The difference between Labour and Employment Law

Unionized environments fall with the area of law referred to as Labour law, while non-unionized work places are governed by Employment Law. The main difference is that a unionized environment has a statututes and collective agreements which govern the working relationship includign the rights and obligations of workers and employers.

Wrongful Dismissal

The Labour Standards Code is a statute that acts as a basic measure for protecting the rights of employees. Employers must be careful not to contravene the Code. The provisions in the Code will trump anything in an employment contract or anything the employer does that is against the Code.

Employees may be legally dismissed via two routes: just cause and reasonable notice.

Just Cause

Just cause is difficult to define and depends on the context and circumstances of an individual case.

If an employee has been willfully disobedient or has mis-conducted himself or herself in such a way that is prejudicial to the employer�s business, or in such a way that an it can be inferred that the employee no longer intends to be bound by their contract, then this will be found to be just cause.

An employee may also be dismissed for just cause if they are incompetent. Incompetence will be found if the employer established reasonable objective standards of performance, the employee failed to meet those standards, the employee had warning that he failed to meet the standards, and reasonable time was afforded to correct the situation.

An employee who is terminated for just cause does not have to be given notice of his or her dismissal in advance.

Reasonable Notice

If there is no just cause, then an appropriate amount of notice for termination must be given. The amount of notice that is appropriate depends on how long the person has been employed. This can vary from one weeks� notice for someone who has been employed for less than two years, to 24 months� notice. Notice usually has to be given in writing.

There is no hard and fast formula for calculating the appropriate amount of notice for an employee who has worked at the same place for over ten years. It appears the courts will consider a variety of factors including the type of employment, how long the employee has been employed there, the age of the employee, and how easily the employee will find other employment considering their training, qualifications, and experience. The rule of thumb approach where one month�s notice is given for every year of employment may be applicable. Twenty-four months notice is the upper end except in cases where there is bad faith.

A lawyer can give further advice about just cause and reasonable notice. For employers, a lawyer can help determine how much notice is appropriate to give a particular employee. For employees, a lawyer can help determine whether you have a case for wrongful dismissal.

While care has been taken to ensure the information contained herein is accurate, the information provided is based upon the laws of Nova Scotia and is supplied for general interest purposes only. It is not intended, nor should be considered to be specific legal advice or opinion.

Last Revised by Philip Whitehead, September 4, 2014.

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