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Laws Regarding Temporary Layoffs

Employment Law | July 9, 2020

As an employee, it is important to know your rights when it comes to temporary layoffs. Many people operate under the misconception that a temporary layoff and a termination are technically the same thing, when, in reality, the two concepts have different legal ramifications. At Linley Welwood, we like to make our clients aware of the laws regarding temporary layoffs and how these laws influence their employment.

The Difference Between a Temporary Layoff and Termination

Temporary layoffs typically occur when an employer cuts back on an employee’s hours and pay by 50% or more with the mutual understanding that the employee will be reinstated within a set amount of time. If the temporary layoff exceeds the maximum amount of time that employment standards dictate, it legally becomes a permanent layoff or employment termination and the employee will be entitled to pay in lieu of notice of termination.

How Long Can a Temporary Layoff Last?

Under normal circumstances, a temporary layoff is only legally allowed to last for up to 13 weeks; however, due to the recent events with COVID-19, the provincial government of British Columbia has extended this maximum timeline to 16 weeks.

How Much Notice is Required for Temporary Layoffs?

Notice is not always required for a termination without cause but, if an employee is terminated without cause and no notice is given, pay in lieu of notice is required. In cases of temporary layoffs, notice is not required but the layoff must be agreed to by contract, legislation, or agreement between the parties, otherwise the layoff becomes a termination. Also, if the temporary layoff exceeds the maximum amount of time that employment standards dictate and the employee is terminated, the first day of the temporary layoff becomes the date of termination.

When are Temporary Layoffs Allowed?

The Employment Standards Act allows for temporary layoffs to happen, but only under strict circumstances. Employers are not allowed to temporarily lay off employees unless the circumstance suits one of the following conditions:

  • The contract of employment expressly provides for temporary layoffs
  • Temporary layoffs are a well-known industry practice
  • The employee agrees to the temporary layoff

If none of these standards are met and an employer imposes a temporary layoff on their employees, the temporary layoff could qualify as a constructive dismissal, meaning that the employee is entitled to seek damages for wrongful dismissal.

If you would like to find out more about laws regarding temporary layoffs in British Columbia, or if you have questions about your specific employment situation, please contact Linley Welwood at 604-850-6640 or by filling out a contact form on our website.


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