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Being fired, laid off, or dismissed

As with most things that are regulated by law in Canada, most employees are regulated by provincial law when it comes to being fired, laid off, or dismissed.

There are also those who fall under the Canada Labour Code, which means they are federally regulated employees and employers have to follow federal guidelines for dismissals.

You also want to look to the employment contract that you signed - if you signed one - and see what is mentioned under termination, dismissal, being laid off or fired. If the contract is silent then the provincial/territorial/federal law will usually kick in. However, a contract usually cannot negate statutory obligations of the employer. It’s always a good to have a lawyer review an employment contract for these issues.

Getting fired

Employers have the right to let employees go, although they have to have a reason (that cannot be discriminatory). The term fired can encompass termination, dismissal, etc., Reasons can: the employee is no longer needed, the company is downsizing or they have just cause to fire the employee.

Termination, layoff or dismissal

For federally regulated employees, the procedures to be used when terminating, laying off or dismissing an employee are set out in the Canada Labour Code.

If the employer wants to terminate an employee, then under the Labour Code he or she has to follow these steps:

  • Provide the employee with at least two weeks' written notice; or
  • In lieu of such notice, pay the employee two weeks' regular wages.

Federal employees are entitled to severance pay if they have completed at least 12 uninterrupted months of employment. They are entitled to two days regular wages for each full year that they worked for the employer before their termination of employment. The minimum benefit is five days wages.

These written notice requirements and pay in lieu of notice are also a requirement under provincial and territorial statutes although periods of notice requirements are different. Requirements usually differ from region to region and it’s advisable to check with the employment legislation of your province or territory.

For example, in Alberta in 2016 notice requirements are the following:

  • One week for employment of more than 3 months, but less than 2 years;
  • Two weeks for employment of 2 years or more, but less than 4 years;
  • Four weeks for employment of 4 years or more, but less than 6 years;
  • Five weeks for employment of 6 years or more, but less than 8 years;
  • Six weeks for employment of 8 years or more, but less than 10 years; and
  • Eight weeks for employment of 10 years or more.

Getting fired for just cause

If an employee is terminated for bad behaviour, he or she is usually not considered laid off or dismissed but rather fired.

British Columbia legislation states these examples that constitute just cause:

  • Fraud and dishonesty;
  • Assault or harassment of co-workers;
  • Breach of duty;
  • Serious wilful misconduct.

In terms of just cause, legislation across the provinces and territories, as well as federally regulated employers usually have similar behaviours listed as justifying firing for just cause.

What does laid off mean?

Usually in Canada being laid-off is temporary and usually the employer will not have to give you notice if you are expected to go to back not long after you were laid off.

However, if the layoff goes beyond a certain time, or becomes permanent, then the employer has to provide you written notice.

For example, in Ontario if you have been laid off beyond a period of 13 weeks, the employer has to give you written notice.

Note that the above rules and notice requirements may not apply to all employees.

If you are in a situation where you have been fired, laid off or dismissed and you have questions or issues consult an employment lawyer.

Read more:

Termination, Layoff or Dismissal - Government of Canada

What are my rights if I am fired or laid off? Community Legal Education Ontario