Definitions - Termination, Dismissal and Suspension - what's the difference?

First, it is important to distinguish between the concepts of termination, dismissal and suspension to avoid confusion regarding subsequent procedures and remedies.

a) Termination= Unilateral and definitive decision by an employer for various (non-exhaustive) reasons to terminate the employment relationship:

It is important to note that termination can occur as a result of a single serious breach (i.e. stealing money from the cash register), or a number of repetitive breaches (i.e. frequently arriving late for work).

Termination means that the employer still requires an individual to fulfill the tasks of the person dismissed, but that the former employee is no longer required within the organization.

Please see the section Termination for more information.

b) Dismissal= Definitive termination of the contractual relationship for reasons related to the internal or economic situation of the company, which may include:

  • Decline in business;
  • Restructuration;
  • Bankruptcy; and
  • Loss of contracts.

Dismissal means that an employer, despite his/her satisfaction of his/her employees, no longer need their services and is now unable to meet his/her contractual obligations owed to them.

In order to qualify the dismissal of employees as a collective dismissal, the employees concerned must belong to a group which:

1) Consists of at least ten (10) employees of the same establishment;

2) Are on sick leave or has been laid off for at least six (6) months; and

3) Each dismissed within two (2) consecutive months.

c) Suspension= Temporary suspension of the employment contract. The employee can be recalled at any time, depending on the economic situation of the company. It is important to mention that during a layoff, an employee retains his status as an employee and his contractual relationship with the employer is preserved.

Layoff is often resorted to in production centers, when production is slowed down due to a decline in customer demand, for an indefinite period of time. It is also the preferred legal apparatus in the context of seasonal jobs.

According to section 82 of the Act respecting labor standards, an employee must receive a notice to that effect if the layoff is intended to last for a period of six (6) months or more.

The notice:

The layoff notice must be given within a period which will vary according to the duration of the employee’s continuous service:

Fact Pattern

Question: Max has been working in a factory for seven (7) years. He was laid off four (4) months ago. Today, he received a letter from his employer in the mail advising him that his employment contract will end in four (4) weeks.

Is this notice legal?

Answer: No, a layoff notice which is given while the employee is already off work is void and of no effect. Based on the table above, the employer must pay him a compensatory indemnity equal to four (4) weeks of work.

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The above noted text should not be construed as providing legal advice or a statement of your claim. The process highlighted above are merely parameters and barometers and do not constitute any warranties and guaranties with regards to your file at hand. We strongly recommend that you seek legal advice with a licensed attorney from the Barreau du Quebec or a notary at the Chambre des Notaires. Each case must be seen and analysed on its merits as the legal process may be complex and cumbersome.