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Lay-offs and short-time working

Even in the best run company, circumstances can arise which lead to a temporary reduction in work. A lay-off is where employees are not provided with work by their employer and the situation is expected to be temporary. Short-time working occurs when employees are laid off for a number of contractual days each week, or for a number of hours during a working day.

Employers can lay someone off where there is an express contractual right. Alternatively, there may be an agreement covering lay offs between the organisation and the union, or a national agreement for the industry which the employer follows. Such an agreement has contractual force if it is in the individual employee's contract of employment.

The right to lay offs may also be implied if it can be shown that it has been established over a long period by custom and practice.

Both employer and employee may agree to alter the terms of the contract so that the lay-off is by mutual agreement. However, this will not necessarily mean that the employee has agreed to vary the contract of employment to allow future lay offs without pay.

Employees can be laid off without pay where there is a specific term in their contract allowing the employer to do so. When an employee is laid off, they might be entitled to a statutory guarantee payment from the employer, limited to a maximum of five days in any period of three months. The daily amount is subject to an upper limit which is reviewed annually. On days when a guarantee payment isn't payable, it may be possible to claim Jobseekers Allowance through the local Jobcentre Plus office.

There is a general right at common law to tell most employees not to turn up for work but no general right not to pay them.

As with any form of change affecting the workplace, it can be beneficial to both management and employees to have a system of communications in place whereby people are kept abreast of developments likely to impact on their position, and can voice their opinion regarding possible measures that might follow.

Redundancy and restructuring - Acas business solutions

We can visit your organisation to help you understand what needs to be done to address a range of issues related to redundancy and notice and then work with you to develop practical solutions for your organisation. Find out more

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