Layoffs: Recalling Employees Back to Work

Layoffs: Recalling Employees Back to Work

The process of recalling employees after a layoff is a common challenge faced by employers. Whether due to seasonal fluctuations, economic shifts, or unforeseen circumstances, many businesses encounter the need to reassemble their workforce efficiently. Understanding the legal aspects of recalling employees is essential for both employers and employees to navigate this process successfully. This article explores the key considerations and best practices for recalling employees after a layoff.

The Risks of Prolonged Layoffs

Temporary layoffs carry certain risks that employers should be aware of. Keeping an employee laid off for an extended period can potentially be deemed as a termination of the employment relationship, which could entitle the employee to damages for constructive dismissal. It’s imperative for employers to be well-informed about the applicable time limits for temporary layoffs based on their jurisdiction and employment agreements.

Time Limits for Temporary Layoffs

In Ontario, temporary layoffs are generally allowed for up to 13 weeks within a consecutive 20-week period or, under certain circumstances defined by the Employment Standards Act, 2000, for up to 35 weeks within a consecutive 52-week period.

For federal employees, temporary layoffs are typically permitted for periods of three months or less. However, the Canada Labour Code allows for temporary layoffs that may exceed this time limit under specific conditions.

The Impact of Employment Agreements

Another critical factor for employers to consider is whether their employment agreements or collective agreements permit temporary layoffs. In cases where the employment agreement does not allow for temporary layoffs, initiating such a layoff may be improper and could entitle the employee to compensation for damages.

Recalling Employees: Provincial vs. Federal

Recalling employees to work involves different procedures for federal and provincial employers. Understanding these distinctions and following the correct procedure is essential, depending on the category of employees an employer has.

Provincial Procedure: In Ontario, provincially regulated employers can recall employees by requesting their return within a reasonable timeframe from the moment the request is made. However, if a recall procedure is outlined in a workplace policy, employment agreement, or collective agreement that offers greater benefits to the employee, the employer must adhere to that procedure.

Federal Procedure: On the other hand, federally regulated employers must follow the recall procedure specified in a workplace policy, employment agreement, or collective agreement. Only if no other recall procedure is in place can they request the employee’s return within a reasonable timeframe from the recall notice.

Employee Prioritization

Some employers may find it necessary to gradually reopen their businesses, particularly if certain employees have essential or more urgently required duties. In such cases, employers can prioritize the recall of specific employees. Employers are not obliged to recall all laid-off employees simultaneously. Staggered recalls are permissible, as long as workplace policies, employment agreements, or collective agreements do not prohibit this practice.

Legal Compliance and Effective Planning

Employers must ensure that all temporarily laid-off employees are recalled within the statutory time limits to prevent potential liability for damages. Comprehensive planning and adherence to legal requirements are key to a successful and legally compliant employee recall process.

Best Practices for Recalling Employees from a Layoff

Recalling employees from a layoff is a critical process that demands careful consideration and execution. To ensure a smooth transition and minimize potential legal disputes, employers should follow these best practices:

Clear Communication: Maintain open and transparent communication with your employees. Clearly convey the expectations, timelines, and safety measures as part of the recall process.

Prioritize Essential Roles: If necessary, consider recalling employees who fill essential roles first. Identify positions critical to your business operations and ensure they are staffed appropriately.

Compliance with Regulations: Familiarize yourself with the applicable federal and provincial regulations regarding layoffs and recalls. Ensure you are following all legal requirements in the process.

Review Employment Agreements: Examine employment agreements and collective agreements to understand any specific recall procedures or conditions. Adhere to these agreements to prevent legal issues.

Documentation: Keep thorough records of all communication, recall notices, and employee responses. Proper documentation can be invaluable in case of disputes.

Provide Adequate Notice: When recalling employees, offer them reasonable notice. This demonstrates respect for their personal circumstances and aids in a smooth transition.

Review Workplace Policies: Check your workplace policies to see if they address the recall process. Follow any procedures outlined in these policies when recalling employees.

Maintain Flexibility: Recognize that each employee’s situation may be unique. Be flexible and willing to accommodate reasonable requests or concerns, when possible.

Safety First: Prioritize the safety and well-being of your employees. Ensure that the workplace complies with all health and safety regulations.

Seek Legal Advice: When in doubt or facing complex situations, consult with an employment lawyer who can provide guidance and ensure that you’re in compliance with all legal requirements.

By following these best practices, employers can navigate the recall process effectively, maintain positive relationships with their employees, and reduce the risk of legal complications.


In conclusion, the process of recalling employees after a layoff is a multifaceted task that involves legal considerations, time limits, and adherence to employment agreements. Understanding the specific regulations applicable to your jurisdiction and workplace is crucial for both employers and employees to navigate this process effectively and ensure a smooth reintegration into the workforce. Seeking legal advice when needed can provide invaluable guidance in this complex area of labor law.

Related Reading

Seasonal Worker Severance Pay Eligibility In Ontario

Temporary Layoff In Ontario: What You Need To Know

Is It A Permanent Layoff?

When Does A Temporary Layoff Become A Termination?

I Was Laid Off and They Hired Someone Else

Understanding Mass Layoff in Ontario: Rules and Guidance

 Contact Achkar Law

If you are an employer  who is planning to recall employees to work, or an employee who has been laid off and want to know your rights and options, our team of experienced legal professional at Achkar Law can help.

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.