On April 6, 2020, in the face of the shutdown of many businesses across the country, the province announced changes to the temporary layoff scheme in order to allow employers to provide job protection, and flexibility to employers impacted by the pandemic. According to the Alberta Employment Standards Code, employers of non-unionized employees are entitled to temporarily layoff employees without pay while still maintaining the employment relationship. Due to COVID-19 however, some of the rules have changed.
How Long is a Temporary Layoff?
The Code outlines that an employee may be temporarily laid off for no more than 60 days in a 120 day period. For all employees who received notice of temporary layoff on or after March 17, 2020 however, the maximum period has been extended to 120 consecutive days. If the employer does not recall the employee by the 121st day after the layoff, the employee is considered to have been terminated and must be paid termination pay. The 120 day period can be extended, but only if the employee agrees to receive wages, pension or benefit payments in lieu of a firm limit of the length of layoff.
If an employee was already on a temporary layoff on March 17, 2020, the extension to the maximum layoff period applies; the employer is not required to give a new notice in order to extend to 120 days.
Do I Need to Provide Notice to Employees for a Temporary Layoff?
According to the Code, employers are required to provide proper written notice of the temporary layoff. The Code outlines the required time frame for giving notice based on the length of service of the employee. However, if these specified notice periods cannot be complied with due to unforeseeable circumstances, the Code states that notice can be given “as soon as practicable in the circumstances.” The COVID-19 pandemic likely qualifies and as a result, an employer may not be required to give the specific notice to an employee of a temporary layoff.
While the changes to the temporary layoff rules are not permanent, the province recently announced that they may extend the temporary layoff period to 180 days under Bill 24. This page will be updated as the province announces whether these changes will be made. *Update: This legislation has come into force as of June 25th.
If you have questions about the rules around temporary layoffs, or must consider this option as an employer, feel free to contact our Employment Services Practice Group for advice.
Not sure how to proceed with temporary layoffs during Covid-19?
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