Stating some other means of calculating notice, or
Implication by the courts
The laws apply to almost everyone employed in full-time or part-time work in BC (with some exceptions, such as seasonal workers), who have been employed continuously with an employer for 90 days or more.
WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE A CONTRACT?
It may surprise you to find out that even if you do not have a written employment contract from your employer, you are still considered to have a contract if you work, perform specific duties and get paid by an employer.
The nature of this “contract” is inferred from your past work. Even if you have nothing in writing, you can file a claim for wrongful dismissal if your employer does not provide reasonable notice in the absence of just cause to terminate you.
In many cases, you are better off not having an employment contract as employers sometimes write into the contracts a provision for providing less notice than is required under common law.
Note that it is illegal for employers to include in contracts any provision for less notice or severance than is required under the Employment Standards Act.
CAN YOUR EMPLOYER FIRE YOU FOR NO REASON IN BC?
As long as your employer provides reasonable notice or payment in lieu of notice, as defined under BC employment law (see below for details), your employer does not need a reason to terminate your employment.
However, you cannot be discriminated against or fired because of your race, religion, gender, or because you made a claim against an employer.
A good example of employers finding it necessary to lay off staff was during the COVID-19 pandemic when many companies were forced to downsize.
WHAT ARE THE MINIMUM NOTICE PERIODS IN BC?
The minimum notice period required in BC depends upon your length of service with the organization.
The notice must be in writing and, in its absence, must be replaced by a minimum amount of severance pay, as follows:
3 consecutive months of employment = 1 week’s notice or 1 week’s wages
12 consecutive months of employment = 2 weeks’ notice or 2 weeks’ wages
3 years of employment = 3 weeks’ notice or 3 weeks’ wages
> 3 years = 1 additional week of notice or wages per additional year (to a maximum of 8 weeks)
Remember that these are minimum requirements. Under common law, you may be entitled to more, based upon your age, future employability, type of employment, and so on.
Consequently, employees sometimes bring wrongful dismissal cases against employers even when these minimum requirements are met.
It is generally best to seek legal advice before you sign any severance package with an employer as a lawyer may be able to help you negotiate a larger settlement.
WHAT IS CONSTRUCTIVE DISMISSAL?
Constructive dismissal is when an employer makes extensive material changes to the conditions or terms of employment without the agreement of the employee.
This may include changes such as reducing salary, demotion or creating a hostile work environment.
Consequently, it is considered as termination and may be subject to a wrongful dismissal claim if reasonable notice or severance pay is not provided to the employee.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED “JUST CAUSE” IN BC?
Employers can legally terminate employees on the spot if they have “just cause”.
However, this term is frequently misunderstood and many employers use it mistakenly or on purpose to fire employees without providing reasonable notice or severance pay.
For instance, an isolated case of poor performance is generally not a sufficient reason to terminate an employee. However, ongoing poor performance even after repeated written warnings could be considered just cause.
It is generally very difficult for an employer to win a performance-related just cause case without having provided clear written warnings to the employee beforehand.
There is no list of conduct that qualifies as just cause for termination but some obvious examples where it may apply include theft of company property, fraudulent behaviour, and abusive or violent behaviour in the workplace.
Employee conduct is assessed by the courts on a contextual, case-by-case basis in just cause hearings. The court’s decision may depend on the history of the employee’s behaviour as well as the particular actions under scrutiny.
CAN WE HELP UNION MEMBERS?
If you join a union, you relinquish your right to have employment disputes determined by the courts under common law.
Unions come under the legislation applied to federally regulated employers, namely the BC Labour Relations Code and the Canada Labour Code, which will be used to settle disputes over termination and wrongful dismissal.
Disputes may involve arbitration and appeals to labour tribunals, where you will be represented by your union rather than by a standard employment lawyer.
Therefore, we can do very little to help union employees, unfortunately.
WRONGFUL DISMISSAL UNDER FEDERAL LAW
Federal employment law (the Canada Labour Code) also protects employees against wrongful dismissal in Canada.
All employees who have completed at least 12 consecutive months of continuous employment with the same employer are covered, providing you are not covered by a collective (union) agreement and you are not a manager.
If you are terminated by your employer, you are entitled to a written explanation of the reasons for your termination and, if you dispute these reasons, you can take it up with the Ministry of Labor or speak to one of our employment lawyers.
HAVE YOU BEEN WRONGFULLY DISMISSED IN BC?
If you think you have been wrongfully dismissed by an employer in the Kamloops area of BC, we encourage you to enforce your right to compensation.
In many cases, misunderstanding and misapplication of the laws lead to mistakes by employers. Employees are entitled to wages and other benefits as compensation.
It’s important to follow up with this as soon as possible.
Start with a confidential 30-minute telephone or video consultation with an experienced employment lawyer at Janis Taylor, who will help you assess your legal standing and advise you of your options.