First, when it comes to a temporary lay off, an employer can only do this if one of the following apply: (a) it’s already in your employment contract, (b) you agree to it, or (c) you work in a specific industry (for example, forestry or construction) that allows for these types of layoffs. So, the pandemic, on its own, is not a valid legal reason for an employer to do a temporary layoff. Otherwise, your lay off would be considered a permanent lay off (even if they call it temporary), and you’d be entitled to severance pay immediately. If it's a valid layoff, your employer has up to 16 weeks (if the layoff was because of COVID-19) to hire you back, and if not, then you would be entitled to severance pay.
The amount of severance pay depends on many factors. Under the law in BC, you would be entitled to at least eight weeks of severance pay based on your tenure at the company. But you may be entitled to more. Check your employment contract to see if it provides for more. If your contract doesn’t say anything about notice, the law implies a term that your employer give you reasonable notice of dismissal. How much notice is reasonable depends on factors such as how long you’ve been in the job, your age, and your role. See our information on reasonable notice.
Once you calculate what you’re owed, consider writing a letter to your employer setting out your rights and expectations. You may be able to resolve things amicably. If not, you can make an employment standards complaint with the goal of compelling your employer to pay your severance.
At this time, you may be entitled to employment insurance benefits (called EI). If you haven’t already applied for EI, the government advises you should apply for the Canada emergency response benefit (if you’re eligible), and BC’s special worker’s benefit. We walk you through eligibility and the application process here.