During the sale of a business, it is essential for both the seller and the purchaser to carefully examine the potential employment issues that may arise. Evaluating these matters during the due diligence process is crucial because hidden employment liabilities, which are often not apparent on the balance sheet, can significantly impact the financial viability of the transaction.
Employment Matters in Share Purchase Transactions
In a share purchase transaction, the purchaser – by acquiring the vendor’s shares of the company – steps into the vendor’s shoes when it comes to employment issues. This means that existing employment agreements between the employees and the employer remain unaffected, and their terms and conditions continue unchanged. Maintaining employment continuity is of utmost importance in these transactions, and employers can simply inform employees about the share transaction after the closing date.
Employment Matters in Asset Purchase Transactions
In an asset purchase, the purchaser is not automatically obliged to take on the vendor’s employees. Unlike in share transactions, at common law, the sale often results in a termination of employment with the vendor company. Vendors should be aware that the sale of assets does not provide the employer with cause for discharge, reasonable notice, or severance pay. Consequently, the vendor remains liable for such claims, subject to an employee’s duty to mitigate damages or the purchaser agreeing to rehire.
Employment Standards Act of British Columbia
Purchasers must be mindful of section 97 of the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”), which stipulates that if a buyer continues the employment of the employees without any interruption, the buyer will assume the role of the employer and be required to take on all obligations and liabilities. Additionally, section 97 of the ESA states that if the purchaser employs a former employee of the vendor, the benefits contingent on the employee’s length of service, such as vacation, notice of termination, pay in lieu of termination, and severance pay, carry over to the employee’s employment with the purchaser. Consequently, the ESA presumes the purchaser to be liable for the employee’s full length of service with both the vendor and purchaser.
Given the potential liabilities associated with employee terminations, purchasers and vendors often engage in extensive negotiations. To minimize liability, vendors typically prefer the purchaser to hire their entire workforce on the same terms and conditions, rather than selectively retaining specific employees. If the purchaser chooses not to retain all of the vendor’s employees, both parties will negotiate to allocate liability for termination costs.
In conclusion, employment matters are critical aspects of business sales that demand thorough consideration from both the seller and the purchaser. Addressing these issues during the due diligence process helps identify potential liabilities and minimizes risks for both parties involved in the transaction. By carefully evaluating employment-related aspects, a smoother and more successful business sale can be achieved.