If you have questions about temporary layoffs in British Columbia, this resource will provide you with the answers you need. The B.C. employment lawyers at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP have helped thousands of non-unionized Canadians navigate their layoff and get the severance package they are owed.

Watch the video below and read on to learn more about temporary layoffs and what you can do if you’ve been temporarily laid off.


What is a temporary layoff?

A temporary layoff occurs when an employer temporarily suspends an employee’s work duties and pay but does not end the employment relationship. An individual does not receive severance pay or compensation if they are laid off temporarily.

Situations where an employer might temporarily lay off employees include restructuring, seasonal work stoppages, or during an economic recession.

When you are laid off, you remain an employee of the company. Your benefits and vacation time should remain intact. The expectation is that once the company’s situation improves, you will be called back to work.

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How is a temporary layoff different from a regular termination?

A termination occurs when your employer fires you or ends your employment permanently in one of the following ways:

A temporary layoff is a cut back or suspension of pay and duties.

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

You may be surprised to learn that an employer does not have an absolute right to put an employee on a temporary layoff. It doesn’t matter if the layoff is for one of the legitimate reasons identified earlier in this resource. A layoff represents an illegal change to the terms of employment you agreed upon with your employer. If it occurs, you may be able to claim a significant severance package, which we will discuss later in this article.

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Are there any situations where a temporary layoff is allowed?

According to the B.C.’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) and common law, you can be temporarily laid off in BC if:

  • You agree to the temporary layoff;

  • There is a provision in your employment contract that expressly permits a temporary layoff;

  • You have accepted a temporary layoff with your employer in the past (potentially giving your employer the ability to do it again); or

  • You are employed in an industry where temporary layoffs are a standard, industry-wide practice, for example, logging or construction.

Be warned that doing nothing in the face of a temporary layoff is seen as a tacit acceptance of the layoff. If you do nothing, in the eyes of the law you have agreed to the layoff.

You should always contact an employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP before accepting a layoff, even if you believe that the layoff meets the criteria above. Get answers from our experts before you assume what your rights are!

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What should I do if I have been temporarily laid off in BC?

If you have been temporarily laid off, you may want to consider your options. If you are in your dream job, and you’d rather wait patiently to be recalled and take your chances, talk to your employer about when they might expect to recall you, so you’re not waiting endlessly.

You should know that you also have the option to treat the layoff as a termination (through a constructive dismissal) and leave your job and get your full severance entitlements, which in some cases could be up to 24 months’ pay. Before you accept a temporary layoff, talk to an employment lawyer to find out your options, and get what you’re entitled to.

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How long can a temporary layoff last?

If you don’t accept the layoff, and the employer doesn’t have the ability to put you on one, there is no maximum amount of time it can last because the layoff itself is illegal.

If you do agree to the layoff, or the employer has the right to put you on one, there are provincial rules in BC that govern the suspension in work.

The ESA establishes some rules about layoffs:

  • Temporary layoffs can last up to 13 weeks in a consecutive 20-week period, starting from the first day of the layoff
  • The layoff can be extended past the 13-week period through a variance. Both employer and employee must apply for the variance through the Employment Standards Branch. Your employer must be able to prove that a least 51% of affected employees agree with the application.

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What happens when the temporary layoff period ends?

If you accept the employer’s temporary layoff (or they have the ability to put you on one), and the layoff lasts more than 13 weeks (without any variance or extension), your employment will automatically come to an end. You will then be entitled to a full severance package, which could be as much as 24 months’ pay depending on various aspects of your job.

You do not have to wait for the company to make contact with you before you talk to our firm about getting your compensation.

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How much severance pay am I entitled to if I’m laid off in BC?

The amount of severance pay you should get for a layoff in BC is based on a number of components. These factors include (but aren’t limited to) your:

  • age;
  • length of time with the company;
  • position;
  • benefits;
  • bonus and commission;
  • how quickly you can find a new job; and
  • any termination clause found in your employment contract.

Severance package amounts generally “max out” at 24 months’ pay. You can use our Severance Pay Calculator to get a strong understanding of how much you may be entitled to.

You should consult with an employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP first before you talk to your employer about severance or sign off on any offers. In our experience, most employers fail to initially provide the correct amount of severance. This is what we call a wrongful dismissal – and that’s where Samfiru Tumarkin LLP comes in. We can pursue your full severance amounts on your behalf.

Find out why we are considered one of the best employment lawyers in BC for severance package negotiations.

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

There is no minimum requirement for notice required by employers for employees who are going to be temporarily laid off. Once an employee’s earnings drop below 50% of their regular rate, they are considered laid off.

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

In BC, employers do not have to provide employees on a layoff with any specific amount of advance notice 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 you are recalled to your job in BC, your employer is not allowed to make any significant changes to your duties, pay, schedule, or time off. Your employer must honour the terms of employment as they were laid out in your original employment contract, or as they were understood before the layoff.

If your employer attempts to make changes to your job or pay, speak to our team immediately. You may be able to claim constructive dismissal and leave your job with full severance.

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What happens if my employer tries to put me on a layoff again?

If you accept a temporary layoff and are recalled, but your employer wants to lay you off again, it may be too late to treat it as a termination. If you accept a temporary layoff once and do nothing, in the eyes of the law you have potentially given your employer permission to lay you off again.

It is critical that you speak to an employment lawyer as soon as you find out your employer is trying to put you on a temporary layoff. An employment lawyer in B.C. can inform you of your rights and explain your options.

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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