In employment law, notice of termination refers to the advanced notice that employees are entitled to before the employer terminates the employment relationship. There are three main bases for notice of termination:
- common law reasonable notice
- statutory minimum notice
- contractual notice
Common law notice
The “Common law” refers to the rules or standards developed by judges in the past deciding cases, which develop into enforceable obligations based on legal precedent. The common law is a source of a rule’s authority that is distinct from legislation.
The common law creates an implied term in employment contracts that employees are entitled to “reasonable notice” of termination. The length of notice depends principally on:
- the worker’s age
- the amount of time they worked for the company,
- the character of their employment or their position, and
- theoretically, any other factor under the sun that a judge decides should affect the length of notice
Roughly speaking, older, longer-serving and more senior employees will be entitled to a longer notice period than younger, shorter-serving and less senior employees.
Statutory notice refers to the minimum notice of termination (or pay in lieu) that an employer must give to end an employment relationship. Statutory notice periods are usually significantly shorter than common law reasonable notice.
In Alberta, the Employment Standards Code set the minimum required notice.
Parties can contract out of the common law of reasonable notice using a termination clause. For example, a clause might provide an alternative formula for notice, such as x weeks per year of service, to a certain maximum. A termination clauses may be enforceable, if it provides for at least the statutory minimums.