Confused about the implications of temporary layoffs, short time, reduced working hours and non-contractual policies? Here’s a brief explanation of each one, so you can understand the difference…

Temporary lay-off

Temporary lay-off arises where an employer is temporarily unable to provide work for staff: it involves a complete cessation of work for a temporary period of time, with no payment being received.

Importantly, employees may be able to claim compulsory redundancy in these circumstances where:

  • They’ve been on lay-off for 4 or more consecutive weeks or
  • They’ve been on lay-off for a total aggregate duration of 6 weeks in a 13 week period

Short time working

Short time working involves a reduction in working hours where the employees’ hours are reduced to below 50% of their normal working hours. It’s important to note that as with temporary lay-off, employees may be able to claim compulsory redundancy in these circumstances where:

  • They’ve been on short-time for 4 or more consecutive weeks or
  • They’ve been on short-time for a total aggregate duration of 6 weeks in a 13-week period.

Reduced working week

This involves a reduction in working where the employees’ hours are reduced but the employee is still working 50% or more of their normal working hours. Redundancy is not possible.

What about notice requirements?

While there’s no minimum notice required for lay-off, short time, or reduced working week, an employer should provide as much notice as possible to employees before they introduce any changes.

The recent case of Department for Transport v Sparks and others is a reminder that just because a provision is contained in a policy, rather than the contract of employment itself, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is non-contractual.

I need clarity on non-contractual policy, what do you suggest?

In regards to laying-off without a contractual policy, when it comes to custom and practice, as per High Court in the Petkevicius case, there’s no right to lay off with pay.

It’s well-established law that lay-off without pay may occur where it can be established that is the custom and practice of the trade. This custom must be reasonable, certain and notorious. Ref: Jelp J. Devonald and Rosser (1906).

If you have any questions regarding the issues in this article, please don’t hesitate to contact our 24 Hour Advice Service on 01 855 50 50.