Earlier this year, CTV announced cuts to local news stations around the country. Among the cuts were the long-standing sports division of CTV’s Kitchener branch.
The end of local sports programming is a sad loss to a community and its fantastic varsity teams, but the loss is surely greater to the three full-time and five part-time employees who now find themselves without work. The union representing the employees says it will soon meet with the station to try and get the best deal for these workers.
So, will those former CTV employees soon be knocking on the doors of Kitchener employment lawyers?
As with all things legal, it depends on the circumstances.
Terminating Employment in Ontario
At common law, both employers and employees have the right to end the employment contract at any time without cause by giving notice of termination or pay in lieu of notice. Since the CTV Kitchener employees were laid off as part of company re-structuring, it’s safe to assume the employer did not have cause to dismiss.
When it comes to terminating employment without cause, the employer has two options:
- Give the employee working notice; or
- Compensate the employee in lieu of notice, in an amount equivalent to the pay and benefits the employee would have earned during the required notice period.
There are two standards for how much notice (or pay in lieu) an employer must give someone: the minimum standards under the Employment Standards Act (ESA), and the common law factors that impact reasonable notice.
Notice Under the Employment Standards Act
In general, the longer an employee has been with the company, the more notice he or she gets under the ESA. Under s.57 of the act:
- Under three months’ employment = no notice (this is known as the “probationary period”)
- Three months to one year’s employment = one weeks’ notice
- Between one and three years’ employment = two weeks’ notice
- For each year over three, add one week’s notice to a maximum of eight weeks
The standard changes in situations where an employer terminates 50 or more employees in a four-week period. Under those circumstances, notice required depends on the number of employees terminated in the period:
- 50-199 employees = 8 weeks’ notice
- 200-499 employees = 12 weeks’ notice
- 500 or more employees = 16 weeks’ notice
“The Act also provides an employee with five or more years of service to severance if the employer has an annual payroll of 2.5 million or more. Severance is one week’s salary for each year and partial year of service up to a maximum of twenty–six weeks.”
Employees may be entitled to more than the minimum notice required under the ESA depending on other factors. Today, courts also consider the following factors in determining reasonable notice:
- Character of employment
- Length of service
- Employee’s age
- Availability of similar employment, looking at the employee’s training, experience, and qualifications
- Employer’s policy or practice on reasonable notice
- Industry customs
Though there is no hard limit to reasonable notice, courts have generally applied an upper limit of 24 months.