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Navigating the complexities of employment compensation can be challenging, especially when it comes to understanding the differences between severance pay and termination pay. These are critical concepts in employment law and human resources management, and comprehending their distinctions is vital for both employers and employees.

What is Termination Pay?

Definition: Termination pay is a financial compensation legally required in many regions, provided to employees when their employment ends without adequate notice. This is designed to support the employee financially during their transition after job termination.

Termination pay refers to any kind of payment required in relation to the termination of employment of an employee.  This can include severance pay and payments based on common law principles.  Therefore, termination pay is much broader and covers many forms of compensation that are not included within severance pay.

Key Features:

  • Purpose: To compensate for the lack of notice of termination.
  • Eligibility: Generally applicable to most employees dismissed without sufficient notice.
  • Calculation: Based on length of service, usually a set pay amount per year worked.

What is Severance Pay?

Definition: Severance pay is an additional financial benefit given to employees under specific conditions, such as large-scale layoffs or company closures.

Severance pay refers to a specific payment required under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (the “ESA”).  Specifically, the ESA provides that an employer must provide payment to an employee in the amount of 1 week of wages per year of service, to a maximum of 26 weeks.  It only applies to larger employers (those with a payroll of at least $2.5 million) and to employees who have been employed for at least five years.

Key Features:

  • Purpose: Acknowledges an employee’s service, particularly in involuntary job losses due to organizational changes.
  • Eligibility: Depends on factors like company size, reason for job termination, and length of employment.
  • Calculation: Considers various factors, including employee’s tenure, age, and prospects of securing similar employment.

Understanding the Differences between Severance Pay and Termination Pay:

  • Context of Payment: Termination pay is linked to the absence of adequate termination notice, whereas severance pay relates to recognizing long-term service and larger-scale job loss scenarios.
  • Eligibility Criteria: Termination pay is more universally applicable, while severance pay has more specific qualifying conditions.
  • Calculation Parameters: Termination pay calculation is generally more straightforward, focusing on the duration of employment, whereas severance pay may take into account a wider range of considerations.


Both severance and termination pay play crucial roles in the landscape of employee compensation and rights.  They provide financial support and recognition under different circumstances of employment termination. It’s important for all parties in the employment relationship to understand these concepts to ensure fair and legal compliance in employment practices.

Note: This content is for informational purposes and may not reflect the specific legal requirements of your region. Always consult a legal professional for advice on employment law. If you need a consultation with a lawyer specialized in Ontario Employment Law, contact us at mlahert@sultanlawyers.com or call 416-214-5111.

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