ROLE OF THE MINISTRY OF LABOUR

The Ministry of Labour provides various services. One of these services includes advising people by phone when they call to inquire about their termination/severance entitlements. The Ministry states on its website that questions about rights and responsibilities are often complex and recommend that people call them with questions (see caption below from their website):

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The Ministry of Labour website contains a toll-free number, as well as a local 416 number for Toronto, directing people where to call. See caption below from their website:

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When people call the Ministry of Labour and ask about their severance, they are advised about their ESA entitlements, but they are not advised that the ESA provides for minimum entitlements only. They are not advised that they may have common law severance entitlements which may be significantly higher than their minimum ESA entitlements. Often the difference between minimum ESA entitlements and common law entitlements are in the tens of thousands of dollars, and possibly much more!

The Ministry actually states this on its website, but they state it at the bottom of the web pages which discuss termination and severance entitlements (see direct links below to the Ministry’s website – scroll all the way down to the bottom):

http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/guide/severance.php
http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/guide/termination.php
http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/tools/esworkbook/termsev.php

Here is a caption of exactly what the Ministry has on its website, at the bottom of some of the pages which discuss termination and severance:

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So the Ministry is well aware of these greater common law entitlements, but they only state this at the bottom of some of their web pages, where people are least likely to read it. Unfortunately, when people call the Ministry for advice about termination, they are not informed about these greater entitlements at all. The Ministry does not tell callers that they are only being advised about their minimum entitlements under the ESA. They don’t tell callers about any greater rights under the common law. The Ministry does not even advise callers that they may wish to obtain legal advice in order to fully explore and understand their severance entitlements beyond the ESA. Essentially, the Ministry provides incomplete information to callers by not letting them know that the ESA is just one part of the severance/termination equation and that people could be (and often are) entitled to more than the minimums prescribed by the ESA.

As a result, people often accept inadequate severance packages because they are unaware that the ESA provides them with only the minimum severance entitlements and that the common law is there as well to protect them. They rely on incorrect advice provided by the Ministry of Labour when they call the Ministry’s inquiry services.

Similarly, many employers offer their employees inadequate severance packages for the same reason, after having called the Ministry of Labour and after having received the wrong advice. Some of these employers are then sued for wrongful dismissal and end up having to pay their employees’ common law entitlements, as well as lawyers’ fees – when they never meant to avoid their legal obligations in the first place!