Do Seasonal Workers Get Severance Pay When They Are Terminated?

Seasonal Worker Severance Pay Eligibility in Ontario

Seasonal work is a common employment arrangement in Ontario, catering to industries that experience fluctuations in demand throughout the year. While these positions offer flexibility, they also raise important questions about seasonal workers’ rights in Ontario, particularly concerning severance pay. As a seasonal worker in Ontario, understanding your eligibility for severance pay is crucial, as it can have a significant impact on your financial security.

In this article, we delve into the specifics of severance pay for seasonal workers in Ontario, shedding light on your rights and what you need to know to navigate this aspect of employment law effectively.

What Is a Seasonal Worker in Ontario?

A seasonal worker is an employee who is hired for specific, annual periods typically lasting less than 12 months, often referred to as “seasons.” These periods of employment are followed by what is known as the “off-season.” Seasonal workers are usually rehired by the same employer on an annual basis to perform similar job duties, typically during the same time of year and for a consistent duration.

It is important to note that employers have the authority to terminate seasonal workers without cause, similar to any other employee. In such cases, questions may arise regarding the entitlement to severance pay. If you find yourself in this situation, you may be wondering about the amount of severance pay you are entitled to, and what steps to take when you are terminated.

What is Severance Pay?

Severance pay refers generally to an employee’s legal entitlements when they are terminated without cause. It can include entitlements under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the common law.

The ESA outlines what an employer owes most employees upon termination. This can include statutory termination pay of up to 8 weeks and statutory severance pay of up to 26 weeks if an employee qualifies for it.

If there is no enforceable termination clause in an employee’s employment agreement, the employer may owe the terminated employee common law reasonable notice. A court would consider the employee’s unique factors and circumstances to determine how much common law notice or pay in lieu of that notice an employer owes the employee. Awards for common law severance include minimum ESA entitlements and can get as high as 26 months in total.

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When are Seasonal Workers Entitled to Severance Pay?

Like other employees, if your employer terminates your seasonal employment at any time without cause, they owe you severance pay. How an employer can terminate a seasonal employee is not too different from a non-seasonal employee.

The termination can be formal and in writing, explicitly firing you from your seasonal role. A seasonal worker’s termination can result from circumstances including but not limit to:

  • layoff during the seasonal work period exceeding 13 weeks in any consecutive 20-week period;
  • constructive dismissal based on changes to your changes to your position duties, hours or other terms of your seasonal employment without your consent, or because of workplace bullying and harassment; or
  • the employer exercising their right not to recall the seasonal employee for the next seasonal work period, bringing the employment relationship with that employer to an end.

However, just because you are entitle to severance pay does not mean it is calculate the same way as non-seasonal employees. Employers usually owe seasonal employees less severance pay in total than non-seasonal employees for reasons explain below.

Calculating Severance Pay for Seasonal Workers?

Under the ESA, seasonal workers are consider employees for a define term and therefore not entitled to statutory termination pay. However, there are scenarios where this exception may not apply to seasonal employees depending entirely on their unique circumstances.

Employers still owe seasonal workers statutory severance pay if the employee has work a total of at least 5 years for a specific employer, and the employer’s global employee payroll is at least $2.5 million annually. Employers must pay qualifying seasonal workers 1 week in regular wages per year of service up to a maximum 26 weeks for statutory severance pay.

Every year that an employee returns to a seasonal role for an employer, their period of seasonal work counts towards qualifying them for and calculating their statutory severance pay.

For example, if you perform a recurring seasonal job for 6 months over 10 years. But,  you would have work for that employer for a total of 60 months or 5 years. If your employer has a global employee payroll of $2.5 million annually and terminates you in this scenario, you are entitled to 5 weeks’ statutory severance pay.

Reasonable Notice Period

In Ontario, seasonal workers are less frequently entitled to common law reasonable notice. When courts do award seasonal employees common law notice, it is for lower amounts than non-seasonal employees with other factors like employee age, compensation and job title being similar.>

For example, a seasonal worker who was recall to a position for 15 years could likewise get 6 months of reasonable notice representing the season’s worth of pay they lost due to their termination. In contrast, a non-seasonal worker working indefinitely for an employer for 15 years would be award 15 months of common law notice with other similar factors.

After reading all this, you might be more concerned about what you should do if you are terminated from your seasonal job. Should you sign whatever your employer present you and move on? When should you talk to a lawyer, if ever? The step-by-step guide below should give you some clarity and peace of mind.

What Steps to Take When You’re Terminated from a Seasonal Job

Terminations can be stressful. Meanwhile,  you should always do everything you can to organize and inform yourself about your seasonal worker right and legal entitlements.

If your employer terminated you from your seasonal position, you should:

  • Politely refuse to sign any documents your employer provides you until you seek legal advice.
  • Gather and organize all your documents, including any Records of Employment, Tax Statements, Pay Stubs and Employment Contracts.
  • Consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to find out what severance you’re entitle to and what the best next steps are.
  • Retain a lawyer to help you negotiate or sue for your severance pay.

You should not assume you’re entitle to nothing – every case turns on its own facts. Seeking legal counsel from an experienced employment lawyer is essential for tailored advice and effective severance pay negotiations.


In Ontario, employers are obligated to provide employees with their minimum ESA entitlements and potentially common law notice when terminating their employment, including seasonal workers. However, it’s important to note that seasonal employees often receive lower total severance pay compared to non-seasonal employees.

If you find yourself being terminated, it’s advisable not to hastily sign any documents provided by your employer and to get organized. Seeking legal counsel is crucial to ascertain the most appropriate course of action. Our experienced employment and litigation lawyers at Achkar Law specialize in seasonal worker rights in Ontario and can offer you the guidance necessary to secure the severance pay you rightfully deserve.

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Contact Achkar Law

Whether you are an employer or a seasonal employee needing assistance with a termination without cause and wrongful dismissal. Our team of experience employment lawyers at Achkar Law can help.

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected].