Q&A - Is there a limit as to how long my employer can lay me off?

Q:  My employer has just laid me off without any warning.  I have checked in my employment contract and much to my surprise discover the Company is within their rights to do this.  What I can't find in the contract, however, is any reference to how long can they lay me off for? 

A:  Generally there is no limit to how long you could be laid off for.  By ‘laid off' it means where you are not provided with any work at all.  This would have to be under your employment contract or it can be by separate agreement.

Clearly you cannot be expected to be laid off without any work and still under contract indefinitely. Therefore, if you are still laid off after four weeks, you can apply in writing to your employer for a redundancy payment to end your employment.  Similarly this applies if you are laid off for six weeks out of a period of 13 weeks. You can also apply for redundancy payment if you are put on short term time working of less than half of a week.  

If you are laid off you may be able to claim a statutory guarantee payment from your employer.  This is however limited to a maximum of five days in a period of three months.  If you are laid off and you have not received a guaranteed payment for the day in question you are unemployed and you may be able to claim Jobseekers Allowance.  You should speak to your local Job Centre about eligibility.

As you will see, timing is crucial to the options available to you. You should therefore speak to an employment lawyer as soon as possible about claiming redundancy and about your rights under the contract you have..


Robert Williams

Robert Williams

Partner and Complaints Handler

Partner and Head of the Civil Litigation, Personal Injury and Dispute Resolution team in Wrexham