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Samfiru Tumarkin

There’s little that matches the experience of losing your job. Whether you saw it coming or were caught off guard, there’s a flood of emotions that pull the rug out from beneath you. In the midst of that rush, trying to digest the news, figure out where you’ll work next, and how you’ll cover your finances in the meantime, you’ll likely start wondering if you qualify for severance pay in Ontario, and if so, how much will your severance pay be?

To help clear things up and shed light on the ins and outs of severance pay, we spoke to Lior Samfiru, employment lawyer and national co-managing partner of Toronto-based Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, Canada’s largest employee-side employment law firm.


What happens when I’m fired or laid off?

After losing your job, your former employer will provide you with documents to sign, and they’ll want you to sign them right away. But before doing that, take a moment to breathe and think. Samfiru says “When you’re fired, don’t sign any exit papers, “separation agreement” or severance package offers. You’re no longer an employee of that company, so don’t rush on their behalf. Doing so will give up your rights to full severance pay or compensation.”

In Ontario, employment contracts might limit the severance you’ll qualify for, but time is on your side. After losing your job, you have two years to have your contract and termination reviewed by an employment lawyer, and file a claim for proper severance. While it’s completely understandable to feel obligated to accept whatever your former employer offers to get money in your hands as soon as possible, you don’t want to accidentally limit what you could be eligible to receive from them. There’s no law requiring you to accept a severance offer by a deadline set by the company, confirms Samfiru. “They’re trying to pressure you to agree to a proposal that may benefit them and fall short of fulfilling your rights.”

The first thing you should do is find a trusted resource to help you navigate the steps of getting your severance. Samfiru Tumarkin LLP has built the Pocket Employment Lawyer, an online toolkit with everything you might need to know.



Am I eligible to get severance pay in Ontario?

If you’re a non-unionized employee in Ontario, either full-time or part-time (or even a contractor), you should get a severance package if or when you lose your job. It might be a shock to hear, but companies can fire employees for just about any reason - aside from discriminatory causes, including age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. If the reason for firing isn’t related to serious misconduct, it’s called a termination without cause, and in those cases, the employer must provide full severance pay. And it’s important to know you don’t need to be a long-term employee to qualify.

However, even if an employee is fired with cause, such as poor performance, there is still a good chance that they are owed a severance package, as many “for cause” dismissals are incorrect or invalid.

“Many people don’t realize they’re eligible for severance, or even if they were terminated with or without cause. This leads to getting less severance than they’re owed from their former employer.” says Samfiru. He continues, “Establishing cause for termination is very difficult, so you should always seek legal counsel after being fired to understand your options for pursuing severance.”


How much severance should I get, and how do I get it?

Severance pay minimums in Ontario are set by the province’s Ministry of Labour, and by previously-established standards set by the courts.

At a minimum, severance pay should be one week of pay per year you were employed, up to a maximum of 26 weeks. However, what you are legally owed can be as much as two years’ pay. But it’s important to note, it’s more than just the length of your employment that factors into the amount of severance you should receive. Samfiru tells us, “it’s common to think that to qualify for severance, you need to be employed for 5 years, or the business needs to have a large payroll. That’s wrong.”

In fact, Samfiru says that workers with only a few years of tenure at a company are entitled to proportionately more severance pay than someone with more seniority.

Other factors that influence the amount of severance you should get include your age, position at the company, and your ability to find new work. And if you don’t get enough severance, you’ve been wrongfully dismissed.

To get a quick idea of the severance you might qualify for, visit Samfiru Tumarkin LLP’s Severance Pay Calculator, then get in touch with them directly to figure out your next steps. “Over one million Canadians have used the calculator to get a more accurate understanding of how much they may be owed, which can be a difference of thousands of dollars.”

Losing your job for any reason is always an incredibly stressful period. In the moment, taking the company’s first severance offer and signing their paperwork might seem like a good idea, but you should consult with an employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP to ensure you get the severance you deserve and are legally entitled to.

Contact employment lawyer Lior Samfiru, national co-managing partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, to get the advice and compensation you need by calling 1-888-861-4555, emailing Ask@EmploymentLawyer.ca or filling out an online contact form.

His law firm represents non-unionized employees in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Discover your employment rights by watching Lior on Ask a Lawyer every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on CP24.