Can my employer lay me off permanently because of COVID-19?

Yes, your employer can lay you off because of COVID-19. A layoff is when an employer cuts most or all of a worker's hours because there isn't work for them to do. Layoffs can be permanent or temporary.

A permanent layoff is when your employer ends your employment and isn't going to bring you back to work when there's more work available. It's also called “termination”, “dismissal”, “being fired”, or “being let go.”

For more information about temporary layoffs caused by COVID-19, see Can my employer lay me off temporarily because of COVID-19?

In Ontario, your employer has to give you a certain amount of notice before they lay you off permanently. The amount of notice time depends on how long you've worked for them. If your employer did not give you notice, then they usually have to pay  if you:

  • have been employed for at least 3 months, and
  • were not terminated for .

If you were permanently laid off because of COVID-19 and did not receive the right amount of notice or termination pay, you can make a claim for:

  • termination pay through the Ministry of Labour, or
  • through the courts

You can't do both. You have to choose one.

The Ministry of Labour enforces the (ESA). The ESA is the law that says what the rights and responsibilities of most employers and employees are in Ontario. It says the amount of termination pay depends only on how long you've worked for your employer. Sometimes you can also claim , if you work for a large company.

If you go through the courts, you can ask for pay in lieu of notice. It's similar to termination pay. The amount you can get depends on a number of different factors, including how long you've worked for your employer. You might also be able to ask for money for other things, such as damages if your employer broke human rights laws.

Usually, you can get more money if you go through the courts. But it's important to talk to a lawyer or paralegal first. Going to court is complicated and costs a lot of time and money. And everyone's situation is different.

See I’ve been fired, how much notice should I get? to learn more about termination pay and pay in lieu of notice.

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