Notice Period: What Is An Appropriate Notice Period?

If you have been terminated in Ontario, you have rights and entitlements upon termination. Employers must provide a notice of termination or payment in lieu of notice. The time between receipt of notice and your effective termination date is commonly referred to as your notice period.

Employers are generally required to give reasonable notice to employees that are terminated without cause. The appropriate reasonable notice period will consist of statutory minimum notice requirements or potentially common law reasonable notice.

Unless your agreement contains a valid and enforceable termination provision that explicitly limits your entitlements to your statutory notice period, you are entitled to common law reasonable notice.

Employers may generally provide reasonable notice by offering:

  1. Working notice or
  2. Pay in lieu of working notice.

The initial offer of reasonable notice you receive from your employer can likely be improved upon with the assistance of an employment lawyer.

Working Notice

Where an employer provides you with working notice, your employment will be terminated after the appropriate notice period, with nothing further owing, during which time you continue to work as usual. For a variety of reasons, working notice is unusual and instead most employees will be terminated effective immediately and given pay in lieu of notice.

During the notice period, your employer cannot alter the terms and conditions of your employment, or compensation. As a result, during the notice period, you are entitled to receive any money, benefits, or bonuses that you would have received if they hadn’t provided you with notice.

Reasonable Notice at Common Law

In 1960, the Ontario High Court of Justice set out the criteria for deciding the appropriate period of common law notice in the case of Bardal v. The Globe & Mail Ltd., 1960 CanLII 294 (ON SC) stating at paragraph. 21:

“[t]here can be no catalogue laid down as to what is reasonable notice in particular classes of cases. The reasonableness of the notice must be decided with reference to each particular case, having regard to the character of the employment, the length of service of the servant, the age of the servant and the availability of similar employment, having regard to the experience, training and qualifications of the servant.”

The important factors that will be considered are:

  • Character of employment
  • Length of service
  • The age of the employee
  • The availability of similar employment

The general rule of thumb is that an employee is entitled to receive between three months of notice and up to 24 months’ common law notice or severance depending on several factors as mentioned above.In exceptional circumstances, Courts may award notice periods in excess of 24 months.

Monkhouse Law provides a free Severance Pay Calculator so you can get an estimate as to how much common law reasonable notice you may be entitled to.  

For more information, please review Common Law Notice on Employment Termination.

Statutory Minimum Notice

The Employment Standards Act (the “ESA”) outlines the minimum reasonable notice periods that all workers are entitled to. This calculation is based on the amount of time the employee has been employed. Often employees may be entitled to more than the statutory minimum notice depending on their particular circumstances.

Length of Notice ESA Notice Required
Less than 3 months None
3 months to 1 year 1 week
1 year to 2 years 2 weeks
3 years  3 weeks
4 years  4 weeks
5 years  5 weeks
6 years  6 weeks
7 years 7 weeks
8 years or more 8 weeks

Termination for Just Cause or Willful Misconduct

Termination for cause is the exception to the rule, your employer is not obligated to provide you with any notice of termination if you have engaged in willful misconduct, disobedience or willful neglect of duty that is not trivial and has not been condoned by the employer. If you have been terminated for cause it is important that you immediately consult a lawyer.

For more information, please review Termination for Just Cause: The End of Employment

This article was originally published in Law 360 Canada on December 8, 2023.

Monkhouse Law is an employment law firm located in Toronto focusing on workers’ issues. Give us a call at 416-907-9249 or fill out this quick form. We offer a free 30-minute phone consultation.

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