Cancelled Events Due to COVID-19: Impact on Seasonal Workers

With more and more event cancellation announcements resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the recent cancellation of the Canadian National Exhibition (“CNE”), we’ve received many questions about the termination rights of seasonal workers.

The cancellation of seasonal events has raised many questions about seasonal and fixed-term employment, and the rights of those who fall under the category of seasonal workers.

In general, under normal circumstances, seasonal workers are owed notice of their termination or payment in lieu of notice of their termination.

If an employer decides not to continue employing that worker, it becomes a termination, which gives rise to the right to severance pay.

This also applies to an employee who has signed multiple fixed-term employment agreements in a row.

When successive fixed-term employment agreements are in place, that worker’s employment would no longer be considered seasonal or fixed-term and would become indeterminate. In this instance, that employee would be entitled to severance pay upon the termination of his or her employment.

The amount of severance pay that would be owed to a seasonal employee at the time of his or her termination will depend on several factors, including the employee’s age, length of service, and the nature of their position.

With respect to the cancellation of upcoming seasonal events because of COVID-19, if an event is being cancelled due to an order from the government, there is not likely very much that an employee can do to receive severance pay in these circumstances.

However, all seasonal workers who are out of work due to event cancellations or other reasons related to COVID-19, are eligible to receive a benefit from the federal government.

How the CERB may help

Regular seasonal workers who are out of work and who are not students should apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”).

Although students could be considered seasonal workers if they only work during the summer months, the federal government has outlined a separate benefit for students who are out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (“CESB”).

Any students who are out of work because of seasonal event cancellations should therefore apply for the CESB.

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