One of the questions at the forefront of many employers’ minds when they are considering terminating an employee without cause is how much it is going to cost. Unless there is a written employment contract with an express termination clause, an employer’s obligation is to provide reasonable notice of termination. Since there is no set formula for determining the appropriate length of the reasonable notice period, employers (or their legal counsel) must estimate what they think the notice period could be, having regard to the employee’s age, length of service, character of employment, the availability of similar employment, and the employee’s skills and training. Often, employers and their legal counsel will use a rough rule of thumb of one month notice per year of service (although the courts have denied that such a rule of thumb exists).
Two recent cases have confirmed a long-standing principle: in order to be effective, notice of dismissal must be clear, specific and unequivocal. Among other things, a definite terminate date must be specified. Otherwise, in most cases, the “notice” will not be effective, and the employer will be on the hook for additional notice or pay in lieu thereof.
In Ontario, employers owe vacation pay on employee wages. Wages are defined in section 1 of the Employment Standards Act to include “any payment required to be made by an employer to an employee.” Here is where it gets tricky. In Ontario, the employment standards may require two separate types of payments to an employee who is terminated without cause.
When I speak at conferences, I am often asked the following question: “Is severance pay required when an employee is terminated?”
Before this question can be answered, we have to first confront the difficulty that some payroll terms traditionally used to describe both termination, as well as any payments resulting from this event, haven’t always been defined with the greatest of clarity. My preference has always been for those terms that convey the clearest meaning of the related employment standards and source deduction requirements.
I recently attended the Law Society’s annual Employment Law Summit, which is always filled with top-notch employment lawyers providing valuable insight and practical advice on issues relating to employment law and human resources. Many of the discussions touched upon issues relating to the use of employment agreements, including termination clauses. The comments caused me to consider my own experiences in dealing with…
I recently read an Alberta case where a financial consultant, a top performer, was terminated without notice. The court found he was wrongfully dismissed and terminated in an insensitive manner; this error in judgment cost the employer $2.2 million in damages.