Everything you need to know about terminating an employee in Quebec

Terminating an employee is one of the most stressful things business owners have to do, especially due to the risks involved. In fact, our members often reach out to us before making a final decision. Below, you will find general information which may be useful to you if you have to terminate an employee.

Important note: Certain exceptions as well as legislative and regulatory aspects may apply to your situation. Keep in mind that the rules described below are of a general nature and do not constitute legal advice.

When should I provide notice of termination?

In Quebec, employers are required to give employees written notice of termination of employment. The notice period varies based on the length of the employee’s uninterrupted service:

  • 3 months to 1 year of uninterrupted service: 1 week
  • 1 to 5 years of uninterrupted service: 2 weeks
  • 5 to 10 years of uninterrupted service: 4 weeks
  • 10 years or more of uninterrupted service: 8 weeks

Note: Specific rules apply to collective dismissals (10 or more employees).

What if I want to terminate my employee immediately?

When you terminate an employee, you may not be comfortable with them continuing to work for you for a number of weeks. In such a case, you have the option of giving them termination pay in lieu of notice. For example, instead of notifying your employee that their employment will end in 2 weeks, you can terminate their employment immediately in exchange for 2 weeks of pay. 

There are exceptions to the obligation to provide notice of termination

In certain situations, you do not have to provide notice. For example, if one of the following applies:

  • The employee has less than 3 months of uninterrupted service.
  • The employee is guilty of serious misconduct.
  • The employee is being laid off as a result of an unforeseen event (force majeure), such as a fire.
  • The employee’s fixed-term contract is ending.
  • The employee is being laid off for a period of less than 6 months.
What happens to the employee’s vacation pay?

When you terminate an employee, you must pay them for any vacation time they have earned but not taken. 

When should a record of employment (ROE) be issued?

If you issue the ROE on paper, you must give it to your employee within 5 calendar days of the first day of an interruption of earnings. 

If you issue the ROE electronically, you have up to 5 calendar days (including weekends and holidays) after the end of the pay period to do so. 

To avoid fines, you must be honest about the reason your employee was terminated, even if it affects their eligibility for employment insurance benefits. 

Different rules apply as of 2 years of uninterrupted service.

Any employee with 2 years or more of uninterrupted service has the right to file a complaint for dismissal without good and sufficient cause with the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST). In such a case, the employer will have to justify their decision and show that termination was the only way to resolve the situation. That is where progressive discipline comes into play.

What is progressive discipline?

Termination is a last resort that employees will see coming if progressive discipline is applied. This means that less serious disciplinary measures are taken before ultimately terminating the employee. 

Read our article entitled “Understanding progressive discipline” to learn more about this process.

What if my employee takes long-term sick leave?

An employee with over 3 months of service can take unpaid leave for up to 26 weeks over a period of 12 months, due to sickness, organ donation or an accident. However, the employee must notify you as soon as possible.

As an employer, you have the right to request a medical document attesting to the reasons for the absence. When the time comes, you must make sure that your employee is fit to return to work. You are also required to provide reasonable accommodations, if necessary.

Different rules apply to the termination of an employee who has taken more than 26 weeks of leave. 

The law provides remedies for employees. 

You must follow standard practice when terminating an employee. The law provides remedies for employees in various situations. Those who believe they have been wrongfully terminated can bring their case before the CNESST. 

Complaint of prohibited practice
No employer may dismiss, suspend or transfer an employee, or practise discrimination or take reprisals against an employee on the grounds that they have exercised a right provided under the Act respecting labour standards.

This type of complaint is more common when an employee is pregnant or has taken a leave of absence due to medical reasons. In such a case, the employee may file a complaint within 45 days of the sanction.

Complaint of dismissal without good and sufficient cause
An employee who has worked for your business for at least 2 years and who believes they have been dismissed without good and sufficient cause may file a complaint with the CNESST within 45 days of the dismissal.

Monetary complaint
An employee may file a complaint with the CNESST if they believe they have not received all amounts to which they are entitled. The CNESST will investigate. If it finds in favour of the employee, it can request up to 1 year of retroactive payments. The employee has 1 year from the date of the violation to file a complaint.

If you need to terminate an employee, we encourage you to contact a CFIB Business Advisor to make sure you have all your bases covered.