Outplacement counselling

Employer obligations for helping a fired employee find new work
By Tim Mitchell
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 03/07/2012

Question: Can an employer be legally obligated to provide services such as outplacement counselling, or be liable for not providing them to dismissed employees?

Answer: In short, the answer is yes, but not usually. The operative word in the question is “can.” In the most apparent case, an employer may be obligated to provide such services as a matter of contract. For example, an employment contract or collective agreement might provide that the employer will pay for outplacement counselling in the event of termination. In another case, a termination letter may include an offer of outplacement counselling as a term of the severance package. These are instances in which an employer can be obligated to provide outplacement counselling and be held liable for breach of the contractual promise to do so.

In the absence of an agreement, it would be unlikely for an employer to face such an obligation outright. It would be even rarer for a court, adjudicator or arbitration board to require an employer to provide outplacement counselling as a remedy. This is not to say it cannot happen. In a 2010 case, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ordered an employer to pay $2,500 toward outplacement counselling services to an employee found to have been terminated during her probationary period for reasons relating to her pregnancy and miscarriage.