Quitting, Getting Fired or Laid Off
Employment ends when an employee quits or retires, or when an employer ends it.
Employers can end employment by:
- Giving an employee written notice and/or payment based on how long they've been working
- Firing an employee for just cause – if an employer has just cause, they don't have to give notice or pay
Employees can quit their job at any time, with no notice
Employers usually like some notice before an employee quits, but this is not required. Employees who quit their job are not paid compensation for length of employment.
If an employee does give notice, the employer can choose to terminate them sooner as long as they pay an amount that equals the remaining notice given by the employee or the amount they would have to pay the employee if they had decided to terminate them – whichever is less.
An employee must be paid final wages once their job ends
Final wages is everything the employer owes an employee. It may include regular wages, overtime, statutory holiday pay, compensation for length of service and vacation pay. Final payment must be made:
- Within 48 hours after the last day an employee works when an employer ends employment
- Within six days after the employee’s last day of work when an employee quits
If an employee cannot be located, the employer must pay the wages to the Director of Employment Standards within 60 days of the wages being payable. The Director holds the wages in trust for the employee.
Employers must give notice and/or pay to end employment
To end an employee's job, employers can give written working notice or an equal amount of pay called compensation for length of service. They can also choose to give a combination of both notice and pay.
Employers can write to an employee to let them know their job will end by a certain date. Employees must be able to work and earn income for the duration of the notice period. Notice cannot begin if an employee is:
- On vacation
- On leave
- On temporary layoff
- On strike or lockout
- Unavailable for work due to medical reasons
Employers must wait for an employee to return to work before they can give notice. Instead of giving notice, they can pay compensation to an employee on vacation or leave.
If an employee continues to work after a notice period ends, the notice is cancelled. The employee is still employed, and the employer has to give a notice again or pay compensation to end the job.
Once an employer gives written notice, they can’t change the job without the employee’s written agreement (e.g. lowering hours or pay).
Employers can pay employees money to compensate for the loss of their job. This means an employer can let an employee go immediately if they want as long as they pay the entire compensation pay required.
The amount of written notice and/or pay is based on how long an employee has been employed.
Employed for three months = one week of notice and/or pay
Employed for one year = Two weeks of notice and/or pay
Employed for three or more years = three weeks of notice and/or pay, plus one week of notice/pay for each additional year of employment (to a maximum of eight weeks)
The sale, lease or transfer of a business does not interrupt an employee’s length of employment unless the employee has been properly terminated by the seller employer before the transfer of the business occurs.
To calculate a week’s pay, divide total wages earned from the last eight weeks by eight. Make sure to use a range of weeks that reflect normal or average hours. Do not include overtime.
Example: An employee has worked for a company for two years and their job is going to end. Their employer can choose to do one of the following:
- Give the employee two weeks of written working notice
- Pay the employee for two weeks and let them go immediately
- Give the employee one week of working notice and one week of pay
Group termination rules follow the same process as ending employment for an individual employee. Employers must give notice or pay, or a combination of both.
If an employer plans to terminate 50 or more employees at a single location within a two-month period, the employer must give written notice of group termination to each employee affected, the Minister of Labour and any trade union that represents the employees.
Notice or compensation is not required if an employee:
- Quits, retires or is fired for just cause
- Has not been employed for three consecutive months
- Works on an on-call basis doing temporary assignments that they can accept or reject
- Cannot perform the work because of an unforeseeable event or circumstance (other than bankruptcy, receivership or insolvency)
- Is employed at one or more construction sites for an employer whose main business is construction
- Refuses reasonable alternative work
- Is a teacher employed by a board of school trustees
- Is hired for a definite term (with set start and end dates) or for specific work to be completed in 12 months or less. If the work continues for three or more months past the planned end date, the employer must give notice and/or pay compensation
Employers must prove "just cause"
If an employer proves an employee was fired for just cause, there is no requirement to pay compensation for length of service.
An employer can fire an employee with just cause if they commit a serious offence. For example, if an employee steals, commits fraud, acts dishonestly, assaults or harasses others, or breaks company rules.
Unsatisfactory performance (e.g. an employee is unable to perform job duties) or minor misconduct (e.g. lateness or not coming to work) are not considered just cause. An employer can fire an employee for these reasons as long as they give notice and/or pay.
An employer may be able to fire an employee for these reasons without notice or pay if they can show they did certain things. For example, the employer must prove that the employee:
- Was told clearly what the employer's reasonable standards are
- Was told that they weren't meeting the standards
- Had reasonable time and help to meet the standards
- Was warned that they would be fired if they did not improve their behaviour
- Still didn’t meet the standards after all of the above
Employers must provide clear and consistent standards for all staff. They also need to act in a reasonable amount of time to correct employee behaviour. If they cannot show proof that they did this, they may not be able to prove just cause.
Employers do not need to give written notice or pay if they fire an employee for just cause.
Employees who feel they have been fired without just cause can sue for wrongful dismissal. This is different than filing a complaint for compensation for length of service with the Employment Standards Branch. If an employee chooses to go to court, they should seek legal advice. The Employment Standards Branch cannot provide legal advice.
Layoffs may be considered termination
An employee is laid off when they're given less work or no work – with the plan that the employee will return to a regular work schedule. If an employee’s hours are reduced, they are considered laid off as soon as they earn less than 50 percent of their weekly wages at the regular rate (averaged over the previous eight weeks).
Layoffs can be considered a termination of employment and employers must give written notice and/or pay compensation to employees.
Some layoffs are considered temporary – they can only happen if:
- The layoff is part of an employment contract
- The layoff is a normal part of the industry (e.g. in the logging industry where work cannot be performed during “break-up”)
- The employee agrees to the layoff
Temporary layoffs can only be:
- Up to 13 weeks in a period of 20 weeks (about three months in a period of five months)
- A period of time in which an employee covered by a collective agreement has the right to be recalled
If the temporary layoff is longer than this, it becomes a termination of employment. The start of the layoff is the termination date and the employer must give pay for length of service based on this date.
Changes to employment conditions could be considered termination
If an employer makes large changes to conditions of employment (such as hours or pay), the Employment Standards Branch may decide that a person’s employment has been ended. If this happens, the rules are the same as for ending employment.
Find out what you can do
If you're having issues at work, find out what you can do: