If your employer terminates you without just cause (see: “Can my employer fire me for no reason?” ), they are required to provide you with notice of the termination. That notice can be given in two possible forms: “working notice” or “pay in lieu of notice”.

 “Working notice” is when you are given advance notice that your employment is going to end, but you continue to work and receive your regular compensation for the length of the notice period. Once the notice period is up, your employment ends, and the employer has no further obligations. The theory is that the employer has given you sufficient advance notice that your employment will be ending, to permit you to look for other work.  During the notice period, you will be required not only to look for other employment, but also to perform your usual tasks at the usual standard.  Failure to do so could result in termination for just cause .  The employer should provide reasonable time off to attend job.

“Pay in lieu of notice” is the more typical form of notice received when an employee is terminated without cause. In this case, you stops work on the day of termination, but receive payment equal to what you would have received if you had continued working through the notice period.

Length of Notice

Whether notice is given to you as working notice or pay in lieu of notice, the important question becomes: what amount of notice is reasonable notice?

Much like an employee’s general terms and conditions of employment (see: “Know Your Rights—Determining the Terms and Conditions of your Employment” ), there are three main places to look when calculating your notice period: legislation, your employment contract, and the law as developed through legal decisions.

In Ontario, the Employment Standards Act sets out a notice period based on an employee’s length of employment. This is the minimum amount that most employees in Ontario are entitled to. The basic entitlements under the Act are:

Length of Employment Notice Period Required
Less than 3 months None
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 or more 8 weeks

 

Your contract may also contain terms which specify the notice period that will apply if you are terminated without cause. If your contract contains a notice period term, this calculation will apply in most – but not all – circumstances, unless it is inconsistent with the minimums outlined in the Employment Standards Act.

Where there is no provision in your contract, however, you are not restricted to the minimum notice periods set out in the Employment Standards Act. Instead, you are entitled to “reasonable notice,” which is calculated based on the law as it has been developed through legal decisions.

Determining a reasonable notice period requires a review of your individual circumstances with the aim of estimating how long you will take to find a new, comparable job. The main factors that are considered are age, length of service, character of employment (for instance, an employee’s level of responsibility), and the availability of similar employment. In special circumstances, other factors can be considered, such as whether you were induced to leave a previous position by the employer.

A very general rule is that you are entitled to one month per year of service with the employer, up to a maximum of 24 months. This general rule is modified by the criteria listed above, as well as your duty to mitigate and other factors (see Mitigation ). Individual cases are very fact-dependent, and require legal advice.

Conclusion

You are entitled to notice of termination, usually in the form of a working notice period or pay in lieu of that working notice period. Notice periods may be set out in your contract or by reference to the Employment Standards Act. Where no notice period is set by contract, you are entitled to reasonable notice. Because reasonable notice is calculated through an individualized, case-by-case assessment, you should consult an employment lawyer for assistance estimating what a reasonable notice period would be in your circumstances.

We are here to help: Consult one of our experienced employment lawyers at Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne and Yazbeck LLP if you are considering making a claim for wrongful dismissal. 

[The following information applies to non-unionized employees. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice, which cannot be given without consideration of your individual circumstances.]