You are entitled to severence ... sometimes

By Charles Strachey

September 1, 2016 12:00 AM

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
Dear Shorted:
It sounds like you had some bad luck, because the vast majority of employers in Alberta treat their employees fairly.
Only around one per cent of Alberta employers have Employment Standards judgements against them.
If you have worked for between three months and two years of service, you are entitled to a minimum of one week of notice.
The amount of notice increases with the amount of time you worked for the employer.
For the complete list of minimum notice periods and exceptions to the requirement for termination notice, visit
Alberta Employment Standards has set up an easy step-by-step guide for how to get any monies owed to you.
Just click on and click Submit a Complaint.
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 six months to submit a complaint after you have been terminated.
If you have any questions or concerns, call Alberta Employment Standards Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-427-3731.
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 three 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 at:
As I mentioned earlier, most employers are ethical, but if you want to know which employers are not living up to their obligations, visit 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 at under the Education & Promotion tab.
Tool Kit for Employers
Education Programs for Employers
Video Basics—quick videos based on the Tool Kit
For help with your job search, visit your local Alberta Works Centre:
Good luck!

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Human Services.

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