In some cases, employment terms can go by many names and still have the same accepted legal definition. “Termination,” for example, is also known as “firing,” “dismissal,” or “letting go,” to name just a few. However, some employment terms have limited synonyms with entirely different meanings, depending on context. A prime example is “notice,” which can be used in a variety of scenarios (such as promotions or dismissals), and viewed from diverse perspectives (like employee resignation notice or employer written notice).
When most people think of an employer “giving notice,” it is usually in the context of termination. In this situation, a specific number of weeks’ notice of the termination must be provided, based on an employee’s length of service, as outlined in the federal, provincial, or territorial employment standards legislation. Although this definition is the most common application of the employment standards requirement, notice provided by an employer can also be delivered in other ways, such as pay in lieu of notice or working notice.
Generally, employers must provide notice when dismissing an employee, with the exception of cases where there is serious misconduct or negligence. If the employee is being dismissed for “just cause,” the employer is not obligated to provide notice or pay in lieu in this case. The reasons for terminating an employee for just cause are be many, including serious infractions such as theft, fraud, sexual harassment, conflict of interest, or wilful misconduct. It may take only one provable “flagrant” incident to be considered a just-cause termination.
For those who have put in long-term service for their employer, courts have recently been generous in awarding sizeable termination packages to employees who are over the age of fifty, whether they are in a management role or not. The premise is that although there is protection against age discrimination under human rights legislation, it is difficult for an individual over fifty to find alternative employment once released. It’s advisable to consider the following factors when giving notice and determining compensation and the overall exit strategy: the age of the employee, the length of service, the position held by the employee, and the employee’s level of compensation.
From an employer’s perspective, the specific rules and regulations for providing to notice an employee are often varied and complex. If you are in doubt about the finer points involved with giving an employee notice—whether for terminations or otherwise—you should consult the employment standards legislation particular to your industry and jurisdiction.
To get started, download our FREE Giving Notice Guide, where we review some of the employer basics of providing notice to employees and shed some light on other aspects of giving notice that aren’t always obvious.
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