Step 1. Gather your thoughts
If you’ve been let go and feel you might be entitled to more notice or pay, first have a look at your employment contract. Does it say anything about required notice?
If your contract is silent on notice, you’re entitled to reasonable notice. See above, under “What you should know,” for the factors that go into determining what is reasonable.
Confirm whether you’re covered by the Employment Standards Act. (See our page on who’s covered.) If you are, your employer must give you at least the minimum notice or pay set out in this law. The minimums are explained above, under “What you should know.”
Step 2. Discuss the situation with your employer
If you’re comfortable doing so, reach out to your employer. Ask them to explain how they decided on the amount of notice to give you.
Approaching your boss can be stressful. We offer tips for talking with your employer.
Step 3. Write your employer a letter
If discussing the issue with your employer doesn’t work, consider writing them a letter. Explain your concerns in detail. For example, you could say something like:
“I worked as an employee for you for 18 months. [Modify to fit your situation.] Accordingly, under the BC Employment Standards Act, I’m entitled to at least two weeks’ notice or pay. Court cases suggest that reasonable notice in a situation like mine would be in the range of one to two months. Yet I was only given one week’s notice before my job ended. I’d like to explore solutions to this issue with you as soon as possible.”
We offer tips for writing a letter to your employer.
Keep a copy of the letter for your files. Having a written record could be useful if you need to take additional steps.
Step 4. Consider your legal options
If you haven't been able to resolve matters directly with your employer, there are further options for taking action.
Make an employment standards complaint
This is an option available to workers covered by the Employment Standards Act (see our page on who’s covered). If you think your employer has not met the minimum requirements under this law, you can make a complaint to the Employment Standards Branch. This is the government office that administers the Act.
For the steps to take, see our guidance on making an employment standards complaint.
Bring a legal action against your employer
An option available to any worker is to sue your employer for wrongful dismissal. You might claim you were entitled to a longer notice period based on your contract or what is reasonable.
For example, let’s say you were in a job for six years, and your employment contract didn’t say anything about notice. If you’re seen to be an employee under the Employment Standards Act, you’re entitled a minimum of six weeks’ notice or pay. In a wrongful dismissal lawsuit, you could be awarded more, based on what would be reasonable notice.
The amount you claim affects where you bring your lawsuit. If it’s for more than $5,000 and up to $35,000, you can sue in Small Claims Court. It’s faster and less involved than suing in the BC Supreme Court. If your claim is for $5,000 or less, you can file online with the Civil Resolution Tribunal. It's faster yet again, and designed to help parties resolve their dispute collaboratively.
Either way, note the time limits for taking action
There are time limits for making a complaint or taking legal action. You must start a complaint with the Employment Standards Branch within six months after your last day of work. The time limit to sue is two years from when you were let go. There may be steps you can take to extend the time limit and preserve your rights. A lawyer can explain your options, and help you decide on the best course of action.
It is important to get legal advice at this point. Once starting on one of these paths, you may be legally prevented from using the other process. It is also important to understand which option is best suited for your situation. There are options for free or low-cost legal help.
Step 5. Start looking for work
Once your employment has ended, start looking for another job right away. You have a duty to seek new and comparable work, even during the notice period.
Keep detailed records of your job search, including copies of your application letters and emails, as well as any replies you get.