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The Stay-or-Pay Clause: The Dilemma of Paying to Quit Your Commitment


A article from our American Contributor.

The Stay-or-Pay Clause: The Dilemma

Under the Stay-or-pay clauses, employers seek "reimbursements" from workers if they want to quit. This law applies if the employee quits within a specific time. This law has had an intense effect on the U.S. workforce. These contracts apply to all types of workforce, even those in specialized roles. Stay-or-pay clauses, or TARP, are being used by many businesses. It is adopted by mid to lower-income professions. This includes salespeople, truck drivers, nurses, teachers, and other roles. The CFPB published a report describing the dangers that debt employers induce. According to workers' rights organizations, these clauses are like financial penalties. It is designed to prevent job switching.

What is A Stay-or-Play Clause?

"Stay-or-pay" clauses are growing increasingly widespread in the United States, and while such agreements are unlikely to be enforced in Canada, experts believe businesses may still learn from their counterparts south of the border.

The practice of punishing employees who violate the terms of their employment contract with sometimes exorbitant sums, ostensibly to recoup training, education, relocation, or other costs, has recently made headlines in the United States as employees begin to fight back against what they claim is unfair treatment. Stay-or-pay clauses have typically been used with executives or highly specialized professions such as airline pilots or engineers, but due to economic conditions, firms are also using the tactic with middle- and low-income workers.

You can read more about the subject matter with this blog post:

What is the Working for Workers Act 2021 in Canada?

The key highlight of the Working for Workers Act, 2021 is 1) prohibitions on the use of non-compete obligations in employment agreements; 2) requiring employers with 25 or more employees in Ontario to develop a "disconnecting from work" policies; 3) prohibitions on temporary help agency or anyone acting as a recruiter to operate without a valid licence.

You may want to read the following blog post for more info. on the subject matter:

And don't confuse Working for Workers Act, 2021 with Working for Workers Act, 2022 that deals with the rights of digital platform workers.

Working for Workers Act, 2021 codifies the common law position that non-competition clauses are only enforceable in very limited circumstances.

As per the Working for Workers Act, 2021, If you've got 25 or more representatives, your company must have a composed procedure on how all of them can disconnect from work. 

On December 2, 2021, these rules were included in the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). As of June 2, 2022, companies with 25 or more laborers as of January 1, 2022, need a composed technique to disengage from work.

All specialists and bosses secured by the ESA must have composed arrangements to disengage from work. The increasing use of "stay-or-pay" clauses in employment contracts stresses the employer. If an employee signs a contract that contains a "stay or pay" clause, it will be terminated early. High-paying professional jobs such as airline pilots, medical workers, and police officers require prior training.

Canadians may benefit from the example of the United States, which has imposed similar duties on employers for quite some time.

What is TARP in the USA?

In the United States, employers claim that employers inflated damages in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) or included damages not justified by workers who left the company. In this way, TARP acts as a "fine" imposed for breach of contract, which is illegal if the fines are increased and bear little relation to the damages suffered by the party. Some argue that TARP is a permanent promise not to compete because it does not force workers to quit. In California and other states, pure covenants not to compete are illegal. The same goes for non-compete, such as a buyer/supplier non-solicitation clause.

However, you and your employer have legal obligations when you are fired. For example, adequate notice must be given. Two weeks is the norm, but more is needed. Also, if you quit in an emotional moment, you may not quit.

Comparing the Canadian and American Models

In Canada, the default position regarding employment contracts tends to favor permanent positions, with termination often viewed as a breach of contract or wrongful dismissal. Conversely, the USA operates under a more diverse landscape, with provisions like TARP offering financial assistance to troubled industries during times of crisis.

The Consideration of Stay or Pay: Weighing Commitment and Cost

The Stay-or-Pay clause presents a dilemma for both employers and employees. Employers may include such provisions to mitigate turnover costs and retain valuable talent, while employees must weigh the potential financial implications of termination against their long-term career aspirations. This decision becomes particularly significant in light of legislative changes and external factors influencing the employment landscape.

Navigating Commitment in Employment Contracts

The introduction of clauses like Stay-or-Pay underscores the complexities inherent in employment relationships. Legislative measures like the Working for Workers Act 2021 and initiatives such as TARP offer insights into regulatory interventions and financial mechanisms to address economic challenges. As individuals and organizations navigate the Stay-or-Pay dilemma, a nuanced understanding of legislative frameworks, industry practices, and individual rights remains essential. By fostering open dialogue and proactive engagement, stakeholders can work towards fostering fair and equitable employment practices in today's dynamic workforce.


The Stay-or-Pay clause underscores the delicate balance between commitment and cost in employment contracts. Navigating this dilemma requires open discussion and understanding of legislative frameworks. Employers must offer a commitment to transparency. By embracing these principles, stakeholders can create inclusive workplaces where individuals thrive and organizations succeed, shaping a brighter future for the workforce.

You may want to consult with an experienced employment law firm such as HTW Law, to learn of your employment law rights under Working for Workers Act, 2021.

HTW Law - top employment law firm 2023

You don't have to fight the battle alone. Speaking with an employment lawyer who is familiar with the laws and regulations regarding remote work, employment contracts and employment law in general will go a long way. If you are in doubt, it's essential that you reach out for help as soon as possible right away.

Click here to contact HTW Law - Employment Lawyer for assistance and legal consultation.

Click here to contact HTW Law - Employment Lawyer for assistance and legal consultation.

contact htw law - employment lawyer for wrongful dismissal help

 About The Author:  

Lyle Solomon has extensive legal experience, in-depth knowledge, and experience in consumer finance and writing. He has been a member of the California State Bar since 2003. He graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, in 1998 and currently works for the Oak View Law Group in California as a principal attorney.


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