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No.5 Temporary lay-off and short-time working

August 2017

From time to time employers may experience a temporary shortage of work and it may be necessary to lay-off all or some of their employees in order to preserve long term employment security. If temporary lay-off is being considered there are important aspects of employment and contract law to take into account.

The right to lay-off employees without pay depends on the contractual position, i.e. whether it is permitted by the contract of employment. Where it is imposed by an employer without a contractual right to do so, employees could pursue claims to the civil court and/or to an Industrial Tribunal.

The Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 provides for employees to be paid a guarantee payment if they are on a period of lay-off or short-time working. Further provisions establish a procedure whereby employees who are laid off can, in certain circumstances, claim a redundancy payment.

This information note provides some general information on the right to place employees on temporary lay-off/short time working and the rights of employees who are temporarily laid-off.

Further information and help

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The Agency’s Enquiry Point is available to employers, employees, trade unions and others. Enquiry Point advisors provide information and advice on a wide range of employment matters. The Enquiry Point is also an important contact point for identifying circumstances, or clients, who would benefit from being referred to other Agency services.

The Enquiry Point provides clear, confidential, independent and impartial advice to assist the caller in resolving issues in the workplace.

While the advisors cannot provide a legal opinion they can help callers gain a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities as well as identifying possible options to help resolve their issues.

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