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How do you spell layoff?

Layoffs are confusing for many more reasons than simply how to spell it (layoff, lay off, lay-off?) A layoff is a termination of employment; however, the use of the term layoff is usually understood to have a connotation of either resulting from a shortage of work or being temporary in nature, rather than permanent termination or for cause.

In union shops the process of managing layoffs is a key issue at the bargaining table. Employers without collective agreements also face a challenge managing work shortages and legislation only answers a few of the many issues which must be managed.

In all provinces and territories, a layoff is a termination of work that attracts the regular notice requirements. In other words, most jurisdictions require an employer to give an employee notice of a layoff, even if it is expected to be temporary. All terminations require proper notice, regardless of the reason for termination, with some exceptions which vary between jurisdictions. Most provinces and territories also provide for some exception to the notice requirements for layoffs which are temporary, or where an employee has refused an offer of alternate work. Most jurisdictions also have specific notice requirements when an employer is laying-off a group of employees, which may include notice to the Labour Ministry. Employers should be sure to understand the law in their jurisdiction and to seek legal advice prior to commencing layoffs.

There are important policy issues for employers to consider when managing layoffs, especially for employers without a union contract. Consider the following:

  • How does an employer determine who will be laid-off? Will the decision be based on skills, merit or seniority? A policy dealing with terminations or layoffs should include a process for determining the order of layoff. An employer without a policy risks the appearance of favouritism.
  • In most cases, notice requirements may be dispensed with if a reasonable offer of alternate work has been made to an employee. An employer must decide how such offers will be made, and whether training will be provided to an employee to enable them to do the alternate work.
  • Most non-union workplaces have no rights of recall for employees who are laid-off, however, if it makes sense to maintain a skilled and trained workforce, an employee on layoff may be the best candidate for the job once there is again sufficient work at the workplace, rather than hiring and training new employees. If employees are to be recalled, what process will the employer use? Again, as noted above, will seniority trump skill or first-out/first back-in?
  • Even though a maternity or parental leave (or other statutory leave) is no protection from a legitimate layoff not related to the statutory leave, employers will face the challenge of the layoff of an employee on a statutory leave appearing as a reprisal.

The best protection against assertions of favouritism or reprisal is a written policy, consistently followed.

And for those of you who care, the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s suggest that layoff, lay off and lay-off are all correct.

Human Resources PolicyPro

Human Resources PolicyPro

For a sample termination policy and other related documents, try the Human Resources PolicyPro. This all-in-one policy-building resource offers not only sample policies but also commentary and related precedents to help you understand each policy in the context of relevant legislative requirements.

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Michele Glassford

President and Managing Editor at DRH and Lawyer at MacKinnon Law Associates
Michele Glassford, is a lawyer, researcher and policy analyst with a background in employment and labour law.In addition to a part-time law practice in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Michele has worked in the field of labour adjustment for the Health Sector Training and Adjustment Program and has been a Researcher for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Michele also holds the position of President and Managing Editor at D.R. Hancocks & Associates Inc., author of the Human Resources PolicyPros. Read more
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