There are many misconceptions about what is considered a fair severance package. In my employment law practice, I’ve spoken to many people who believe you are only entitled to a week’s pay per year of service. But employees are often owed much more severance than that.
Here are the five things you need to keep in mind to make sure you get all the severance you deserve if you are let go from your job.
1. Determine the exact reason for your dismissal
An employer is allowed to let you go for any reason, as long as it is not discriminatory. But severance must be paid. If your employer tries to let you go without compensation, or their severance offer is too low, you have been wrongfully dismissed, and can pursue what you are actually owed with help from an employment lawyer.
The only time your employer can let you go without severance is if you’re fired for just cause. This can be very difficult to establish, and it can only be invoked if you have done something that makes it impossible to continue employing you.
Even if you have done something wrong at work, this does not mean your employer has just cause to fire you. Your employer is obligated to pay you severance when they end the employment relationship.
2. Go over your employment contract
If you signed an employment contract, your employer may try to limit your rights through a termination clause in that agreement. But termination clauses are not always enforceable. Just because you signed an agreement that appears to limit your severance does not mean that it will.
Always have your contract reviewed by an employment lawyer before you sign off on a severance offer.
3. Don’t rush to accept a severance offer
In many cases, employers will push you to accept an inadequate severance offer during a termination meeting. Or they may give you a deadline, telling you that their offer expires within a matter of days.
Their goal is to stop you from seeking a legal opinion and to get you to accept far less than what the law says you should receive. It is illegal for an employer to force you to accept a severance package. Your legal rights do not expire if you fail to sign by their deadline.
4. Consider all the factors that go into severance calculation
For non-unionized employees, severance depends on several factors, including length of employment; an employee’s age, job title and position; and availability of employment, among other factors. Employees with specialized skills may also be entitled to more severance.
Your age will impact the amount of compensation you are owed, with older employees generally being entitled to more. This is because they may have a harder time securing a new position.
Severance is meant to provide financial relief between jobs, so the time it takes to find new employment and the availability of other opportunities will also play a role in determining the amount someone should receive.
My firm developed the Pocket Employment Lawyer tool to help employees calculate the amount of severance pay they might be owed.
5. Contact an employment lawyer
An experienced employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP can examine all factors and help you determine what you should receive.
Accepting an offer before you talk to one of our lawyers will lock you in to that severance package. This compensation will provide you with financial support until you find new employment, so it is critical that you do not leave any money on the table.
Have you been let go from your job? Are you trying to figure out how much severance you’re owed?
Contact the firm or call 1-855-821-5900 to secure assistance from an employment lawyer in Ontario, Alberta or British Columbia. Get the advice you need — and the compensation you deserve — from the most positively reviewed employment law firm in the country.
Lior Samfiru is an employment lawyer and partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, one of the nation’s leading law firms specializing in employment law and disability claims. He provides free advice as the host of Canada’s only Employment Law Show on TV and radio.