International Labour Standards on Employment security

The termination of an employment relationship is likely to be a traumatic experience for a worker and the loss of income has a direct impact on her or his family's well-being. As more countries seek employment flexibility and globalization destabilizes traditional employment patterns, more workers are likely to face involuntary termination of employment at some point in their professional lifetime. At the same time, the flexibility to reduce staff and to dismiss unsatisfactory workers is a necessary measure for employers to keep enterprises productive. ILO standards on termination of employment seek to find a balance between maintaining the employer's right to dismiss workers for valid reasons and ensuring that such dismissals are fair and are used as a last resort, and that they do not have a disproportionate negative impact on the worker.

Shortly after their adoption, Convention No. 158 and Recommendation No. 166 were brought to the attention of the Working Party on International Labour Standards (1987) [the “Ventejol Group”] which recommended that the instruments were to be promoted on a priority basis. These instruments were subsequently considered by the Working Party on Policy regarding the Revision of Standards (1997–2002) [the “Cartier Group”]. However, no conclusions were reached by the Cartier Group on either of these instruments.

Information related to the status of Convention No. 158 and Recommendation No. 166 is available on the following page:
Tripartite Meeting
Experts to Examine the Termination of Employment Convention, 1982 (No. 158) and the Termination of Employment Recommendation, 1982 (No. 166) (Geneva, 18-21 April 2011)

Selected relevant ILO instruments

  • Termination of Employment Convention, 1982 (No. 158) - [ratifications]
    The instrument sets forth the principle that the employment of a worker should not be terminated unless there is a valid reason for such termination connected with the worker's capacity or conduct or based on the operational requirements of the undertaking, establishment or service. Reasons for dismissal which shall be not be considered valid include those based on union membership or participation in union activities, filing of a complaint against an employer, race, colour, sex, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, temporary absence due to illness, or absence from work during maternity leave. If an individual worker is dismissed, he or she shall have the right to defend him or herself against any allegations. In cases of collective dismissals, governments should aim at encouraging employers to consult workers' representatives and to develop alternatives to mass lay-offs (such a hiring freezes or working time reductions). The convention also covers matters related to severance pay, period of notice, appeal procedures against dismissal, and unemployment insurance, and advance warning to be given to authorities in cases of mass dismissals.

    Preparatory Reports for Convention No. 158 & Recommendation No. 166
    ILC, 67th Session 1981 [Report VIII (1) & Report VIII (2)]
    ILC, 68th Session 1982 [Report V (1) & Report V (2)]

Further information