Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta's Employment Standards Code, RSA 2000, c E-9, stated that employees who were temporarily laid off for one or more periods exceeding, in total, 60 days within a 120-day period were deemed to have been terminated, unless:

  1. during the layoff period the employer, by agreement with the employee,
    1. pays the employee wages or an amount instead of wages, or
    2. makes payments for the benefit of the laid-off employee in accordance with a pension, employee insurance plan, or similar plan, or
  2. there is a collective agreement in effect containing recall rights for employees following layoff.

On April 6, 2020, in response to the pandemic, Alberta's Minister of Labour and Immigration signed a Ministerial Order (MO 2020-18) that extended the maximum length of a temporary layoff period to 120 consecutive days. The Ministerial Order provided that this change applied to all temporary layoffs where the employee had been given notice of the layoff on or after March 17, 2020. On May 12, 2020 a second Ministerial Order (MO 2020-27) provided that the extension also applied to layoffs as a result of COVID-19 that were already underway as of March 17, 2020.

On June 26, 2020, Bill 24: the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Statutes Amendment Act, 2020, received Royal Assent and became law in Alberta. This Bill amends the temporary layoff provisions in Alberta's Employment Standards Code again, this time to set the maximum temporary layoff period at 180 consecutive days for employees who are laid off "for reasons related to COVID-19". It applies to employees who are already on a temporary layoff as of June 18, 2020, as well as employees who are laid off on or after that date.

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