Put on a layoff by your employer and not sure what you can do about it? If you have questions about temporary layoffs in Alberta, you’ve come to the right place. This resource will provide you with the answers you need, explain your rights, and help you figure out next steps after your employment is placed on hold. The Alberta employment lawyers at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP have helped thousands of non-unionized Canadians deal with their layoff and get the compensation they are owed.

Watch the video below and read on to learn more about temporary layoffs and what you can do when you are faced with one.


What is a temporary layoff?

A temporary layoff is when an employer temporarily cuts back or ceases an employee’s employment, without formally ending the employment relationship. Typically, there is an understanding that the employee will be recalled within a certain period of time.

This means laid off employees would not receive severance pay, but instead would remain out-of-work until the employer recalls them to their duties. Temporary layoffs are not always followed by an employee being recalled.

Laying off an employee can be enticing to an employer in Alberta who may be experiencing a short decline in business and who cannot afford the severance pay that would normally be owed upon termination of an employee.

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How is a temporary layoff different from getting fired?

When an employee is temporarily laid off they do not receive severance pay because the employment relationship has technically only been suspended. When an employee is terminated, they are entitled to severance pay.

A termination can occur in one of two ways:

  • A termination without cause (you are let go for a reason that does not involve significant misconduct, and are entitled to a severance package)
  • A termination for cause (you are let go for reasons involving significant misconduct, and therefore are not entitled to severance pay)

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Is an employer allowed to lay off an employee temporarily in Alberta?

An employer does not have a right to put their employees on a temporary layoff. This kind of leave constitutes a significant change to an employee’s terms of employment, which is illegal. Therefore, an employee has a right to refuse a layoff, treat it as a termination, and get severance pay.

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Are there any situations where a temporary layoff is allowed?

If you are a non-unionized employee, the only way your employer can place you on a layoff is if:

  • The employee agrees to the temporary layoff;

  • Your employment contract states that it is allowed;

  • You agree to it and consent to the layoff, or you have agreed to a temporary layoff in the past (giving your employer the right to do it again); or

  • You work in a seasonal industry where temporary layoffs are a standard industry practice

Before you accept a temporary layoff, speak to an employment lawyer in Alberta at our firm to find out your rights and the options available to you in your situation.

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I’ve been temporarily laid off – what should I do?

If you’ve been temporarily laid off in Alberta, you have the choice to accept it and wait to be recalled. You also have the option to treat the layoff as a termination (which is a constructive dismissal) and get your severance pay. If you’ve been temporarily laid off, before you make any decision, speak to an employment lawyer about your options.

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How long can a layoff last in Alberta?

According to common law, an employer does not have the right to temporarily lay off an employee, unless there are terms in the employment contract that permit it, the employee agrees to the layoff, or has agreed to the layoff in the past.

Therefore, there is no maximum allowable time for a layoff because layoffs are not legal under common law. Any employee who has experienced a significant change to the terms of their employment has a right to claim constructive dismissal and is entitled to severance pay.

Due to COVID-19 in Alberta, the rules around temporary layoffs under provincial regulations have changed. A layoff can be up to 90 cumulative days out of 120 total if it takes place after June 17, 2020.

However, your employer can’t legally put you on a layoff unless you agree to it and give them permission, or unless it’s clearly stated that it is allowed in your employment contract.

What happens when the temporary layoff period ends?

If you accept an employer’s temporary layoff and the layoff lasts more than 90 days, at that point your employment will automatically come to an end. You will then be entitled to severance pay. Severance pay can be as much as 24 months’ pay.

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How much severance pay can I get if I’m laid off in Alberta?

If you’ve been temporarily laid off, you can treat the layoff as a termination and seek your full Alberta severance package. Your severance would be calculated in the same manner as if you were actually terminated. Severance pay is calculated by considering a number of factors, including an employee’s age, length of service, position, and benefits.

If you’re trying to determine how much severance you’re owed, try our free and anonymous Severance Pay Calculator.

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Does an employer need to provide notice for a temporary layoff?

Employers are legislated to give notice “as soon as practicable” by law. Unfortunately, this means that in unforeseen circumstances, such as COVID-19, they are not required to give notice.

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Does my employer have to give advance notice before I am called back to work?

Employers do not have to provide any specific amount of advance notice to employees before being recalling them to work.

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Can my employer make changes to my job when they call me back to work?

Be aware that if your employer does recall you to work, they cannot significantly change any of the terms of your employment. This includes changes to your wages, hours, shifts, or location of work. If you were recalled to work but your employer asked you to take a pay cut, or reduced your hours, speak to an employment lawyer immediately. Changing the terms of your employment is illegal, and qualifies as a constructive dismissal. In that case, you could be entitled to severance pay.

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Can my employer lay me off again?

If your employer laid you off once and you accepted it but were recalled, you may not be able to do anything about a second layoff. In the eyes of the law, once you’ve accepted a temporary layoff you’ve given your employer the right to do it again.

This is why it’s so important to speak to an Alberta employment lawyer if you’ve been laid off – the first time. An employment lawyer can help you articulate your objections to your employer and defend your employment rights. If you’ve been temporarily laid off, reach out to a member of the team at Samfiru Tumarkin, LLP.

Can my employer put me on another temporary layoff?

Temporarily Laid Off?

In many situations, employees who have been placed on a temporary layoff may be owed severance pay. Use our interactive Pocket Employment Lawyer to determine if you qualify.


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