Employment Law

Mass Layoffs in British Columbia: Rights to Severance


What Is a Mass Layoff?

A mass layoff, or group termination, in B.C. refers to a situation where 50 or more employees are fired from the same workplace within a four-week period.

In such cases, the Employment Standards Act (ESA) requires employers to pay higher minimum severance entitlements compared to a regular termination. However, non-unionized employees who lose their job in a mass layoff are still owed a complete Ontario severance package, which can be as much as 24 months’ pay.

Severance packages in mass layoffs
Layoffs in Canada

How much severance pay am I entitled to if I’m let go during a mass layoff in B.C.?

Under common law, employees and senior executives in Canada are owed full severance pay when they lose their jobs due to downsizing or corporate restructuring.

Severance in B.C. can be as much as 24 months’ pay. The amount of compensation you are owed is calculated using a number of factors, including:

  • Age
  • Length of service
  • Position
  • Ability to find new work

Our firm’s Severance Pay Calculator can help you figure out how much you are owed. If it falls short of what is appropriate, you have been wrongfully dismissed and should file a claim for compensation.

Severance pay for provincially regulated employees
Severance for federally regulated employees

How much working notice should I receive if I’m let go during a mass layoff in B.C.?

The amount of working notice that employers in B.C. must provide before a mass layoff depends on the number of workers being let go:

  • If 50 to 100 employees are being laid off, the company owes affected staff at least eight weeks of working notice.
  • If 101 to 300 employees are being laid off, the company owes affected staff at least 12 weeks of working notice.
  • If more than 301 employees are being laid off, the company owes affected staff 16 weeks of working notice.

WATCH: Employment lawyer Lior Samfiru breaks down everything you need to know about working notice on an episode of the Employment Law Show.

How does working notice affect my severance pay?

Working notice reduces the amount of severance pay non-unionized employees in B.C. are owed after they are fired or laid off.

However, most employers prefer to provide severance pay and end their relationship with an individual immediately, rather than provide working notice.

If my employer is struggling financially, does that affect my severance pay?

Employers in B.C. can’t reduce your severance entitlements — even if they are navigating financial hardship.

  • Example: West Fraser announces that it’s grappling with slower revenue growth due to a drop in lumber prices. The company decides to lay off 52 non-unionized workers at its Williams Lake sawmill in a bid to reduce costs. Regardless of the financial challenges that West Fraser is facing, it still has to provide affected staff with the severance pay they are entitled to.

Severance packages help you bridge the gap between jobs. If the gap is expected to be longer than usual, your compensation must reflect this.

During tough economic conditions, you could be owed more severance pay since it’s going to be harder for you to find new employment.

• Severance Pay in a Recession
West Fraser cutting 147 jobs, reducing production and B.C. mill shifts

Don’t accept a severance offer until you speak with an employment lawyer

While a mass layoff can be overwhelming, it’s important to remember that the ESA only contains your minimum severance entitlements if you are let go.

If you receive a severance offer from your employer, take your time and carefully review it. Companies in B.C. can’t legally force you to accept it before you leave a meeting or by a particular date.

Offers can sometimes include:

  • A termination clause that tries to limit the amount of severance pay you can receive
  • Non-compete clauses that prevent you from finding work elsewhere in your industry following a mass layoff

As long as you don’t sign the offer from your employer, you have two years from the date of your layoff to pursue full severance pay.

• I already accepted a severance package, what should I do?

Before accepting any offer, have an experienced B.C. employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP review the agreement to ensure you are receiving the compensation you are owed.

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