Employment Standards for Termination

The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.

This topic will discuss the termination of employment under the Alberta Employment Standards Code and its Regulations (the “ESC”). Most employers and employees in Alberta have their employment relationship regulated by the ESC.  The ESC provides minimum standards. Depending on your employment contract, you may be entitled to more than the minimum standards. 

Your employer typically has the right to terminate your employment. If your employment was terminated for “without cause”, then your employer is usually required to provide you advanced notice of your termination or pay in lieu of notice.  The amount of notice or pay in lieu of notice is determined by your length of service. Your employer is required to pay any wages, accrued vacation and termination pay within 3 days after your last day of employment and your employer cannot require you to sign a release to obtain your employment standards entitlements.

When you are terminated from your job, you must receive at least:

  • 1 week of notice, if you have worked more than 90 days but less than 2 years;
  • 2 weeks’ notice, if you have worked between 2 and 4 years;
  • 4 weeks’ notice, if you have worked between 4 and 6 years;
  • 5 weeks’ notice, if you have worked between 6 and 8 years;
  • 6 weeks’ notice, if you have worked between 8 and 10 years; and
  • 8 weeks’ notice, if you have worked 10 years or more.

If you have worked for 90 days or less, you are not entitled to any notice.

For example, if you have worked for the same employer for 3 years, your employer may give you 2 weeks’ notice and you would work the 2 weeks, or the employer may ask you to leave immediately and pay you for the 2 weeks instead. In a situation where a new business owner takes over, the employment period is considered to continue.

Contact Employment Standards at 1-877-427-3731 number if you did not receive the proper notice or pay in lieu of notice.

In some situations, employers may not have the right to terminate your employment.  The Employment Standards Code provides job protection to employees while they are take certain unpaid leaves, including: maternity and parental, reservist, compassionate care, death or disappearance of child, critical illness of child, long term illness and injury, domestic violence, personal and family responsibility and bereavement.  More information on these job protected leaves of absence can be found: https://www.alberta.ca/job-protected-leaves-directive.aspx.

Some employees are not entitled to a notice period before their last day of work. For example, notice is not required where the employment is offered on a seasonal basis and the season ends, or if you are employed in a construction trade.  If your employment is terminated for ‘just cause’, the employer does not have to give you notice. Just cause is when your employment is terminated because of serious misconduct, incompetence or disobedience. If you think that you were terminated unfairly you may want to consult with a lawyer or contact Employment Standards at 1-877-427-3731. If your employment is terminated without notice, you must be paid all your wages and other amounts owing from your employer within 10 days of your last day of work.

If you are temporarily laid off, it is possible that you are not entitled to a notice period. Your employer must recall you to work before or on the 60th consecutive day of a temporary layoff. (Note that due to COVID-19, the Alberta government has temporarily extended the maximum time for temporary layoffs to 120 days). If you receive written notice that you are recalled to work, then you must return to work within 7 days after you receive the notice. If you do not return to work, the employer may terminate your employment without further notice or termination pay. If your employer does not recall you to work, the employer must pay you termination pay according to the notice period. Your employer may terminate you anytime during the temporary layoff but would be required to provide you pay in lieu of notice.

As an employee, you are required to provide notice if you intend to quit. Employment Standards provides the following notice periods for when you quit your job:

  • 1 week if you have worked for 90 days or more but less than 2 years; or
  • 2 weeks if you worked more than 2 years.

You do not have to provide any notice if you worked for less than 90 days.

If you give your employer the required written notice, your employer must pay your wages and any other amounts owing within 3 days of your last day of employment. If you do not provide the necessary notice, your employer must pay you within 10 days after the date on which the notice should have been given. For example, if you worked for your employer for 1 year and you quit your job on January 1 without giving the proper written notice, your employer does not have to pay you until 24 days have gone by. The 24 days includes the required 14-day notice plus the 10 days the employer is required to pay without notice.

For more information, call Employment Standards using the province-wide toll-free number 1-877-427-3731 or visit the Government of Alberta website at www.work.alberta.ca/employment-standards.html.

Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.