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Working Wise: Employment Standards For Employers

Dear Working Wise,

I was recently let go and my former employer is refusing to pay me severance pay. He paid me for the time I worked, but that’s it. I’m now unemployed and having a hard time paying my bills. I could really use that money to help carry me until a find a new job. How can I force him to pay?
Signed, Shorted

August 24, 2016

Dear Shorted,

It sounds like you had some bad luck, because the vast majority of employers in Alberta treat their employees fairly. Only around 1% of Alberta employers have Employment Standards judgements against them.

If you have worked for between 3 months and 2 years of service, you are entitled to a minimum of 1 week of notice. The amount of notice increases with the amount of time that you have worked for the employer. For the complete list of minimum notice periods and exceptions to the requirement for termination notice, visit the Alberta Employment Standards website.

Alberta Employment Standards has set up an easy step-by-step guide for how to get any monies owed to you. Just click on the Complaints link on the Alberta Employment Standards website.

The automated system can help you generate a Request for Payment Letter to send directly to your former employer. If that doesn’t work, you can file a formal complaint with Alberta Employment Standards.

Don’t wait too long, because you only have 6 months to submit a complaint after you have been terminated.

If you have any questions or concerns, call the Alberta Employment Standards Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-427-3731 (780-427-3731 in Edmonton).

Most employers in Alberta are required to give termination notice, or pay in lieu of notice, when they terminate their staff.

Common exceptions to this rule include when the employee

  • Was terminated for just cause
  • Worked for less than 3 months
  • Was employed for a defined term or task
  • Refused reasonable alternate work
  • Was hired as a seasonal worker
  • Was employed in the construction industry

The rules can also differ for employees of federally regulated businesses, e.g., banks, national transportation companies, broadcasters, etc. A list of these industries is available on the Government of Canada's website.

As I mentioned earlier, most employers are ethical, but if you want to know which employers are not living up to their obligations, visit the Unsatisfied judgments page on the Alberta Standards website and search for any employers that you are considering working for before you accept the job offer.

The Alberta government makes it easy for employers to learn about their rights and responsibilities under Alberta’s Employment Standards legislation. The following resources are available under the Resources, and Alberta Employment Standards website:

  • Tool Kit for Employers
  • Employer Workshops and Webinars
  • Video Basics – quick videos based on the Tool Kit

For help with your job search, visit your nearest Alberta Works/Alberta Supports Centre.

Good luck!

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto/Wavebreakmedia

Working Wise is a syndicated newspaper column prepared by the Government of Alberta to answer work-related questions from Albertans. Do you have a work-related question? You can send it to Charles Strachey (charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca), a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services.

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