My employer fired me without cause. How much severance pay do I get?
If you had an employment contract, it may say how much notice your employer must give you.
If your contract says nothing about notice of termination, you’re entitled to reasonable notice. There are several factors that determine what is reasonable. They include how long you were in the job, your age, the type of job, and the availability of similar jobs.
If you’re covered by the Employment Standards Act (see who’s covered), this law sets the minimum notice your employer must give you, depending on how long you’ve been in the job. (Any notice set out in your contract can’t be any less than the minimum required under the law.)
Importantly, your employer can choose to pay you severance pay instead of giving you notice. If, for example, your contract states your employer must give you two weeks’ notice before dismissing you, they can choose to let you go on the spot, but they must pay you for those two weeks.
See above under “What you should know” for more on minimum notice periods and what is considered reasonable notice.
How much notice do I get under a fixed-term contract?
If you have a fixed-term employment contract — for example, a two-year term — the contract controls how much notice you get. The contract may say the notice period goes to the end of the term, or it could set a shorter notice period. If the contract says nothing about notice of termination, and the employer lets you go, they must pay the balance of the wages and benefits owed for the remainder of the fixed term. (You have a duty to look for other comparable work during that period.)
Once your fixed-term contract is finished, your employer doesn’t have to give you notice or pay.
What if I disagree with my employer about the amount of notice I deserve?
If you think you’re entitled to more notice or severance pay than what your employer gave you, your options depend on whether you’re covered by the Employment Standards Act. (See our page on who’s covered.) If you are, you can make a complaint with the provincial office that deals with workplace disputes, the Employment Standards Branch.
Whether or not you’re covered under the Act, you can bring a legal action against your employer.
For details, see the “Work out the problem” section above.
My employer gave me notice while I was on vacation. Is that legal?
No. If your employer gives you notice of termination during your annual vacation, while you are on a leave, or during a strike or lockout, the notice is not legally valid. Your employer must wait until you return to work before giving you notice of termination.
My company is firing 100 workers at the same time. What are my rights?
If you’re covered by the Employment Standards Act (see who’s covered), special rules apply to “group terminations.” These rules apply if an employer fires 50 or more workers at a single location within a two-month period. (There are some exceptions, such as where the terminations are part of a normal seasonal reduction in staff.)
With group terminations, the workers are entitled to more notice than the usual minimum requirements. The amount of notice required depends on the total number of workers who are being let go. The employer must give notice with the following lead-times:
- If 50-100 workers will be fired, at least eight weeks before the first worker is fired.
- If 101-300 workers will be fired, at least 12 weeks before the first worker is fired.
- If 301 or more workers will be fired, at least 16 weeks before the first worker is fired.
As well, the employer must give written notice to each worker affected. If you’re one of those workers, the notice must tell you:
- how many other workers are likewise being laid off
- the date your employment ends
- the reasons you’re being fired
If your employer fails to give you notice as required, they must pay you instead. Or, they can choose to give you a combination of notice and pay.