Termination of Employment in Canada: What’s Legal?


By Sharon Graham.

When it comes to termination in Canada, it is important for employers, employees, and outplacement service providers to understand and adhere to Canadian employment standards and human rights legislation.

The provinces and territories have jurisdiction over the majority of employment matters including employee termination while certain workers are protected by federal laws.

Termination of employment is one of the most important components covered by Canadian legislation. Depending on the jurisdiction, laws cover minimum standards for such things as termination notice and severance pay. The Institute of Professional Management’s Workplace.ca site provides a comparison chart of workplace standards across the provinces, which includes the mandatory minimum notice or pay in lieu for termination of employment.

Although an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, a signification difference between Canada and the United States is that there is no employment “at will.” Canadian legislation addresses Termination With Cause when an employee is dismissed for a serious reason related to the employee’s conduct, and Termination Without Cause for reasons that are not related to misconduct. Prior to terminating an employee, employers typically obtain legal advice on the best way to proceed.

Upon termination, employers are required to comply with the minimum standards outlined in the employment legislation. When terminating an employee without cause, they must provide a reasonable notification period and/or severance pay. The HR Council offers an interesting toolkit to help employers ensure that any terminations are performed legally in Canada.

In Canada, individuals who are terminated have the right to be treated fairly and with dignity. Upon hire, employees should receive a written contract outlining the terms of employment and any obligations arising in connection with the termination of the relationship. Those terminated employees who have a specific concern should consult the appropriate legislative body or obtain legal counsel.

Canadian legislation does not mandate employers to provide outplacement assistance when terminating an employee. However, many employers choose to support terminated employees with outplacement services because it’s often the “right thing to do.”


Canadian Employment, Labour & Equity Standards – Important Links

Workers Rights in Canada | Canadian Human Rights Commission | Federal Labour Standards

British Columbia | Alberta | Saskatchewan | Manitoba | Ontario

Quebec | New Brunswick | Nova Scotia | Prince Edward Island

Newfoundland and Labrador | Northwest Territories | Yukon | Nunavut


Many provincial and territorial bodies provide termination guides to help employers take proper and appropriate steps. It is always best to consult a lawyer before taking any action related to employee termination.


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