Layoff is a measure by which the employer temporarily suspends the employee’s employment contract. Layoff generally occurs during a temporary lack of work, for example in the context of seasonal employment (construction, agriculture, fisheries, etc.) or when there is a lack of work for economic reasons. We can think of tourism or sports activities (marina, ski center, outfitters, etc.).
The notion of layoff implies that the employer will call the laid-off workers back to work when the company’s activities resume. There was no termination of the employment relationship when the layoff occurred, but only a suspension of the employment contract.
During the layoff, the employer must give the employee a record of employment indicating the last day worked if the interruption of earnings must last more than 7 consecutive days. These are calendar days, which include weekends, not working days. This record of employment will allow the employee to apply for employment insurance, if applicable.
Section 82 of the Loi sur les Normes du Travail (the Act) further provides that the employer must give notice varying between two and eight weeks to any employee laid off for a period of more than 6 months. Conversely, if the layoff lasts less than 6 months, no notice is required.
In addition, article 82.1 para. 4 of the Act provides that no notice is required when the layoff occurs due to a major form. The Government of Quebec issued Ministerial Order Number 2020-008 on March 22, 2020, which provides in particular that all activities exercised in most businesses and all Quebec shopping centers, restaurants, be suspended as of March 23, 2020 pharmacies, schools, etc. All construction sites will also be stopped from midnight on March 23, 2020. The current situation can therefore be compared to a major force affecting all Quebec workplaces. Employers therefore have no notice to give to laid-off employees, even if the layoff is to last more than six months, under section 82.1 of the Act.
It should be noted that the layoff does not constitute a dismissal. The layoff is temporary in nature and implies that the employer will recall the employees affected by the layoff to work when the situation requires. The employer cannot therefore use the cover of a collective layoff, even in the event of force majeure, in order to permanently terminate the employment of an employee. Article 82 al. 3 of the Act also provides that any notice of termination of employment given during the layoff period is absolutely null, with the exception of certain jobs of a seasonal nature.
An employee who is not called back to work after the resumption of normal activities of the employer is entitled to a notice of departure if the employer considers that he no longer needs his services. The length of notice is that provided for in article 82 of the Act and varies between two and eight weeks depending on the number of years of service. In all cases, the notice given must be reasonable in accordance with article 2091 of the Civil Code of Quebec. An employer who refuses to give this notice, or who simply does not call the employee back at the end of the layoff period is liable to dismissal without just and sufficient cause.