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.

Alert!

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many BC workers are being temporarily laid off. Emergency financial support is available, including for those who remain job-attached but earn no more than $1,000 per month. We unpack these emergency benefits for workers. See our 3-minute summary.

What you should know

There are some key things to know about temporary layoffs.

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.

If the layoff lasts more than 13 weeks in a consecutive 20-week period, it’s no longer “temporary.” It would be treated as if you were fired without cause on the first day of the layoff.

If you’re covered by employment standards law and your employer reduces your weekly hours so you’re earning less than half of your regular wage, this counts as a week’s layoff. That is, it counts as one week towards the 13-week “temporary layoff” period.

Work out the problem

There are steps you can take if you’re temporarily laid off.

Step 1. Tell your employer you don’t consent to the layoff

Step 2. Make an employment standards complaint

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.

Employment Standards Branch logo
Employment Standards Branch
Deals with complaints against employers relating to temporary layoffs.
Employment and Social Development Canada logo
Employment and Social Development Canada
Deals with complaints against employers in federally-regulated industries.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada

Reviewed in March 2020

Time to read: 3 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

Trevor Thomas, Kent Employment Law

Trevor Thomas: employment lawyer with Kent Employment Law

This information from People’s Law School explains in a general way the law that applies in British Columbia, Canada. The information is not intended as legal advice. See our disclaimer.

Related

On Dial-A-Law

Dial-A-Law has more information on Leaving a job in the section on Work.