Published Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, Nine to Five, Globe & Mail
I work for a multinational company headquartered in Europe. My position is being transferred to head office, but I am not interested in relocating to Europe. If I don’t accept the relocation or find another position locally within the company, my head count will be removed by a stipulated date. Is my employer legally obligated to pay me severance?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Daniel Lublin, Whitten & Lublin Employment Lawyers, Toronto
You can’t be forced to relocate to Europe (or anywhere else not reasonably close to your current job) unless you previously agreed in writing that your employer has the right to relocate you. Most employment agreements do not contain these types of clauses and, without them, a relocation cannot be imposed. Therefore, when your job is finally eliminated, you are indeed entitled to a severance package. The next question becomes what form of severance and how much you should receive. Your employer is entitled to provide you with “working notice” of the future elimination of your position and this would be one instance where that could make a lot of sense. If your employer is aware that you do not want to move, it would be smart to confirm your future termination date in writing, since the time period between the date that this is confirmed and your last day of employment is considered a form of working severance that could reduce or in some cases eliminate the need to pay you anything further after you leave. As in all cases, your overall severance is assessed based on your age, tenure and position.
THE SECOND ANSWER
Eleanor James, Consultant, The James Thinkstitute, Toronto
It’s common for multinationals to transfer employees and it’s not always made clear from the start.
During the interview phase, potential employees are well-served by asking about the corporate culture and the possibility of transfer. Find out how it works and think carefully about it before taking the job.
Saying no can be a career-limiting move and, if a job is dependent on a transfer, it can be hard on your family and complicated by assets such as a house. Multinationals that want to have company-wide best practices will sometimes send employees for six months to teach those practices in other countries. It’s effective for the company and less disruptive for employees.
But in this case you know that your job is going overseas and you don’t want to follow it. If you want to stay with the company and you know they see you as a valuable asset to be retained, recruit the help of your boss and Human Resources and spend the time finding a new fit within the company – a job of the same calibre as your current job.
If you’re not so keen to stay, it’s time to start looking for something new. If offered “working notice,” use the situation to help you in your search outside the company.