I have to downsize my workforce and lay off some employees because business is down and need to stay profitable. What am I required to pay in severance?

First, check if you have a letter or contract of employment for each individual you are laying off.  Typically these will set out the terms of ending the employment contract that you should follow closely.

In the absence of a letter/written employment contract, the law implies you observe a term of reasonable notice. You have the choice of providing advance working notice or paying out the equivalent compensation (known as “severance pay”). 

Reasonable notice is defined in common law and considers the length of employment, position held, salary, age and perhaps other relevant factors.

Most BC employers are governed by the Employment Standards Act, and must provide a minimum  amount of notice or pay in lieu of notice. In B.C. the Employment Standards Act requires reasonable notice be provided to employees upon termination without cause. Reasonable Notice requires employers to provide to employees  a minimum of one week’s notice after three months of employment, two-week’s notice after twelve months of consecutive employment, and after 3 years of consecutive employment, one week of notice per full year of service up to a maximum of eight weeks. 

Weekly severance pay for employees under the Employment Standards Act, is calculated by considering the employee’s total average wages (excluding any overtime hours worked and any periods of a temporarily reduced schedule such as due to illness or change in schedule) over a period of eight weeks and divided by eight to get an average. As severance pay is specific to each employee and the circumstances of employment, it is important to obtain legal advice when considering reasonable notice and payment of severance. 

If you have any concerns or questions, do call on us to assist you.

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