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Federal employee rights when fired

Region: Ontario Answer # 605

If you work for a company that is regulated by federal law, such as an airline, bank, or transportation company, you are not covered by the same laws as most other employees. Instead, you are generally covered by the Canada Labour Code. The Code sets out three main rights for most employees who lose their job without a good legal reason. First, they have the right to be given notice; second, they have the right to severance pay; and third, they have the right to be paid money owing in a timely manner.

Notice requirements under the Canada Labour Code

If you have worked for at least three months, you are usually entitled to receive two weeks’ notice if the employer fires you without a good legal reason. A good legal reason normally means wilful misconduct or neglect of duty by the employee. However, if your employer wants you to leave right away, you have the right to receive two weeks’ pay instead of notice.

Severance pay eligibility

To be eligible for severance pay generally depends on how long you have been employed and if you were fired without a good legal reason. To qualify for severance pay, a federal employee must have been employed for at least 12 consecutive months. Unless the dismissal is for just cause, you have the right to:

  • Two days pay at your regular wage rate for regular hours of work, for each complete year of employment. The minimum severance pay benefit is the equivalent to five days of wages.

Employer required to pay within 30 days of termination

Under the Canada Labour Code, if your employer owes you wages, you have the right to receive full payment of all money owed within 30 days of the termination of your employment. Wages include:

  • regular wages,
  • bonuses,
  • pay instead of notice,
  • severance pay,
  • vacation pay,
  • overtime pay, and so on.

Group termination

Group termination occurs when 50 or more employees are fired from the same place of work, at the same time or within any four-week consecutive period. Notice of the termination must be given to the employees at least 16 weeks before the termination begins, and notice must also be given to the Federal Minister of Labour.

Employees who are subject to group termination must also be given, no later than two weeks before the date of termination of employment, a statement detailing vacation benefits, wages, severance pay and any other pay or benefits owed to the employee.

Unjust dismissal

Under the Canada Labour Code, employees (except for managers), who have worked for at least 12 continuous months with the same employer and who are not covered by a collective agreement, can make a complaint if they have been dismissed and consider the dismissal unjust. Complaints must be made to the Labour Program within 90 days from the date of dismissal.

Unjust dismissal generally refers to situations where the employee believes that there was no legal or valid reason to fire them and they were not given reasonable notice or compensation when they were fired.

Unjust dismissal may also include cases of “constructive dismissal” where the employer:

  • has not directly fired an employee, but has failed to comply with a material term of the employment contract,
  • has unilaterally and substantially changed the terms of employment (which usually means changing the employees’ duties significantly), or
  • has expressed an intention to do either or both of these.


Get help

For additional information a federal employee’s rights upon termination under the Canada Labour Code, including lay-offs, group terminations and for unjust dismissal, view the Government of Canada’s labour standards for federal workers. For legal help and assistance, contact an employment lawyer.

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