In Canada, when an employee is terminated from their employment without just cause (is wrongfully dismissed), they are usually entitled to reasonable notice damages. The amount of notice is essentially a period during which an employee’s salary will continue while they search for new employment. Once an employee finds a new job their entitlement to these damages for wrongful dismissal usually ends or is reduced.
In Canada these damages may be awarded in court but in most cases of wrongful dismissal a settlement is reached before going to court is necessary. According to court decisions, employment law notice periods range from one week’s notice up to a 24 month period in certain cases. The period of reasonable notice depends on a variety of factors the most important of which are an employees age, their length of service with the employer, the character of the employment, and the availability of similar employment.
The first two factors, an employee’s age and the amount of time they have worked for the employer are relatively easy to calculate. With respect to these factors the longer an employee has worked with an employer, and the greater their age the longer the reasonable notice period will be. The next factor, the character of the employment, considers how specialized or unique the employee’s job was. Specialized work may be harder to replace for an employee if there are a limited number of similar positions in the geographical area where they reside. An employee in a specialized field may also find difficulty in transitioning to another field without taking a significant pay cut. Similarly, less specialized work may be easier to replace and lead to a reduction of the notice period. Finally, the last factor, the availability of similar employment, is not a difficult concept to grasp but care must be taken to record evidence of similar employment opportunities (or a lack thereof) in an employee’s geographical area.