Your employer says they have to lay you off or asks you to work fewer hours “until things pick up.” Learn your rights if you're temporarily laid off from work.
What you should know
A layoff is when an employer tells a worker they must take an unpaid leave from work. The law in BC doesn’t give employers a general right to temporarily lay off workers.
Temporary layoffs are only legal if one of the following applies:
- You have a written employment contract that allows for a layoff.
- You work in an industry where layoffs are standard practice.
- You consent to the layoff.
Your employer must prove they had the right to lay you off for one of these reasons.
If you’re let go temporarily and none of the above apply, you have the same rights as someone who’s let go without cause. That means you’re entitled to notice (or pay). We have information on how much notice an employer needs to give.
If you’re covered by employment standards law, there are limits on how long any layoff can last. Your employer can temporarily lay you off for up to 13 weeks in a consecutive 20-week period. If the layoff is for reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic, the maximum length is extended to 16 weeks.
Need help figuring out if employment standards law applies to you? See our information on who’s covered.
Work out the problem
Step 1. Tell your employer you don't consent to the layoff
If you don’t consent to the layoff, let your employer know right away. Do it in writing. Keep a copy.
Step 2. Make an employment standards complaint
You can challenge the layoff. If you’re covered by employment standards law, you can make a complaint to the government office that administers that law.
We explain the steps involved. See our information on making an employment standards complaint.
Who can help
Consider reaching out to these agencies for help if you are temporarily laid off.
There are options for free legal advice.
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
Reviewed in March 2020
Time to read: 3 minutes