Is At-Will Employment Legal in BC?

Employment Law | May 11, 2023

When it comes to understanding employment law, it is essential for both employers and employees to be aware of their rights and responsibilities. One common question that arises is, “Is at-will employment legal in BC?” At-will employment, a concept more commonly found in the United States, refers to the idea that an employer can terminate an employee’s contract at any time without cause or notice. To help you better understand the legal landscape of at-will employment in British Columbia and how it differs from other regions in Canada, the experts from Linley Welwood have put together some information to help guide you through these complex legal matters.

At-Will Employment vs. Employment Standards in BC

At-will employment is not a recognized legal concept in British Columbia, as the province’s employment laws are governed by the Employment Standards Act (ESA).

This legislation outlines the minimum standards for wages, hours of work, vacation, and termination of employment, among other things. Unlike at-will employment, the ESA requires employers to provide employees with a notice or pay in lieu of notice when terminating their employment without cause.

At-will employment in other countries stands for legislation that allows employers to fire employees at will, provided that the reason for the firing is not illegal. This makes it easier for employers to fire people.

Find out what is not covered by the Employment Standards Act.

Notice Periods

Under the Employment Standards Act, the notice period required for termination without cause varies depending on the length of an employee’s service. The minimum notice periods are as follows:

  • After 3 months of employment: 1 weeks’ notice or pay in lieu of notice
  • After 12 months of employment: 2 weeks’ notice or pay in lieu of notice
  • After 3 years of employment: 3 weeks’ notice or pay in lieu of notice with an additional week for each additional year of service, up to a maximum of 8 weeks.

If you have any questions about ESA or your rights, it is best to consult a lawyer to go over your employment contract.

Severance Pay

In some cases, employees may also be entitled to severance pay, which is separate from the notice period requirements. Severance pay is typically awarded in cases where the employee has been employed for at least five years and the employer has a payroll of $2.5 million or more, or if the employer has terminated 50 or more employees within a two-month period.

Find out when severance pay is required.

Exceptions and Just Cause Termination

There are certain exceptions to the notice and severance pay requirements under the ESA. Employers may terminate an employee without notice or pay in lieu of notice if they can establish just cause. Just cause includes reasons such as theft, fraud, insubordination, or willful misconduct; however, the burden of proof is on the employer to establish just cause, and it can be challenging to do so without proper documentation or evidence.

If you need an employment lawyer, you can always schedule a consultation at Linley Welwood or fill out the website form. We will respond promptly.

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