Although many assume using the words “laid off” is a more polite way of saying “fired” or “terminated,” the terms are actually quite different.
When an employee is terminated, their employer is ending the contract between them. In these instances, ties are cut. It is expected that the employee will cease working with no return to the business. On the other hand, if the employee is laid off, it can be a temporary situation. In many cases, there is an expectation that the employee will return to their role at a future date.
In short, termination is a permanent cessation of work, whereas a layoff can be a temporary cessation of work. If a termination has occurred, the contract is over. In some cases involving a layoff, an employment agreement is still in effect (for a certain amount of time, that is).
Layoffs are common in industries that work seasonally, like construction or tourism for example. However, there has been an uptick in layoffs in Alberta due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rules surrounding layoffs as determined by the Province vary depending on the situation, but all have time-sensitive dates that will determine if the employee is eligible to return to work.
In instances of a temporary layoff, employers are required to provide written notice to their employee that confirms an effective date. This written document must also include:
The length of this temporary layoff will depend on the reason for the layoff and when the layoff occurred. Changes were made in 2020 to assist with the many temporary layoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the layoff was unrelated to COVID-19, the maximum length of layoff varies between 60 – 120 days (depending on which date the layoff became effective). Once an employee has been laid off for longer than the maximum length, their layoff becomes a termination.
If the layoff was related to COVID-19, the maximum length of layoff is 180 consecutive days from the initial layoff date. On the 181st day, the layoff becomes a termination.
Understanding your rights and obligations in the workplace is important — and this goes for employers and employees alike. If you’re looking for general advice, or seeking assistance with a specific employment matter, we can help.
Our team has a thorough understanding of Alberta employment laws, allowing us to professionally evaluate your unique case and offer the best advice on how to proceed.
Getz, Collins and Associates now offer seminars and training sessions on employment law and employee management. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions on how we can help bring clarity and confidence regarding the topic of employment law to your business.