Temporary lay-offs

Temporary lay-offs happen when your employer doesn't 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 a lay-off is

If your employer has less 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'll still have to pay you full pay.

If you're not an employee, for example, if you're a temp, you don't have a right to paid work and so you can't be laid-off.

Lay-off and short-time working

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

Claiming redundancy when laid-off work

You may be able to make a claim for redundancy if you have either been:

  • laid-off work without pay
  • put on short-time work earning less than half of your weekly wage

Making a redundancy claim

If you want to make a claim for redundancy after being laid-off you should follow the correct process.

Your written notice

The first step in the process for claiming redundancy is  to give your employer written notice that you intend to claim redundancy. You must give it to them within four weeks of the end of either:

  • a consecutive lay-off or short-time working period of at least four weeks
  • six weeks lay-off or short-time within a 13 week period, where no more than three of the weeks have been consecutive

Your employer's response

Your employer then has seven days to either accept your claim or give you a written ‘counter-notice’. If your employer doesn't give you counter notice they are assumed to have accepted your claim.

The counter notice is to tell you that your employer doesn't accept your redundancy payment claim because work will be available in the near future. The ‘near future’ must be within four weeks and the work must last at least 13 weeks without interruption.

If your employer gives you counter notice you won’t get redundancy pay unless an Industrial Tribunal decides in your favour. Your employer can decide to withdraw their counter notice by telling you in writing.


To get redundancy pay you must resign by giving either one week's notice or the notice period required by your employment contract if this is longer. The timing of your notice is crucial to get right and redundancy pay claims can fail if you don't give in your notice correctly.

If seven days have passed since you gave your written notice to your employer and your employer hasn't given counter notice, you should hand in your notice within three weeks after the seven days has ended.

If your employer has given counter notice but then withdrawn it, you must give your notice within three weeks of the withdrawal.

If your employer has given a counter notice and doesn't withdraw it you could take your claim to an Industrial Tribunal. After you receive notification of the Industrial Tribunal's decision you have three weeks to resign. This means that you don't have to give up your job until you know the Industrial Tribunal's decision.

If your employer appeals the Industrial Tribunal's decision you still only have the three weeks to resign. So, if your employer wins their appeal you could be jobless and without redundancy compensation.

If you are unsure how this process works, you should get advice.

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 may agree to change your contract.  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.

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.

Guarantee pay

Rate and length of statutory lay-off pay

You’re entitled to guarantee pay during lay off or short-time working. The maximum you can get is £29.00 a day for five days in any three month period - so a maximum of £145.00.

If you usually earn less than £29.00 a day you’ll get your normal daily rate. If you work part-time, your entitlement is worked out proportionally.

You can’t claim guarantee pay for any day that you do some work.

Eligibility for statutory lay-off pay

You must:

  • have been employed continuously for one month (includes part-time workers)
  • reasonably make sure you’re available for work
  • not refuse any reasonable alternative work (including work not in your contract)
  • not have been laid off because of industrial action

Statutory lay-off pay and your employment contract

Your employer may have their own guarantee pay scheme. It can’t be less than the statutory arrangements. If you get your employer’s payments, you don’t get statutory lay-off pay on top of this.

Not paying guarantee pay counts as an unlawful deduction from your wages - you could make a claim to an industrial tribunal.

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 claim 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.

Where to get help

The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) and Advice NI offer free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues for residents of Northern Ireland.

If you're a member of a trade union, you can get help, advice and support from them.

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