What Happens if You Quit a Contract Job Early

What Happens if You Quit a Contract Job Early

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Sometimes we get fed up with our jobs, while other times, we find better alternatives. Quitting a job or switching jobs happens to most of us. However, just like getting recruited requires some procedures, quitting must be done correctly, especially with contract jobs.

You can quit a contract job without legal issues if the contract doesn’t have any terms against doing so. However, almost all contract jobs have some terms that penalize early-resignation without following the correct procedures. You might suffer from negative consequences like payment deductions. 

This article is a guide to how you can quit a contract job gracefully without suffering any negative consequences. I’ll provide you with the basic knowledge you must keep in mind when considering leaving a job. 

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What is a Contract Job

Instead of being hired for a position, you can work as a contractor for companies that need your skills to accomplish tasks within a set time frame and a predetermined budget. Many companies don’t require full-time employees, which means they hire contractors to work with them. After the job is done, i.e., tasks accomplished successfully, the contractors have no ties to the company that hired them.  

Contractors are usually freelancers who prefer to pursue a career in the gig economy instead of doing a 9-to-5 job. However, many companies recruit people with contracts to assess their performance (skills and productivity) before hiring them full-time or merely extending/renewing the contract. 

Another reason why many businesses need contractors has to do with seasons. Some companies are busier during certain seasons (summer, holiday, and whatnot), so they need to hire contractors for a limited period to keep up with the demand. 

Why Is Quitting a Contract Job Isn’t Straightforward?

When you sign a contract, you’re expected to respect the terms. If the terms state that you must finish a set amount of tasks during a specific period before you get paid, you must follow that procedure. Signing a contract means that you’ve read it, understood it, and agreed to it. In the eyes of the law, you’re bound by that contract. Therefore, violating the terms of the agreement can lead to penalties. 

In most cases, the penalties for violating the terms of a contract job include payment deductions or paying some fees. However, many contracts just require you to give early notice before quitting. The point is you must understand the terms of your contract regarding early resignation to avoid any unwanted consequences.  

Why You Should Give a Notice Before Quitting a Contract Job

In many cases, your contract job has a set time frame for a good reason. The employer needs you to finish the given tasks during a specific period because their business depends on you doing things correctly. Suppose you decide to quit all of a sudden without giving notice. In that case, you might put your employer in a bad position and even jeopardize their business and reputation. 

When you give your employer early notice, you show that you’re a considerate person with a good sense of duty and responsibility. Your employer will have enough time to find someone to replace you without putting anything on the stakes. This is why most contracts have terms that bind you to comply with the notice period rules (a 2-week period in most cases). 

Financial Penalties for Early Resignation

While not all contract jobs have financial penalties for early departure, many of them can penalize sudden resignations without giving notice; and they have all the right to do so. 

Again, suppose the contract lists penalties for breaking its terms (and they usually do). In that case, you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t receive your full payment. You can even be bound to pay fees for leaving unprofessionally. 

Why It’s Important To Leave a Job on Good Terms?

Leaving a job on good terms increases your value on the job market as you can use your previous employers as references on your resume. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that leaving on bad terms can stain your reputation forever. Future recruiters are also reluctant to hire people with negative reviews (100% justifiable) because it’s a sign of unreliability. 

How To Professionally Quit a Contract Job?

When you resign from a contract job, you must do so gracefully. And by the way, sometimes all it takes is a phone call

So, here are the steps you must follow in quitting a job professionally: 

Put the Company’s Needs Into Consideration

Before quitting the job, you must consider the company’s needs, meaning you have to make sure you’re not leaving the job at a critical moment when the tasks at hand are important for the continuity of the company’s business. 

That’s why giving a notice 2-3 weeks before you leave is very crucial. The notice period is in the contract for a good reason. And the penalties are there to protect the company from such things happening. Some jobs will require you to transfer your knowledge to the new contractor(s) before you leave to make sure the continuity of the job isn’t interrupted. 

Make Sure To Follow The Correct Procedures

When resigning from a contract job, you must refer to the section in the contract that states the procedures of how you can resign professionally. Generally speaking, the first thing you can do is contact your recruiter, hiring agency, or person who recommended you for the job out of courtesy. 

As for the procedure for early resignation, there are mainly two steps:

Write a Resignation Letter

Writing a resignation letter that explains your reasons why you have to leave is very important. The letter must keep a positive tone with no passive-aggressive expressions. Keep the tone professional, and make sure to explain yourself clearly. Here’s how you can write a good resignation letter from Harvard Business Review. 

Also, note that human resources often require a resignation letter as proof of your departure. 

Schedule a Meeting with Your Manager/Supervisor

You will probably have to schedule a meeting with your manager or supervisor on the job to discuss your departure, ensure you’re following the contract terms, and, perhaps, negotiate your final payment. Similar to the resignation letter, your meeting must be professional and positive.

Exit the Job Gracefully

Once you follow the procedures and ensure you’re not jeopardizing the company due to your sudden resignation, you can quit gracefully. What’s even more graceful is to quit a job on very good terms and always keep the possibility of future recruitment in the same company open. Many companies prefer to hire contractors they’ve already worked with, especially those who always end their contracts on good terms.  

Final Words 

So, there you have it. These are the considerations you must keep in mind before you quit your contract job all of a sudden. A general rule of thumb is to give your supervisor a 2-3 week notice to show professionalism. If you’re in a hurry to quit the job or you’re quitting because of some conflict with the company, make sure to respect the terms of the contract.   


About The Author

Nathan Brunner
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Nathan Brunner is a mathematician who cares about the job market.

He is the owner of Salarship, a job search engine where less-skilled candidates can find accessible employment opportunities.