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

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Can my employer lay me off temporarily because of COVID-19?
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Ministry of Labour
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)

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Can my employer lay me off temporarily because of COVID-19?
Reviewed: 
September 4, 2020
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ANSWER

Because of COVID-19, many employers have shut down or reduced their business hours. They have also had to lay off some or all of their employees.

Before COVID-19 an employer could temporarily lay off employees for up to 13 weeks. In some cases they could do so for longer, for example, if they continued to pay benefits.  

But the government of Ontario has changed the rules for temporary layoffs in response to COVID-19. The changes allow employers to put employees on an unpaid leave of absence, instead of a temporary layoff. This leave of absence can last for up to 6 weeks after the end of the COVID-19 emergency. During the leave of absence your employer does not need to pay you.

This change will last until January 3, 2021.

Constructive Dismissal

A temporary layoff can be a reason to claim constructive dismissal. Constructive dismissal is when your employer changes the terms of your employment so much that you can consider yourself fired.

If you are successful with a constructive dismissal claim, your employer would have to give you termination pay, severance pay, or both. 

Before the unpaid leave was introduced you could go to either the courts or the Ministry of Labour to force your employer to pay you for constructive dismissal. Now that the law says you are on an unpaid leave you cannot go to the Ministry of Labour. You may still be able to go to the courts. This is a complicated area of law, and you should get legal help.  

See here for more information on the new rules on constructive dismissal.

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