Changes due to COVID-19
We introduced new workplace rules beginning on March 17, 2020. Temporary rules have evolved since the public health emergency order was originally introduced. We encourage employers to notify employees if their layoff period gets extended due to an updated rule change.
The maximum temporary layoff period is 180 consecutive days for employees who, due to COVID-19, receive a temporary layoff notice on or after June 18, 2020, or a temporary layoff was underway as of June 18, 2020.
On the 181st consecutive day of a temporary layoff, an employee’s employment is considered to be ended, and the employer must pay termination pay.
Temporary layoffs can be extended if an employee agrees to receive wages, pension, or benefit payments in lieu of a firm limit of the length of layoff.
Termination pay is payable when these payments cease, unless there is a collective agreement in place that outlines alternate recall requirements.
For temporary layoffs that occurred for reasons other than COVID-19, the following rules apply:
- for layoffs that started before March 17, regular rules apply (maximum 60 days in total in a 120-day period)
- for layoffs that started between March 17 and June 17, the maximum layoff duration is 120 consecutive days
- for layoffs that occurred on or after June 18, regular rules apply (maximum 60 days in total in a 120-day period)
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.
For more information, visit COVID-19 info for Albertans.
Changes to employment standards rules are proposed in Bill 32: the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act.
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 notice must be provided unless there is a collective agreement that states otherwise, or there are unforeseeable circumstances:
- 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
- All employees who are temporarily laid off are entitled to proper notice. The timing of the notice may vary if unforeseeable circumstances occur (such as COVID-19).
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 is 60 total days within a 120-day period.
On the 61st day of a temporary layoff, the employee’s employment is considered to be ended, and the employer must pay termination pay.
The period of temporary layoff can be extended beyond 60 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
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 60-day 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.
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.