Charles Strachey column: Severance pay is not required in Alberta

Does a company have to offer new jobs to someone they recently laid off?

Dear Working Wise: Does a company have to offer new jobs to someone they recently laid off? I was laid off from a job I enjoyed a few months ago. The company paid me two weeks of severance pay, but now I see they have hired someone else into my old job. How can I get my old job back? Signed, Want to Work

Dear Want to Work: There is such a thing as a “temporary layoff,”when an employer wants to maintain the employment relationship with you and calls you back as soon as there is work available.

But it sounds like your employer terminated your employment. You likely received termination pay because your employer ended your employment relationship. Severance pay is not required under Alberta’s Employment Standards Code while termination notice and/or pay are.

Severance pay is more generally characterized as a settlement when an employer ends an employee’s employment. It is usually associated with longer term employment and is often negotiated between employers and employees through contracts or collective agreements.

There can be many reasons why an employer may terminate an employment relationship and as long as they provide the required notice and/or pay they are able to do so. If they choose to rehire, employers are not required to rehire former employees first.

If your employer wanted to maintain the employment relationship — and lay you off temporarily — they would have been required to notify you in writing. Temporary layoffs can not last more than 59 days. On the 60th consecutive day of temporary layoff, the employment relationship terminates and the employer must pay the employee termintion pay on that day unless:

l Wages or benefits continue to be paid on behalf of the employee; or

l There is a collective agreement that provides recall rights longer than the 59 days.

The 59-day period generally applies to all employees in Alberta, except for school employees and school-bus drivers.

Employees can be terminated while on temporary layoff, but they are entitled to termination pay.

Employees on temporary layoff can be called back to work with seven days written notice. Employees who fail to return to work when called back can be terminated without termination notice or pay.

For more information, visit work.alberta.ca/es and review the Employment Standards fact sheet on Termination of Employment and Termination Pay.

If you have any further questions about your situation, call Alberta Employment Standards toll-free at 1-877-427-3731. This line is staffed by experts who can go into more detail with your case if you wish.

For help finding a new job that you enjoy, drop by your nearest Alberta Works / Alberta Supports Centre. To find the centre nearest you, visit humanservices.alberta.ca/offices.

You can also call the Career Information Hotline toll-free for advice at: 1-800-661-3753 or in Edmonton at 780-422-4266. Good luck!

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Human Services. This column is provided for general information.

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