What is a layoff?
A layoff (or "lay off") is a temporary dismissal from employment, usually on account of slow business or seasonal work. It should not be confused with a permanent dismissal from employment, which constitutes employee termination.
Does an employer have a right to lay off employees?
No. The right to lay off an employee must be an express or implied term of employment. An express term is written into the contract of employment. An implied term allowing for layoff is one that would be obvious to the employee, such as where the work is seasonal in nature.
When does a layoff become a termination?
The Employment Standards Act of Ontario classifies a "layoff" as a "termination" where the length of the layoff exceeds a certain period of time (usually, 13 weeks). This means that, regardless of any express or implied terms of employment, employers must pay the termination and severance pay required by the Employment Standards Act to employees who are laid off for a period of more than 13 weeks.
This 13"”week layoff period can be extended under certain specific circumstances, including where the employee's benefits are continued during the period of layoff.
Does this mean that employers can lay off employees for less than 13 weeks?
No. Even a layoff of a few days could amount to a constructive dismissal if the employer's right to lay off an employee is not an express or implied term of employment.
A laid-off employee is claiming constructive dismissal - what can we do?
If you have laid off an employee without an express or implied right to do so, that employee will likely be deemed to have been constructively dismissed. Luckily, there is an easy fix - call the employee back to work and offer to pay them for income lost as a result of the layoff. In most cases, that will nip the employee's case in the bud.
How can we ensure that we have a right to lay off employees?
The only way to ensure that your company has the right to lay off employees in times of economic need is to have the appropriate language written into a lawful employment agreement. An experienced employment lawyer can draft a suitable employment contract that provides your company with the flexibility it needs to adjust its workforce during slow periods.
What can Hyde HR Law do for my company?
The lawyers at Hyde HR Law are experts in employee layoffs. We have a great deal of experience interpreting and applying the legal principles of layoffs. We draft lawful employment contracts that enhance a company's ability to temporarily lay off employees; we advise our clients on best practices surrounding layoffs; and, we vigorously defend our clients in legal proceedings. Contact us today.