Navigating Severance: Your Essential Guide to Employment Rights

A photo of a lawyer at West Legal in Calgary, Alberta reviewing a severance package for an employee

Top 5 Reasons to get a Severance Package Reviewed by an Employment Lawyer

1. Did the company only offer the minimum termination pay under the Employment Standards Code?

Most employees are owed common law notice rather than just the minimum legislated amounts under the Employment Standards Code. This is assessed by looking at a variety of factors such as length of service, age, title, etc. Even if your employer indicates that under the Code they are offering an extra week or month, it is worth your while to have your severance package reviewed with a lawyer because common law notice provisions (judge-made cases) can be significantly more than the minimum amounts under the Code.

2. Is the company asking you to sign a release?

If you are asked to sign a release to receive your termination pay or severance pay, it is important to speak to a lawyer. If you sign a Release, you typically cannot return later and sue the company for anything related to your employment. You need to understand what you are signing and if what they are offering you, in terms of compensation, is fair. Also, if you are still owed bonus or outstanding commissions and statutory amounts, you must ensure those are contemplated and agreed upon before signing any release.

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3. If it seems low to you, or too good to be true, get it reviewed!

A really low offer and conversely, what you seem to consider a generous offer are both red flags to most experienced employment lawyers. Most often packages have not quantified all the damages and compensation that an employee is entitled to, and as such, without consulting with an employment lawyer, you will never know if you left any forms of compensation on the table. Benefits, pensions, RRSP contributions, and expenses are still on the table!

A photo of a lawyer at West Legal in Calgary, Alberta reviewing a severance package for an employee

4. Are there any allegations of human rights violations or discrimination by the company?

If there has been any discriminatory conduct on the part of the company or its personnel either prior to or during the termination, you may have an argument to increase the severance offer or file a complaint to the Human Rights Commission of Alberta potentially. A severance review lawyer will know how to leverage the discriminatory conduct on the part of the employer to increase your compensation.

5. For your own sanity and to know whether you have been treated fairly by the employer.

Being terminated is stressful for everyone. By seeking sound legal advice from an employment lawyer, you will be reducing the stress of knowing if the employer has treated you fairly or not. I like to think that I bring calm to chaos for my clients. Don’t just accept the first offer, and make sure that you are confident that the employer has presented a fair offer to you and your family during these stressful times. You can even request that the company pay for the severance review.

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