Employee Layoffs During COVID-19

Posted on May 28, 2020 in Employment Law by Kimberly D. Visram

As more businesses start to reopen in Saskatchewan, employees who were laid off may be wondering when they will be called back to work. And what happens if they are not called back?

Under normal circumstances, an employer cannot layoff an employee without giving appropriate notice or pay in lieu of notice. However, in light of COVID-19 in March, 2020 the Saskatchewan government provided an ability for employers to issue a layoff without triggering the statutory notice requirements. Employees could be laid off for up to 12 weeks within a 16 week period, with no pay from the employer, before they were considered terminated.

In May, the Saskatchewan government further amended The Saskatchewan Employment Act and The Employment Standards Regulations in response to COVID-19. The recent changes removed the previous 12-week limit on layoffs and now permits employers to temporarily layoff employees for the duration of a public emergency period.

A public emergency period is defined as a period during which an order of the chief medical health officer, or an emergency declaration ordered pursuant to The Emergency Planning Act, is in force.

So until such time as the public emergency period is declared at an end, employees may remain laid off without any entitlement to the protections normally provided by the employment legislation which provide minimum notice periods for layoff or termination, or pay in lieu thereof. 

Employers can therefore determine which employees will be recalled and in what order (unionized workplaces may be different).

Once the public emergency period is over, an employer has two weeks to schedule employees back to work. If an employee is not scheduled to return to work following that two-week period, their employment is deemed terminated and the requirement to provide appropriate notice or pay in lieu of notice is triggered.

If an employee is scheduled to return to work and they fail to do so, they may be considered to have resigned.

It is important for both employers and employees to review the public health orders as they are updated and consider how such orders may impact employment relationships.

If you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our employment law team who is ready and willing to assist.

Kimberly D. Visram
500 – 123 2nd Avenue South, Saskatoon, SK S7K 7E6
Telephone: 306-244-0132
Email: kvisram@shtb-law.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyVisramLegal/

The information in this guide is not legal advice. We encourage you
to consult with your legal advisor for specific advice.