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I've been fired. How much notice should I get?
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.
- 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.
People sometimes call termination pay severance pay. But in Ontario, termination pay is not the same as 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
Most people who are fired or laid off have the right to more than the minimum termination pay that is in the ESA. This is because of court decisions that say most workers should get what is “reasonable”, not just the minimum amount in the ESA.
Here are some reasons that you might have a right to get more than the ESA minimum amount:
- 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.
And you might have the right to even more termination pay 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
- fired you because you were acting on your rights that are in the ESA
The lists above are just examples. What you can get depends on your situation. Speak to a lawyer who knows employment law about how much termination pay you might be able to get.
With a lawyer’s help, you might be able to agree on the amount with your employer.
Or 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.
If you signed a contract
Employers sometimes try to limit the amount of notice you can get by putting an amount in your 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 a release, you might not be able to ask for more money or go to court to sue 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.