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I've been fired. How much notice should I get?

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I've been fired. How much notice should I get?

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Reviewed: 
September, 2015
Answer

In most cases, your employer must give you notice in writing if you're fired.

There are 2 ways that an employer can give you notice:

  1. Your employer can tell you ahead of time. The amount of time can depend on many things, including how long you've been in the job. This is called "working notice". Most employers prefer not to do this because, if they're firing you, they usually want to get rid of you right away.
  2. Instead of telling you ahead of time, your employer can let you go right away. Then they have to pay you the money you would have earned if they had told you ahead of time. This is called termination pay or pay in lieu of notice.

Termination pay is not the same as severance pay in Ontario. The Employment Standards Act (ESA) has rules about who gets severance pay.

Minimum amount of notice

Ontario's Employment Standards Act (ESA) has rules about the minimum amount of notice employers must give their employees. But not all jobs are covered by the ESA.

To find out if the ESA applies to you, see Step 1.

For more information about the rules on minimum notice for employees covered by the ESA, see Step 2.

If the ESA does not cover your situation, check What laws apply to me as a worker?

Getting more than minimum notice

If you're fired or laid off, you may be able to sue your employer in court.

A court can decide that your employer has to give you more than the minimum notice in the ESA.

A lawyer who knows employment law can tell you how much a court might order. With a lawyer's help, you might be able to agree on the amount of notice with your employer. An employer might want to avoid the cost of going to court.

Here are some reasons a court might say that the ESA notice isn’t enough:

  • you worked for the employer for a long time
  • finding a similar job will be very difficult
  • your job was very specialized
  • when hiring you, the employer convinced you to leave another job
  • you're an older worker

A court might also decide that you should get more notice if the employer:

  • broke laws, such as human rights laws, when they fired you
  • fired you in a cruel or insensitive way
  • fired you for an unfair reason, for example, they believed you did something bad and you didn't

If you signed a contract

Employers sometimes try to limit the amount of notice you can get by putting it in an employment contract

If the amount of notice that's in the contract could be less than minimum notice in the ESA, a court won't apply the contract

And there are other reasons that a court might order your employer to give you more notice, for example:

  • the contract isn't clear about notice
  • you were forced to sign the contract
  • you were tricked into signing the contract
  • the notice under the contract is extremely unfair

If your employer asks you to sign a release

When your employer fires you, they may want you to sign something that says you agree to not make any claims against them. Sometimes this is called "a release".

If your employer offers you termination pay, they may want you to sign a release before they pay you. But if you sign, you might not be able to go to court and ask for more money.

Don't sign a release right away. Tell your employer you need time to think about it. You might ask for a week so you have time to find out more about your rights and decide if you want to try and get more money from your employer.

An employer who pressures you to sign right away might not want you to know your rights. It's important to get legal advice before signing a release.

1. Find out if you're covered by the Employment Standards Act

Ontario's Employment Standards Act (ESA) has rules about minimum notice periods and pay in lieu of notice.

But not all jobs are covered by the ESA. And for some jobs, only parts of the ESA apply.

Use the Ministry of Labour's online tool called Industries and Jobs with Exemptions or Special Rules to find out if:

  • your job is covered by the ESA
  • the ESA rules about being fired or laid off apply to you

You can also call the Ministry's Employment Standards Information Centre at 1-800-531-5551, 416-326-7160, or 1-866-567-8893 (TTY).

If the ESA does not cover your situation, check What laws apply to me as a worker?

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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2. Check the minimum notice periods

Ontario's Employment Standards Act (ESA) has rules about minimum amount of notice employers need to give employees who are fired.

If you've worked for: You should get at least this much notice:
Less than 3 months No minimum notice
At least 3 months but less than 1 year 1 week
1 year but less than 3 years 2 weeks
3 years but less than 4 years 3 weeks
4 years but less than 5 years 4 weeks
5 years but less than 6 years 5 weeks
6 years but less than 7 years 6 weeks
7 years but less than 8 years 7 weeks
8 years but less than 9 years 8 weeks

Mass termination

If an employer fires 50 or more workers within a period of 4 weeks, the minimum notice periods might be different. This is sometimes called "mass termination".

The rules about mass termination are for situations like a large company going out of business or a factory shutting down.

With mass termination, the amount of notice you get doesn't depend on how long you worked for your employer but on the number of workers being fired.

Number of employees being fired: Amount of notice:
50 to 199 employees 8 weeks
200 to 499 employees 12 weeks
500 or more employees 16 weeks

To find out more about your right to notice if you're fired, use the Ontario Ministry of Labour's online Termination Tool.

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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3. Try to get legal advice

If you're fired, it's a good idea to get legal advice.

A lawyer with experience in employment law can help by giving you advice about:

A lawyer who knows employment law can tell you how much a court might order. With a lawyer's help, you might be able to agree on the amount of notice with your employer. An employer might want to avoid the cost of going to court.

Finding a lawyer

The Law Society Referral Service can give you the name of a lawyer or paralegal you can consult with for free, for up to 30 minutes.

JusticeNet is a program for Canadians with low or moderate incomes. It connects people with lawyers and paralegals who charge lower legal fees based on your income.

There are community legal clinics across Ontario that provide free legal services to people with low incomes. Some clinics help people with work-related problems. And if a clinic can't help you, they may be able to refer you to someone in your community who can.

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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4. Keep track of your job search

If you're fired, keep track of everything you do to find another job. This can help you get the most notice possible if you sue your employer in court and win. You may also need to do this if you're applying for benefits. See Step 5.

The court may reduce the amount of notice they order your employer to give you if you can't show you've been looking for another job.

So it's a good idea to make notes of everything you do to help find a job including:

  • looking for job postings online and in newspapers
  • contacting people about jobs
  • getting help from employment agencies
  • applying for jobs by phone, online, or in person
  • going to job interviews
  • improving your skills
Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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5. Apply for benefits

You might be able to get Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.

And, you might be able to get EI even though you got fired. You can find out more about the rules to qualify for EI in Employment Insurance.

If you don't qualify or you are waiting for EI, you might be able to get social assistance benefits from Ontario Works (OW). To get OW assistance, you must qualify financially. This means that you must need financial help so that you have enough money to live on.

You must also meet OW rules about:

  • income, which is how much money you already get
  • assets, which are things you own and any money or savings you have

You can apply for OW online.

The information you enter online goes to your local OW office. Within 3 business days, a worker from that office is supposed to phone you to set up an appointment to complete the application.

If you don't have a phone number, call your local OW office to make the appointment.

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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