I make a living from tutoring private students. I take one only a select number of students every ‘zman’ so I can give each my full attention. For two years I learned with a boy named Yerachmiel. He had learning difficulties and could not sit still for long. I made charts for him, played basketball with him during our breaks and shot the breeze when he was too edgy to learn a tosefos. I was all prepared for the new zman with Yerachmiel with new learning strategies I had found during bein hazmanim. Anyhow, there I was, sitting in the Beis Medrash waiting for him. Suddenly I see him at the entrance of the Beis Medrash, standing at the doorway like a fish outside the lake. Finally, he came up to me and mumbled something about a new guy he was going to learn with. I was really insulted. After all I had put into him he couldn’t let me know about the change in advance? And besides, all the other guys were set up with tutors. Who would need me now? What would be with my parnossah? Don’t I deserve some form of severance pay?
It is very difficult to have a student leave you without prior notice, but I am sure he will take the Torah and learning strategies that you worked so hard to impart in him, and they will serve him well in the future.
As to the halacha – you certainly deserve severance pay since the termination of the job came from your employer – Yerachmiel. If you had been receiving a monthly salary, your deserve two months’ salary as severance. If you had been given advanced notice about it, you would deserve one month’s pay.
If it is accepted to hire a tutor only for a whole zman and not for part of it, you deserve payment until the end of the zman.
At times (such as negligence on the part of the worker), a hired worker may be fired without prior notice and without severance pay.
In hiring workers, Halacha follows the accepted practice in the country, see Choshen Mishpat 331 and “Alon Hamishpat” 33, p. 4.
Regarding termination of a worker’s employment see “Alon Hamishpat” 31, p.1, footnote 3: “If it is accepted to employ a worker for a certain duration he may not be fired in the middle of the season. According to the law of firing workers, an employee must be notified one month in advance, which would mean that the termination of the job would go in effect only one month later, one month into the new zman. See Shulachan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 312:6.