Temporary layoffs

Last updated: September 14, 2020

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Layoffs must be temporary

An employee is laid off when they're given less work or no work – with the plan that the employee will return to a regular work schedule. 

If an employee’s hours are reduced, they are considered laid off when they earn less than 50% of their weekly wages at the regular rate (averaged over the previous eight weeks that they worked). If the employee won't be returning to work, the layoff is a termination of employment.

If an employee is laid off, they're still considered to be employed. Any benefits and entitlements (including vacation and leaves of absence) are protected.


Before the layoff

Employees must agree

Employers can't temporarily lay off an employee unless they agree to the layoff in advance. Layoffs must be:

  • Normal and expected in the industry (e.g. in the logging industry where work cannot be performed during “break-up”) or
  • Part of an employment contract or
  • Agreed to between the employee and the employer

If an employee doesn't agree to the layoff, it may be considered a termination of employment. Except for some limited exceptions, the rules are the same as for ending employment.

Update employee records

Employers should keep up-to-date contact information for all employees throughout the period of layoff. If you're an employee, you can help by making sure your employer has your correct information.


Returning to work

Layoffs have a maximum length

An employee cannot be laid off for more than 13 weeks in any given 20-week period (about three months in a period of five months). If the employee is covered by a collective agreement, the maximum length of a layoff is the period of time during which they have the right to be recalled.

Every week that an employee earns less than half of their regular wages counts as a week of layoff. If an employee is laid off for more than the maximum number of weeks, the Employment Standards Branch may decide that their employment has been ended and employers may need to pay compensation for length of service

Recalling employees to work

Employers are responsible for providing reasonable notice about when employees will be returned to work. The best way to do this is to notify employees of their schedule as early as possible. Provide a specific return date.

Make attempts to contact your employees using reliable and appropriate methods. You might need to communicate the notice in multiple ways – for example, a phone call, email, text message and registered mail. Confirm your employees receive the notice.

The notice should provide enough time for employees to plan for their return to work. Employers should consider how the length of the layoff may have impacted their employees, such as the potential family or personal impact. Employees who have been laid off for a longer period of time might need more notice than an employee who was laid off for a shorter period of time.

Changing employment conditions

If an employee is laid off, they're still considered to be employed. If an employer makes substantial changes to an employee's conditions of employment (such as hours or pay), the Employment Standards Branch may decide that a person’s employment has been ended. If this happens, the rules are the same as for ending employment.

Employees who refuse recall

Some employees may not want to return to work for different reasons.

Workers and employers that have concerns about COVID-19, workplace safety or injuries should contact WorkSafeBC.


An employee's decision on whether or not to return to work after a temporary layoff may affect their eligibility for federal government benefits like Employment Insurance (EI) or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).


If an employee doesn't return to work or respond to the notice of recall, the rules about quitting a job or being fired apply.


What You Can Do

If you have questions about quitting your job, being fired or laid off, find out what you can do: