Being temporarily laid-off work
Temporary lay-offs happen when your employer does not have enough work, so they ask some of the workforce to stay at home. You could still have employment rights during a lay-off, including the right to be paid.
What is a lay-off?
If your employer has reduction in demand for your type of work, they might need to make cut-backs. Your employer is normally entitled to tell you not to come into work, but in many cases they will still have to pay you full pay.
If you are not an employee, for example, if you are a temp, you do not have a right to paid work and so you cannot be laid-off.
Lay-off and short-time
If your employer doesn't have enough work for you, they may tell you to stay at home. If you are off work for at least one complete working day, this is a lay-off.
Where your employer asks you to work some of the week but you are laid off for a day or more in the week, then you are on 'short-time' working. This means your hours of work are cut.
Time limits for lay-offs
There is no upper limit for how long you can be laid-off or put on short-time. You may be able to claim redundancy pay if you are laid-off without pay or put on short-time for either:
- four consecutive weeks
- six weeks within a 13 week period
Pay during lay-offs
If you are laid-off you should get your full pay unless it is part of your contract that your employer can lay you off without pay or on reduced pay.
If it is not part of your employment contract, you can agree to change your contract if you wish. For example, a lay-off might be better than being made redundant.
If you agree to change your contract to allow unpaid lay-offs, you should write down the agreement. You should make clear how long the agreement is going to last and whether you can change your mind.
What to do if you are laid-off
If you are laid-off unpaid you should check whether this is allowed under your employment terms. If you wish to agree to change your employment contract so that unpaid lay-offs are allowed, you can do so. Another option could be to agree to take some annual leave instead of being laid-off.
If unpaid lay-offs are allowed under your employment contract, you should make sure your employer knows they should still give you statutory guarantee pay.
If unpaid lay-offs aren't allowed under your employment contract, you should get full pay during a lay-off. However, you can agree to accept less.
If your employer is being unreasonable in laying you off (for example, unfairly singling you out) you might consider yourself as being constructively dismissed and claiming unfair dismissal.
Your employer should not dismiss you for asking for your rights when you are laid-off. If they do, you might be able to make a claim to an Industrial Tribunal.
Once you have been laid-off for either over four weeks or six weeks in a 13 week block, you could consider leaving and claiming redundancy pay.
Where to get help?
The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues for residents of Northern Ireland. You can contact the LRA on 028 9032 1442 from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday.
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can provide free and impartial advice. You can find your local CAB office in the phone book or online.
If you are a member of a trade union, you can get help, advice and support from them.