Employment Lawyer Insight – COVID-19 Layoffs and Reduced Hours

Badre Law - Employment Lawyer - COVID-19 Closures

Over the past few weeks, many employers were faced with the reality that they cannot continue operating as usual because of the pandemic. All non-essential businesses were forced to shut down and those deemed essential have had to come up with a way to operate while ensuring the safety of their employees and customers. For the most part, the main two options for employers are to temporarily layoff staff members or reduce their hours. Neither is ideal, and both come with difference pros and cons. If you’re deciding which is best for your employees, or are an employee that is facing one of these options, below is a brief overview of both scenarios from an employment lawyer.

One thing to point out before continuing is that the Employment Standards Act, health and safety regulations and any other legislature in place to protect and govern both employers and employees are still very much in place. Both employers and employees should know their rights, especially during times like this.

Temporary Layoffs

If you’ve ever done seasonal work, you’re already very familiar with temporary layoffs during the off-season. But for those with stable, full-time employment, the thought of a temporary layoff can be worrisome. Your employer has every right to issue temporary layoffs, and some don’t have a choice. The provincial government’s declaration of a state of emergency has forced many businesses to close, especially those considered non-essential. Your employer will inform you of the layoff and give you a letter of layoff. The letter may or may not say how long the layoff is going to be. If you’re unsure about whether or not you can layoff certain employees, contact your employment lawyer to determine what you can do.

Temporary layoffs allow employers to save what money would have been going towards employee paycheques and use it to pay whatever costs they incur (or revenue they lose) while being closed. The employees are also now able to apply for EI benefits or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Reduced Hours

For businesses that are able to stay open during the pandemic, they’ll likely operate with reduced hours and services while implementing more health and safety procedures to ensure everyone’s safety. You, as an employee, are still required to work as long as it’s safe. A lot of businesses are ensuring this by changing the way the workplace operates, such as having employees work from home if they can. Another example is most restaurants have closed their dine-in service but still offer takeout and delivery. Depending on the business, there are certain ways to alter how you do things while still providing services to people. However, those who are working reduced hours are going to see a significant decrease to their paycheque. Those who are still working can apply for EI benefits if they’re experiencing a reduced income.

A lot of the emergency funding and support being put in place is the first of its kind and can be difficult to navigate. While these are two of the most common situations employment lawyers are seeing, it doesn’t mean they’re the only ones. If you are still looking for further clarification about your specific situation, do not hesitate to contact an employment lawyer. They’ll advise you on what actions you’re able to take based on your circumstances and what would benefit you the most.