There’s a big difference between a temporary layoff and a regular layoff. In a temporary layoff, a company can stop paying you and does not have to give you notice or pay you severance. In BC, this can last for up to 13 weeks in a 20-week period. But right now, it can last for up to 16 weeks. If it lasts any longer than that, the employer is obliged to pay you severance. How much severance is owed depends on many factors, like how long you worked there or what’s in your employment contract.
Another key thing — a temporary layoff can only happen if (a) it’s already in your employment contract, (b) you agree to it, or (c) you work in a specific industry (such as 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.
Employers may tell you “these are unprecedented times,” or “we hope to have your continued support through this.” While this may be true, it doesn’t mean you have to agree to a temporary layoff. And you don’t have to decide right away — an employer may ask you to sign something before you leave the room. You don’t have to. Take your time and think about whether you’d rather take a permanent layoff (and the severance amounts you’re entitled to) instead.