Global pandemic impact on notice periods – First Reference Talks

As we get closer to a full year of “pandemic life”, there is increased discussion of the impact of a global pandemic on notice periods. Employees argue that if there is a downturn in the industry in which the dismissed employee is looking for work, or a broader economic slowdown, jobs will be harder to come by and notice periods should be longer. Employers assert that the economic circumstances leave them with no choice but to reduce payroll in order to survive, and they cannot bear extended severance obligations.

So what does the law say? Does a situation like we are in now serve to increase notice periods, decrease them, or have no impact? A recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in a case known as Yee v. Hudson’s Bay Company 2021 ONSC 387 suggests that it can serve to lengthen notice periods, but only if the dismissal took place during the pandemic.