Don’t Trust the Min­istry of Labour when it comes to Ter­mi­na­tions

Toronto Star - - BUSINESS - Lior Sam­firu | lior@st­lawyers.ca | 1-844-661-9065 | st­lawyers.ca

You have just been ter­mi­nated from your em­ploy­ment for the first time. On top of all of this, you are now faced with the ex­tremely dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion as to whether you should take a sev­er­ance of­fer that the em­ployer in­sists is a very gen­er­ous pack­age. You know you need ad­vice and a friend of a friend of yours men­tioned that the Min­istry of Labour has a free ser­vice that can help you out. You think it’s a gov­ern­ment min­istry so it must be le­git­i­mate and what is the harm. How­ever, by call­ing the min­istry and fol­low­ing their ad­vice you can end up miss­ing out on thou­sands of dol­lars. I have spo­ken with many clients who, af­ter be­ing told that they are en­ti­tled to many months of sev­er­ance, con­fus­ingly ask “but I spoke to the Min­istry of Labour and they said I only get 8 weeks, what gives?” This dis­crep­ancy is a re­sult of min­istry rep­re­sen­ta­tives not be­ing trained lawyers and only pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion as to an in­di­vid­ual’s min­i­mum en­ti­tle­ments pur­suant to the Em­ploy­ment Stan­dards Act. Any ter­mi­nated em­ployee in On­tario is en­ti­tled to a sev­er­ance pack­age and Em­ploy­ment Stan­dards Act out­lines what an em­ployee’s min­i­mum en­ti­tle­ments are. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, every em­ployee’s min­i­mum en­ti­tle­ments are ei­ther 1 or 2 weeks per year of ser­vice. How­ever, most em­ploy­ees are en­ti­tled to a great deal more than what the Em­ploy­ment Stan­dards Act stip­u­lates and, in some cases, can be en­ti­tled to 1 or 2 months per year pur­suant to the com­mon law. This is where the min­istry not only mis­in­forms peo­ple but can ac­tu­ally harm an in­di­vid­ual’s in­ter­ests with the in­for­ma­tion they pro­vide to them. To demon­strate, let us take the ex­am­ple of a 60 year old Bob, who has been re­cently ter­mi­nated from his em­ploy­ment af­ter 4 and a half years with his com­pany as a man­ager. His for­mer em­ployer has of­fered Bob a sev­er­ance pack­age equiv­a­lent to 2 months of pay. That sounds fair to Bob but he isn’t sure and needs help.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR EM­PLOY­EES

If Bob were to speak to the min­istry, he would be told that he is en­ti­tled to four weeks of pay in lieu of no­tice and that is it. Af­ter speak­ing to the min­istry, Bob would rea­son­ably be­lieve that his for­mer em­ployer’s of­fer of 2 months is gen­er­ous and ac­cept the of­fer. How­ever, if Bob had spo­ken to a lawyer he would have re­al­ized that he is en­ti­tled to a sev­er­ance pack­age in the range of 8 months of pay un­der the com­mon law. Ac­cord­ingly, if Bob lis­tens to the min­istry’s “ad­vice” then he would end up leav­ing a sub­stan­tial amount of money on the ta­ble and do­ing his for­mer em­ployer a huge favour. So if some­one tells you to talk to the min­istry af­ter you have been ter­mi­nated, think twice as that phone call could be the most ex­pen­sive mis­take you make in your life. If I can give a sin­gle take­away for this piece, it would be that the On­tario Min­istry of Labour can in­form you on your min­i­mum en­ti­tle­ments, not your full en­ti­tle­ments. If you’re an em­ployee, you owe it to your­self to at least find out what you are owed.

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