July 28, 2020
The question posed to Melissa for the column involved whether an employer is obligated to play severance to their employee if they have been temporarily laid off.
My employer has laid me off because of COVID-19 but kept my benefits active. As there is a lasting impact on our business, I don’t expect to be rehired until maybe October, and that may not be permanent. At what point are they obligated to pay severance, and is there a way to force the issue?
Melissa’s answer noted that you are entitled to severance, even when you’ve been temporarily laid off, but it’s important to note the layoff period specifically if the cause of layoffs was due to COVID-19.
It sounds as though your employer has placed you on a temporary layoff. One of the purposes of a temporary layoff is to allow the employment relationship to continue during lulls in business. Each of the provinces has employment legislation that provides for temporary layoffs and the rules that need to be followed by the employer. Similarly, the Canada Labour Code is the federal legislation that addresses temporary layoffs. According to these laws, you would be entitled to severance when the maximum time frame stipulated for a temporary layoff is reached. It is important to note that during COVID-19, many of the provinces have enacted legislation extending the maximum time frame for a temporary layoff. For example, in Alberta, the temporary layoff period has been extended to 180 consecutive days, if the cause of the layoff was due to COVID-19.
The rest of the column is behind a paywall, but if you are a subscriber of The Globe and Mail, you can read it here.