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Career Advice I’ve been fired after 43 years at a company. How do I proceed with severance negotiations?

THE QUESTION

I worked for a manufacturing company for 43 years. Starting in manufacturing, I became VP of manufacturing in 1991. VP of engineering in 2001. Director of international sales in 2013.

They fired me last month and are offering an independent consulting position for the next four years. I feel I should be offered a severance without having to continue working for them.

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Thoughts?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Doug Ewen

Certified Human Resources Executive, Midland, Ont.

My immediate reaction is that after 43 years, which included time spent in a long-term senior executive role, and considering your presumed age, yes, there are definitely alternatives for you. I will let my legal colleague address those details.

After 43 years in integral roles with one company, I'm sure it is a shock to no longer be a part of that company. The main question I have is, "What do you want to do at this point?" Do you want to continue working for another company? Do you want to launch a consulting practice on your own terms? Do you want to retire? Are you open to some form of contract idea with your previous company? Your answer to these and a few follow-up questions will dictate how you want to proceed.

After 43 years, you are likely a little out of practice navigating outside employment markets. Regardless of your desired goal, I would encourage you to negotiate some form of counselling as a part of the severance package. That could include retirement, career or small business startup counselling to help you move effectively into your next step.

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Understand that the only person truly looking after your career is you. Ensure that you take the time to really discern what you want as a next step and then get advice from a good employment lawyer on how best to proceed with severance negotiations.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Natalie MacDonald

Founder, MacDonald & Associates, Toronto

Anyone terminated from employment in Canada, unless for cause, is entitled to reasonable notice of their dismissal, a.k.a. the "severance package." Notice is an estimate of time required to find comparable employment, based upon the person's age, length of service, character of and availability of comparable employment. Each situation is unique and other factors may also be considered. Forty-three years with a company is almost unheard of today, which would elongate your notice period, as would your age, likely early 60s, given that you devoted your entire work life. Absent the consulting offer, you are likely entitled to 22-24 months of notice, 24 being the top amount, although there are a handful of cases where longer notice periods were awarded.

However, there may be problematic reasons underlying the company offering you a contractor position, like human-rights issues of ageism, or benefit use, or something of that nature. Independent contractors do not normally receive employee benefits and rely only on the pay provided, having to remit HST to the government. However, if you work exclusively for the company and will continue to be financially dependent upon the organization, you may be considered a dependent contractor, the hybrid notion between the independent contractor and employee. In that case, you would still be entitled to reasonable notice of the termination of your employment. However, do not sign and agree to it until it is reviewed.

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