of the United States, at-will employment is not generally seen as a recognised working agreement.

Businesses in the EU are restricted from terminating employees at will, though in some cases, workers may quit at will. For example, in Norway, workers may resign at will, but as a result, they are ineligible for any kind of unemployment benefits they may otherwise receive.

Other countries may recognise at-will termination for certain positions within a given organisation. In Chile, for example, high-ranking employees such as managers, directors, and those in positions of ‘exclusive confidence’ may be terminated without notice or cause. Workers in non-leadership roles are not subject to the same termination allowances.

In general, most countries do not require workers to give any particular reasons for or specifically timed advanced notice of their resignation by law. However, many countries require employers to alert workers of their intention to terminate their employment agreement within a specified ‘notice period’. Every country has its own set of laws regarding notice periods – spanning anywhere from just two weeks to several months. Various circumstances, such as length of time worked, may determine the legally required length of the notice period – as is the case in Poland and Denmark.

Employ your workers legally with Boundless

Employing a global workforce means juggling a number of different rules and ensuring your organisation remains compliant in multiple locations. Our experts at Boundless can help you hire and employ your workers legally, no matter where they are.

Get in touch with our team.

The making available of information to you on this site by Boundless shall not create a legal, confidential or other relationship between you and Boundless and does not constitute the provision of legal, tax, commercial or other professional advice by Boundless. You acknowledge and agree that any information on this site has not been prepared with your specific circumstances in mind, may not be suitable for use in your business, and does not constitute advice intended for reliance. You assume all risk and liability that may result from any such reliance on the information and you should seek independent advice from a lawyer or tax professional in the relevant jurisdiction(s) before doing so.

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