It’s never easy to keep a cool head when you’ve been dismissed. Before looking into how to get back on your feet, you should ensure that your employer had valid reasons for dismissal and followed the notice procedure established by law.
Reasons for dismissal
An employer cannot dismiss its employees for no reason. The employer must give a notice period (except in the case of serious misconduct), in addition to severance pay if you have worked at the company for more than five years. This sum increases with seniority, but is theoretically capped at 12 months’ pay (18 months’ pay for economic redundancy).
You may be dismissed either on the basis of the company’s operating requirements (economic reasons), or for personal reasons.
- The employer could cite economic reasons for dismissal if they are experiencing financial difficulties or if they are looking to restructure or eliminate job positions. They must be able to give a factual and precise explanation of the reasons that led them to take restructuring measures. However, they are under no obligation to redeploy dismissed employees or justify why they chose to dismiss one employee over another.
- The employer could cite personal reasons on the basis of your aptitude (insufficient quality or quantity of work, absenteeism) or your behaviour (disobedience, offensive behaviour towards colleagues or clients, systematically late, aspects of your private life affecting your work). While dismissal for serious misconduct must take place no more than one month after the misconduct is known, dismissal for personal reasons must take place within a “reasonable” time period after these reasons have been established. Needless to say, this is open to interpretation.
Excluding serious misconduct, your employer must give a notice period of:
- 2 months for service under 5 years;
- 4 months for service between 5 and 10 years;
- 6 months for service of 10 years or more.
The employer may ask to you not to work during all or part of your notice period. It must notify you of this in writing. This does not exonerate them from paying your salary and benefits in full for the whole of your legal notice period. Time off work is considered actual working time.
The notice period begins on the 15th of the month if the employment termination letter is sent before then. If the letter is sent between the 15th and the last day of the month, the notice period runs from the 1st of the subsequent month. Excluding dismissal for serious misconduct, the employer is not required to specify the reasons for dismissal in the employment termination letter. However, it must do so upon your request, made by registered letter within a month of receiving your employment termination letter, at the latest. Where applicable, the employer must then answer:
- by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt;
- within a month starting from the day it receives the employee’s request;
- stating the precise reasons for dismissal;
- in a language that the employee understands.