02 Aug What does it mean to be temporarily laid off?
Temporary layoffs have become extremely prevalent since March 2020 when COVID-19 began to spread globally. Even a year later, many employers are being forced to cut costs or temporarily close down, while simultaneously needing to maintain working relationships with employees. Temporary layoffs enable employers to make non-permanent changes when absolutely necessary.
For employees, being temporarily laid off from work is not an ideal situation. It is important that with the uncertainty of being laid off, employees are certain about how they are legally protected during this period of time.
What does it mean?
Temporary layoffs occur when an employer wants to end the employment of a worker for only a brief period of time and with the intention of having the employee come back to work after this period is over.
Only those employees with an Employment Contract that permits a temporary layoff period may receive this notice. If the Employment Contract does not allow for this type of layoff, the employee may file a Wrongful or Constructive Dismissal claim against their employer. However, according to the Employment Standards Act, if this temporary layoff is related to COVID-19, it acts as an exception to this rule. In this case, the employment contract would not be breached, but the temporary layoff notice given by the employer would need to be accepted by the employee.
How long is a temporary layoff period?
An Ontario employer can, at most, temporarily lay off an employee for thirteen weeks and completed within a period of twenty weeks. However, extending this duration is possible. The temporary layoff period may be an absolute maximum of thirty-five weeks within a fifty-two-week term.
The conditions that follow an extension of the temporary layoff period are that the employer must provide pay, employment benefits, unemployment benefits (if applicable), or can give the employee opportunities to work sporadically during this extended period.
A further change has been made to the temporary layoff period due to the COVID-19 virus to support employers in this period of great uncertainty. The temporary layoff period in Ontario, according to the ESA, has now been extended until September 25, 2021. This means that the temporarily laid off employee is protected from termination during this period. If the employee is dismissed or is not asked to return once this layoff term has ended, the employer will owe severance or termination pay to the eligible employee.