temporary layoff

What Happens When a layoff Becomes Permanent?

Typically, layoffs are meant to be temporary. Employees are given notice that they will be off work or have reduced work for a certain amount of time before they’re called back to work as it was before the layoff. Temporary layoffs in Ontario are not meant to end employees’ employment status with a company. 


But what happens if a temporary layoff turns into a permanent one? What happens if your boss never calls you to come back into the office? What if they never call you again? These are fears that many employees on temporary layoff have, and it’s a reality that some people end up facing. 


This article will explain what a temporary layoff is, how you can tell that your temporary layoff has likely become a permanent layoff, and what you can do when you’re met with that situation. 


What is a Temporary Layoff in Ontario?


Employers might choose to temporarily lay off their employees for various reasons, including that there might not be enough work for the number of employees that they have during a slow season, or because the company is suffering from some financial difficulties. When COVID-19 hit and the pandemic caused many businesses to slow, many people were faced with temporary layoffs from their workplaces. 


According to the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), a temporary layoff is when an employer stops an employee from working for no more than 13 weeks in a period of 20 weeks. The layoff may be for longer than 13 weeks if it is for less than 35 weeks of the year and:

  • The employer is paying the employee substantial payments; or
  • The employee is receiving significant insurance or retirement benefits; or
  • The employee is claiming unemployment benefits to supplement their income; or
  • The employee could choose to claim unemployment benefits, but isn’t doing so because they have another job; or
  • The employer recalls the employee within a timeframe set out by either the Director of Employment Standards, an agreement with the employee, or an agreement with the employee’s union if they are part of one. 


Essentially, what this means is that a temporary layoff should generally be about 13 weeks within a period of 20 weeks. However, employers can lengthen that time if they are still giving their employees something in return for being off work (i.e. payment, benefits, employment insurance, etc) or if the employee doesn’t need the position for their pay, since they have another source of employment. The layoff must also be for less than 35 weeks of the year.


How Do I Know My Temporary layoff Has Become Permanent?


Some employers may choose to let their employees know that their temporary layoff has become permanent as soon as they know that they can no longer welcome the employee back to work. Other times, employers will be less upfront, and it will be up to the employee to conclude that they don’t have a job to return to. 


If your temporary layoff has gone on for longer than 13 weeks in a 20-week period, or for more than 35 weeks of the year while not meeting any of the criteria listed above, you may be facing a permanent layoff.


If you can, reach out to your employer to find out what their plan is for your return to work. That may be the opportunity for them to tell you that you have been terminated, or that they are preparing to send you back to work. 


Generally, if an employee who has been temporarily laid off is then permanently terminated, they are owed severance pay. If your employer chooses to terminate you, their first step should be to ensure that you receive severance pay and that you have been given all the information you need after being let go from their company. 


If your employer has laid you off permanently but you did not receive severance pay, contact an employment lawyer as soon as possible. It is possible that you can bring legal action before your employer in order to receive the pay that you are owed.


What Happens Now?


If you have been laid off permanently and you have received severance pay, then you may be faced with the next steps in your life. You have been terminated from your position, and it may be time to start looking for a new job somewhere else. Maybe this is a chance for a fresh start somewhere else.


If you did not receive severance pay, or if you feel that there was some reason that you were fired that might qualify as wrongful dismissal, it is a good idea to speak to a lawyer. You may be able to bring legal action against your former employer.




It can be worrying to be temporarily laid off from a company, especially if you stop hearing from your employer about when you might be coming back in. It’s a good idea to keep track of how long you have been laid off and compare it to the rules set out in the ESA. Ask your employer if they intend to bring you back to work, and if they do not, make sure that you receive the severance pay that you are owed.


If you have concerns or questions about your temporary layoff, or if you want to know what to do now that your layoff has become permanent, speak to a qualified employment lawyer at Achkar Law. 


Contact Us


If you are an employee with questions about temporary layoffs, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist. 


If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support with a same-day response, visit our Chief Legal Officer Program page for our strategic solutions.