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:
- 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.
- 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.