Temporary Layoffs in Alberta

[COVID-19] Alberta Temporary Layoffs: What Employees Need to Know

Update: Alberta Temporary Layoff has been extended to 180 days. Click here to read more.
This information is meant for non-unionized employees who are governed by provincial employment legislation. If you are party to a collective agreement or part of a federally regulated workforce, you may be governed by different rules and procedures regarding temporary layoffs.

Things have been moving incredibly quickly in the past few weeks, with many businesses shutting their doors with little or no warning to customers and employees alike. In the face of the changing economic landscape, staffing needs are changing, and many employees are receiving notice that they are being “temporarily laid off.” But what exactly is a “temporary layoff” in Alberta and what impact does it have on an employee’s rights?

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Update: Alberta Temporary Layoff has been extended to 180 days. Click here to read more.

What is a Temporary Layoff in Alberta?

In Alberta, temporary layoffs for non-unionized employees are governed by the Employment Standards Code (“the Code”), which lays out the requirements that employers must follow if they wish to engage in temporary layoffs.

The Code includes provisions that allow an employer to lay off an employee for a specific amount of time, while still maintaining an employment relationship with that employee. Although employees are generally not entitled to pay during the layoff period, their employment has not been officially terminated, it has only been “paused.” Under temporary layoff provisions, employers can generally recall the employee and request that they return to work at any time before the end of the temporary layoff period.

In certain circumstances, an Employment Agreement may also include language regarding temporary-layoffs. If the terms set out in the Agreement offer a “greater right, or benefit” than what is offered under the applicable employment legislation, the procedure regarding temporary layoffs will likely be governed by that Agreement instead of by legislation.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me?

Language around temporary lay-offs can be confusing. Having a lawyer review your contract or lay-off letter can give you a better idea of your rights and what to expect going forward. Furthermore, if you are are not hired back within the 120 days, your employment is deemed terminated. A terminated employee may be entitled to severance (under employment standards legislation, common law, or contract), however, sometimes it is difficult to tell whether you are being treated fairly. Our lawyers can help by reviewing your severance package and providing advice on your entitlements and rights under the law.

Does my Employer Need to Provide Notice of Temporary Layoffs?

Under normal circumstances, and as set out by the Code, an employer must provide an employee with proper notice of temporary layoff. However, the Code does allow for notice of temporary layoff to be “as soon as practicable” if unforeseeable circumstances prevent an employer from adhering with the Code’s notice provisions. The outbreak of COVID-19 would likely qualify as “unforeseen circumstances.”

Any notice must be in writing and clearly state that it is a temporary layoff notice, including the date the layoff is to commence. The employer should also include the relevant sections of the Code alongside the notice.

Alberta flag

How Long Can My Employer Lay Me Off For?

In Alberta, temporary layoffs used to be limited to 60 days within a 120 day period. However, on April 6, 2020, Premier Kenney announced a temporary change to the Alberta Employment Standards Code which increases the temporary lay-off period from 60 days to 120 days. This increase applies to any temporary layoff that occurred on or after March 17, 2020.

Under the previous legislation, there were a number of circumstances where this time limit could be extended even further by the employer, but only by agreement of the employee. This will likely remain the case under the new amendments but has not yet been confirmed. There has yet to be clarification on whether these temporary amendments will limit the total maximum days of layoff allowed within a prescribed period of time, as was the case previously.

If your employer asks you to extend your leave past the 120-day mark, we recommend seeking legal advice from one of our experienced employment lawyers regarding your options.

Will I Still Receive Compensation During a Temporary Layoff?

An employer is not obligated to continue paying an employee during the period of a temporary layoff. However, employees who have been laid of temporarily may be able to qualify for EI Benefits if they have enough insurable hours. Alternatively, an employee is able to qualify under one of the other financial assistance programs announced by the Federal and Provincial Government in response to COVID-19.

What Does it Mean to Be “Recalled”?

The Code allows an employer to recall an employee back to work by providing the employee with written notice before the expiry of the 120-day period. An employee must return to work within 7 days of the date of the recall notice. If the employee does not return to work within this period and their employment is terminated as a result, their entitlement to termination notice or ‘pay in lieu of’ notice could be adversely affected.

Confused Woman

Is my Employer Required to Give Me my Job Back after 120 Days?

No. If the employer has not issued a notice of recall, and there has been no mutual agreement to extend the layoff period past 120 days, the employment relationship is deemed to have been terminated.

Contact a Calgary Employment Lawyer today

If you would like to book a consultation to discuss your options in a temporary layoff, please feel free to contact us or email Jeneba Stewart directly at jstewart@west-legal.ca

24 Responses

  1. Randall

    I was given a 120 day temporary layoff from a Calgary based energy company on March 31 / 2020 , reason given ” In response the realities of declining economic conditions in our industry to falling oil prices , and the impact on our business arising from the reduction of activity by our clients ” .this was agreed upon and signed off by both parties. Just recently I received an email from the company attempting to extend my layoff to 180 days, and again reason given for my continued layoff ” Due to ongoing declining economic conditions ” . As I understand it Employment Standards AB is permitting a 60 day extension to 180 days for layoffs specifically related to COVID19 conditions only . As I was informed on March 31 / 2020 by the Mngr. who handled my layoff ” my layoff had nothing to do with COVID19 and I would have to go on EI and have nothing to do with CERB ” I believe I am not applicable to a 180 day layoff and should be returning to work or terminated …….I’m curious of your thoughts on this ruling call ?

  2. Chris

    My brother was fired yesterday after being layed off since early March after college closed down and forced him to be layed off.

    He was never give notice of the lay off in writing,he had gone into work after schools closed down for his apprenticeship and was told he would stay layed off until the business picked up.

    Since then multiple people have been hired externally while he’s been waiting for a call back.

    About 1 and half month ago he was called and told that they would be looking to bring him back in 2 to 3 weeks and then never called him. So he followed a couple weeks after which was a few days ago and now they phoned him and told him he was not coming back and fired! Again nothing in writing.

    They are giving him 2 weeks severance even though he’s been with the company for 6+ years.

    They have been getting away with so many things for years and just wondering if he’s entilted to anything else cause this is some total bs.

    1. Hello Matt,

      Thank you for your comment. As a general rule, there isn’t anything preventing someone from working elsewhere while on a temporary lay-off. Keep in mind that this may impact your EI/CERB benefits. In addition, if your original employer recalls you back, you will need to return within 7 days, therefore, you would need to make sure you could leave the other employment quite quickly as to not jeopardize your original position.

  3. Cori

    I was layed off March 31 with no notice for 60 days. I was employed for longer than 10 years. And they extended my layoff for an additional 60 days. Now they are requesting that I call to discuss returning to work but in a totally different roll. What are the guidelines for reasonable alternative work? Do I have to accept the job they are offering? If I don’t would I be eligible for severance pay? And continue to be eligible for EI benefits?

  4. Alexia

    If an employee on a temporary layoff finds another job and will no longer be working with the previous company are they still entitled to their termination pay (severance)?

  5. Hello,

    I was given a temporary layoff notice by my employer through email 2 weeks ago. A week after that, they called me and said that they wanted to have me back. I was told by Alberta Labour Standards that notice must be in writing therefore, their recall is invalid. What are my options now?

  6. Elle

    Hey Jeneba,

    On my paperwork, dated and presented to me on April 2, 2020, it states that my temporary layoff is effective April 8, 2020. Now, I understand that the ESC was amended on April 6, 2020 (?), in which the temporary layoff period was extended to 120 days but I was just wondering, since I was given notice on the 2nd, does the amended ESC supersede my notice and now my employer is no longer required to recall me within the 60 days, if they wish to not terminate my employment?

    Also, I know it may not mean much, as it was not in writing and was just verbally communicated to me but both my manager and her superior expressed the 60 day stipulation to me.


  7. Nancy C

    I was laid off in March due to the covid 19, does my employer have to hire me back when they open their retail business ess and if so, at the same rate of pay and status of seniority that I was at?

    1. Hello Nancy,

      An employer is not obligated to recall an employee after a period of temporary layoff. If the employee is not recalled before the end of the temporary layoff period (which is currently 120 days in Alberta), their employment is deemed terminated and they may be entitled to severance pursuant to employment legislation, the common law and/or the terms of their employment contract. In general, an employee should be recalled under the original terms of their employment, however the law does require an employee to be reasonable given the circumstances, and some change may be ok. If you are terminated from your employment, or are hired back under different terms, it would be a good idea to seek legal advice about your options.

  8. Dave

    Was put on temporary lay-off April 2nd, and returned to work Saturday May 23. After 3 shifts I was placed on temporary layoff again today.

    Does the 120 days start from today? The old language was ‘’60 days out of 120” but now it is just ‘120’. Or does that just mean 120 days? In which case it would be x days after today minus the credit from April 2nd until May 23?

    I feel like they had no intention of returning me to work as normal.

    1. Hello Dave,

      You are correct that the ESC previously stated that a temporary layoff could not exceed “60 days in a 120 day period.” However, the Employment Standards Code was temporarily amended by Ministerial Order on April 9, 2020. Section 63(1) of the Code which deals with temporary layoffs was temporarily amended to read “the employment of an employee laid off for more than 120 consecutive days is deemed to be terminated.” We would be happy to set up a consultation to advise you further on your particular issue.

  9. Jason

    I have been temporarily laid off but my company is still paying my benefits. I have a temporary lay off notice I am supposed to sign and send back. What happens if I don’t sign it, does that change the length of time they either have to recall me or terminate me with severance?

  10. Kaitlyn

    Hello everyone!

    I was laid off due to “work shortage” at in March. I was an employee for less than a year. They laid me off with no severance pay – if they do not recall me and hire someone else to do my job am I entitled to severance pay after the 120 days is up?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Kaitlyn,

      If you are terminated following the end of your temporary layoff period, and are a provincially regulated employee in Alberta, your minimum entitlement to notice or pay in lieu of notice is set out in the Alberta Employment Standards Code. The minimum termination notice for a provincially regulated employee who has been employed for a period of more than 90 days, but less than 2 years, is 1 week. You may be entitled to further severance pay pursuant to the common law, however this would be dependent on a number of factors including the wording in your employment agreement. In the event that you are terminated, I would recommend booking a severance review with our Firm so that we can advise you on whether you are receiving your full entitlements under the law.

    1. Hello Tony,

      I suppose in theory they could, however it would not erase their obligation to recall you at the end of your temporary lay-off period, or to provide you with reasonable notice of termination should they be unable to hire you back. In general, an employee on an indefinite contract, should be hired back pursuant to the original terms of their employment when they are recalled from a temporary layoff (in short, given their old job back).

  11. Bill

    After your temporary layoff has been passed and the company has decided to lay you off permanently, can they have you come work your layoff notice? Or do they only have the option to pay you your termination pay?

    1. Hi Bill,

      Thank you for your question. If your employer does terminate your employment, they are required to provide at-least the minimum termination notice set out by the Alberta Employment Standards Code. Termination notice under the Code, can include pay in lieu of notice, working notice, or a combination of both. Therefore, although unlikely, the employer could provide you with working notice, meaning that yes, you would have to return to work out your notice period.

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