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Advice leaflet - Lay-offs and short-time working

Acas Layoffs and short term working download What is a lay-off?

  • When employees are not provided with work by their employer, and the situation is expected to be temporary, they are regarded as laid off.
  • Where the lay-off amounts to dismissal, the employees may have an entitlement to redundancy pay or, subject to certain conditions, they may be able to complain of unfair dismissal to an industrial tribunal.

Is there a right to lay off employees?

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

In what circumstances can an employer lay off employees?

  • This can be done where there is an express contractual right agreed between employer and employee. Alternatively, there may be an agreement covering the issue between the company and the union, or a national agreement for the industry which the employer follows. Such an agreement has contractual force only if it is incorporated into the individual employee's contract of employment.
  • The right of an employer to lay off may also be implied if it can be shown (by clear evidence) that it has been established over a long period by custom and practice.

The booklet is available to download below. Alternatively, hard copies are available to order from our Publications site.