A Primer on Job Layoffs
It well understood that in tough economic times, it is the employer and not the employee, who carries the higher financial risk. They must do everything they can to ride out the tide without job layoffs. Sometimes however, businesses have valid temporary reasons for reducing payroll. They may be a seasonal business or have to shut down for renovations or short supply chain interruptions. In these circumstances, job layoffs provide employers with some maneuvering flexibility to reasonably manage unnecessary expenses.
Job layoffs are usually temporary in nature. Your employer can discontinue your paycheck but your employment benefits should continue as normal. You are still an employee of the organization. Most importantly, your boss must give you a recall date for when you can expect to return back to work. In the eyes of the law, this is a ‘genuine layoff’. Your employer should provide you with sufficient notice of the impending layoff to allow you to, in turn, manage your finances. And if the layoff was unforeseen and occurs suddenly, you should receive pay in lieu of notice.
Sometimes, your employment agreement may contain provisions for temporary layoffs. If you consented to this, your employer does not need to offer you pay in lieu of notice.
All layoffs must comply with the requirements of the Employment Standards Act 2000. It states that temporary layoffs cannot exceed a continuous 13 week period. Employers can place you on layoffs for a total of 35 weeks within a consecutive 52 week period. If your layoff exceeds any of this, then you have been permanently dismissed. You stop receiving employment benefits and are entitled to notice or severance pay in lieu.
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Our common law does not permit “regular” job layoffs; your employer must have very good and predictable reasons for implementing them, e.g. a seasonal business.
If your employer continues to fire and then re-hire you on a regular basis for no apparent good reason, you should contact an employment lawyer. We can review the circumstances to see if you are caught up in a series of “sham” layoffs. They are, first of all, illegal; secondly, they perpetuate precarious employment which affects our society in very negative ways.
Employers engaging in these practices often prey on young workers, new immigrants and the most vulnerable in our society. Consequently, these people may not understand our laws very well. These types of layoffs can bewrongful dismissals in disguise and we can help you seek damages for them.
In non-seasonal workplaces where layoffs are not a precedent, some employers use “sham” layoff tactics for insidious reasons. By frustrating you in the employment relationship they leave you with little choice but to quit your job. This is called constructive dismissal and you have every right to seek damages for it. Effectively, by forcing your hand into quitting, your employer avoids paying out your severance entitlements. And in this case, you need legal representation for breach of your rights.
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