What Is Involuntary Termination? (And How to Find a New Job)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 18, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Employers can terminate employment relationships with individuals by providing them with written notice. Employees can consider this event to be involuntary because they're not resigning or leaving the company deliberately. Learning more about involuntary termination can help you understand the process and what to do next. In this article, we discuss what it is, explain how an employer can dismiss you without your consent, and list the various steps you can follow to get a job after a forced termination.

Related: What to Do if You're Fired and Skills for Getting a New Job

What is involuntary termination?

Involuntary termination refers to any situation in which an employer terminates an individual's employment with or without cause. It's not necessary for employers to provide a reason for terminating an employee, but it's mandatory to provide a notice of termination. This is a warning that communicates to the individual that their employment ends on a specific date. The period between the last day of employment and the day the employee received a notice of termination is the notice period.

Employees may receive a termination payment from the employer for loss of employment and income over the notice period. The Canada Labour Code establishes the steps an employer may follow to finish an employee's contract. Sometimes, a company can end a relationship with an employee without providing any notice when it has proven reasons to proceed. This can happen if the employee has violated the company's code of conduct or engaged in any other type of misconduct established by the law. An involuntary end of employment might entitle an employee to economic benefits related to their pension plan.

Related: What Is Wrongful Termination? (Definition and Examples)

How an employer can dismiss an employee without consent

Here are the ways employers can terminate a professional's employment involuntarily:

Laying off the employee

The law considers a layoff a termination of employment only if the company cannot recall an employee to work or decides not to recall them. If the company recalls the employee to work and they don't return to their position, it's not mandatory for the employer to pay severance. This is a payment an employee receives when they get fired. If the employer doesn't recall the employee and doesn't provide notice of termination, it's necessary for the company to provide pay in lieu of notice, also known as termination pay.

Termination pay is the amount of money the employer pays when the employee works during the notice period. The law doesn't consider a layoff as a termination if it results from a strike or lockout or if the layoff period is less than a year. A strike is a collective action organized by an organization's employees, where they refuse to work until the employer agrees to certain demands. A lockout is an action where the employer refuses to allow the employees to work because they're solving a labour dispute.

Read more: What Does Laid off Mean? Definition and How to Handle Layoffs

Firing an employee

An employer can fire an employee with or without cause. Some reasons an employer might fire an employee include misconduct and incompetence by the individual. They can justify an employee's misconduct by stating that the employee violated a company policy or the law. Also, they can justify an employee's incompetence by stating that the employee didn't perform their job properly. It's important to consider that employers cannot force you to resign or retire. After getting fired, if the employee has been working for the organization for less than one year, the individual cannot file a complaint.

If the employee has been working for the same company for a year or more, they're not a manager, and a collective agreement doesn't cover them, they can file a complaint. Here, if they have proof to proceed, they can allege unjust dismissal at a labour office. Employers can also incur constructive dismissal, which is a form of terminating an employee without cause. This occurs when the employer doesn't satisfy a contract of employment or if they change the terms of employment unilaterally. After receiving the complaint, the labour office can assign an inspector to mediate between the two parties.

Related: What Is the Difference Between Terminated vs. Laid Off?

Ending employment in group termination

A group termination of employment occurs when an organization fires 50 or more employees working at the same industrial building within four weeks. To do this, it's mandatory for federally regulated employers to provide notice to the federal government at least 16 weeks before proceeding with the terminations. Here, the government requires employers to establish a joint committee, which includes representatives from the employer, both unionized and non-unionized employees, and the federal government. It's also necessary for the employer to provide a list of benefits to the affected employees and give a notice of termination to each individual.

It's necessary for employers to include in their communication to the government their types of business, location, number of affected employees, date of termination, and the reasons for this measure. Employees included in the list might receive vacation pay, termination pay, outstanding wages, and severance pay if they've been working for the company for at least a year. If you're a unionized employee, you may also follow the guidelines set forth by the union.

Related: Do You Have to Give 2 Weeks' Notice as a Professional?

Refusing to renew a contract

Sometimes employers can finish an employment relationship with an individual by refusing to renew the contract. Here, it's not necessary for employers to provide you with a reason for refusing to renew your contract, as this situation occurs when the contract expires. This can happen if you're an athlete working for a sports team, a temporary employee working for a company, a freelancer working for a client, or an artist working for an entertainment company.

Employers frequently do this if they think the previous contract didn't meet the results they were expecting, they found another contractor to do the work, or they're reducing their budget. To avoid this, freelancers usually work with more than one client and set up a contract with each one.

Related: How to Write a Contract Termination Letter (With Template)

How to find a new job after an involuntary termination

Here are some steps you can take to find a job after an involuntary discharge:

1. Look for job positions

The first step to finding a job after getting fired is to look for job postings and read the descriptions. This information can help you assess what the employers are looking for in a candidate and compare it to your skills and experience. Use this information to evaluate if you have the education needed for the types of jobs you're pursuing. Here, you may decide if it's necessary to take a course, earn a certification, or get a degree. It's also beneficial to see who among your contacts might be working in those organizations.

Related: What It Means to Be Laid Off vs. Fired and What to Do Next

2. Update your resume

Next, update your resume by adding the skills and experience you gained from your previous position. You can also include all the courses and certificates you earned during your time at the company. It's beneficial to tailor your resume to fit each company's needs, philosophy, and culture. Make sure to include your current contact information, including an e-mail address that's different from your previous job. You can also talk with your former coworkers and include a list of references, as this might communicate to the hiring manager that you're an employee with good teamwork skills.

Read more: 10 Steps on How to Update a Resume (Benefits and Tips)

3. Write a cover letter

When writing your cover letter, make sure to explain why you want to work for the company and how your experience in your previous role qualifies you to succeed in the position. Use this document to highlight your accomplishments and describe how you can add value to your potential new employer. It's crucial to emphasize the skills gained in your previous role, as these are usually valuable abilities that employees can transfer to their new position. Avoid making any reference here to your past termination of employment, as this is a subject you can discuss during a job interview.

Related: How to Write the Best Cover Letter (Template and Example)

4. Prepare an answer

It's crucial for you to prepare an answer about why your previous employer ended your employment, as this is a question a hiring manager might ask you during a job interview. If your termination was because of poor performance or because you disregarded the company's code of conduct, be honest and explain what you did wrong. This might show your honesty and help the hiring manager understand the decision your previous employer made.

If the employer laid you off because of financial reasons, relocation, or a lack of work, you can also discuss these reasons and show your understanding. If you finish your employment relationship on good terms, you can highlight this to show your will to reach agreements with your employers.

Legal requirements discussed in this article, outlined in Canada Labour Code, are accurate as of August 2022. Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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