Changes to employment standards rules in the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act are in effect for temporary layoffs, group terminations, and variances and exemptions. All other employment standards changes take effect November 1.

Basic rules

The employer must give the employee notice of temporary layoff. To be valid, the notice must:

  • be in writing
  • state that it’s a temporary layoff notice and its effective date
  • include sections 62-64 of the Code
  • the following layoff notice must be provided to the employee before the layoff starts, unless there is a collective agreement that states otherwise:
    • at least one week prior to the date layoff begins if the employee has been employed by the employer for less than 2 years
    • at least 2 weeks prior to the date layoff begins if the employee has been employed by the employer for 2 or more years
    • if there are unforeseeable circumstances (such as COVID-19), employers are required to provide as much notice as possible given the circumstances

Employee eligibility

All employees who are temporarily laid off are entitled to proper notice.

Lack of proper notice

If proper notice of temporary layoff is not given, the employee may have been unjustly or constructively dismissed. Some courts have also held that while the Code permits an employer to temporarily lay off an employee in the absence of a collective agreement or contract allowing layoff, the employee maintains the right to sue for constructive or wrongful dismissal if laid off in those circumstances.

Length of temporary layoff

In Alberta, the maximum duration of a temporary layoff depends on the reason for layoff, and when the layoff occurred.  Several changes were introduced in 2020 to help with temporary layoffs related to COVID-19.

Reason for layoff Initial layoff date Maximum length of layoff Termination occurs on the:
Unrelated to COVID-19 Prior to March 17 60 days total in a 120-day period 61st day
March 17 – June 17 120 consecutive days from the initial layoff date 121st consecutive day
On or after June 18 90 days total in a 120-day period 91st day
Related to COVID-19 Any date 180 consecutive days from the initial layoff date 181st consecutive day

If the thresholds are met in the last column above, the employee’s employment is considered to be ended, and the employer must pay termination pay if the employee is entitled.

The period of temporary layoff can be extended beyond the maximum days if the employer makes regular payment to or on behalf of the employee, such as continuing to pay wages, employee pensions or benefits and the employee agrees to these payments in lieu of a firm limit of the length of the layoff. Termination pay is payable when payments in lieu cease.

Recall of employee during temporary layoff

To request that an employee return to work after a layoff, an employer must serve a recall notice to the employee. To be valid, the notice must:

  • be in writing
  • say that the employee must return to work within 7 days from the date the notice was served to the employee

Serving a recall notice

There are several ways to serve a recall notice to an employee. An employer can:

  • give the notice to the employee in person, either at work or at the employee’s address
  • leave the notice at the employee’s address with a person who appears to be 18 or older
  • send the notice by mail or registered mail
  • send the notice by fax or email

Terminating the employment

If the employee doesn’t return to work within 7 days of being served the recall notice:

  • the employer can terminate employment
  • the employee would not be entitled to termination notice or termination pay

Collective agreement

If there is a collective agreement in place, and it contains recall rights following layoff, the employment ends and termination pay is owed when recall rights expire.

School employees and school bus drivers

The maximum days rule does not apply to school employees and school bus drivers if they work until the end of one school year and continue to work, or have the opportunity to work for, the same employer at the beginning of the next school year.

Group Terminations

Employers should be aware of the rules regarding group terminations when laying off large numbers of employees. These rules do not affect temporary layoffs, but do come into effect when employees are terminated.

Learn more about group terminations.

How the law applies

Part 2, Division 8 of the Employment Standards Code provides the process required to terminate employment relationships, entitlements to termination notice and pay, temporary layoff and recall rights.

Division 8 also outlines circumstances in which an employer or an employee may not be required to provide termination notice under the Code.

Disclaimer: In the event of any discrepancy between this information and Alberta Employment Standards legislation, the legislation is considered correct.