If I get a huge cut in hours, have I effectively been laid off?

My hours were cut in half. I’ve heard I might have the same rights as if I’d been let go. But I’m worried that if I quit I won’t qualify for EI.



Victoria, BC

First off, if you’re covered by employment standards law (see who’s covered) and your weekly hours are reduced so that you’re earning less than half of your regular wage, you’re considered temporarily laid off. Here, we explain how temporary layoffs work.

As well, if your job hours have been cut significantly (figure by at least 20%), this could be considered constructive dismissal. This is when your work situation changes in a fundamental way, and you don’t accept that change.

Being constructively dismissed is the equivalent of being permanently laid off — a constructive dismissal gives a worker the right to quit their job, get a severance payment, and apply for unemployment benefits.

Our information on constructive dismissal explains the concept more fully, and walks you step-by-step through options to work out the problem.

A word of caution, though: the law of constructive dismissal is complicated. The onus is on you to prove the change to your job was fundamental.

Also, be aware that if you continue to work without objecting, you may lose some of your legal rights. By failing to object, you’re basically saying you want to continue in your job despite the changes. 

With all this to navigate, consider getting legal advice. If you don’t have access to a lawyer, there are options for free or low-cost legal help.

David Kandestin

David Kandestin

People's Law School
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in April 2023

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