Lost your job? 5 ways to avoid inadequate severance pay
Bryan Borzykowski, Special to CP24.com
Published Monday, October 31, 2022 11:13AM EDT
Being fired or let go from your job can be an overwhelming experience. In the chaos and confusion, Lior Samfiru, employment lawyer and national co-managing partner of Toronto-based Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, says “more than 90 per cent of employees accept inadequate severance packages.”
He adds that it’s important for Canadians to understand how much compensation they are entitled to when they are dismissed.
Here are five ways you can avoid accepting an inadequate severance package:
1. If your company fires you “for cause,” contact an employment lawyer
When an employee is terminated for cause, they don’t get a severance package and can’t access employment insurance benefits.
“In many cases, workers won’t challenge this type of dismissal because they believe they must have done something wrong and accept little to no severance,” says Samfiru, who appears weekly on CP24’s Ask a Lawyer.
He adds that termination for cause is reserved for the worst kinds of workplace offences, such as theft or insubordination.
“It’s very difficult to prove cause. In these situations, I always recommend contacting an experienced employment lawyer, like the ones at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP. My firm can help you determine if you are owed full severance pay by your employer, which is usually the case.”
2. Don’t rely on the Ministry of Labour for severance advice
There is a belief that severance pay is one or two weeks’ pay, or a week for every year of service an employee has with the company.
However, Samfiru says this formula may only cover the minimum amount you are owed under provincial legislation.
“The Ministry of Labour can only advise you on your minimum severance entitlements. When it comes to common law, severance can be as much as 24 months’ pay.”
He adds that full severance pay for non-unionized employees is calculated using several factors, including age, position, length of service and your ability to find new work.
“To figure out how much compensation you could be entitled to, use my firm’s free Severance Pay Calculator tool. If your company’s offer falls short of what is appropriate, you have been wrongfully dismissed and should take legal action to get the money you are owed.”
3. Your employer can’t force you to sign a severance offer immediately
In some cases, companies will tell their staff that they need to accept their severance offer before they leave a meeting or by a specific date.
“This is a common pressure tactic used by employers. They can’t legally force you sign your offer immediately,” says Samfiru. “Your rights don’t expire by Friday at 5 p.m.”
As long as you don’t sign the offer from your company, he adds that you have two years from the date of your dismissal to pursue full severance pay.
“Take your time and carefully review the offer. If you are unsure about what you are accepting, my firm can take a look at it and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.”
4. Don’t let cost or time deter you from receiving proper severance
When it comes to contesting an inadequate severance package, Samfiru says many employees believe it’s a lengthy, complicated and expensive endeavour.
“Some companies want you to believe that you are in a ‘take it or leave it’ scenario. It’s simply not true.”
He adds that negotiating severance often isn’t a lengthy process, and that most employers end up paying legal fees in the end.
“Don’t be afraid to pursue the compensation you deserve. Your company is legally obligated to provide you with the financial support you are entitled to if they decide to let you go.”
5. An employment lawyer can successfully negotiate a fair severance package
Severance packages play a key role in helping individuals pay bills and put food on the table after they have been fired without cause or let go.
“These packages are designed to help you bridge the gap between jobs,” says Samfiru. “For many of my clients, being fired or laid off is a new experience. As a result, they aren’t aware of the specific rights that they have in this situation.”
He adds that hiring a legal professional to represent you takes away the stress and frustration of trying to negotiate a fair severance package on your own.
“When your financial well-being is at stake, it’s extremely important to talk to an experienced employment lawyer, like the ones at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, to ensure that you receive the support you need. My firm has helped tens of thousands of individuals across Ontario, Alberta and B.C. enforce their workplace rights.”
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.