Lay-offs and short-time working

Sarah McCarthy Editor's message: As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, employers who find themselves experiencing a downturn in their business may ask employees to agree to being laid off or to reduce their hours (known as short-time working) as a way of avoiding redundancies.

An employee is laid off during a particular week if the employer does not have sufficient work for the employee and the employee is not paid as a result. Short-time working occurs when the employer does not have sufficient work and the employee works fewer days or hours than normal and receives less than half a normal week's pay.

However, employers have no statutory right to lay off an employee or to keep them on short-time working, so can only take this action if the employee agrees. In the current climate, an employee may be prepared to accept a period of lay-off or short-time working if they are aware that the alternative could be redundancy.

Sarah Byrne, HR practice editor

New and updated

About this topic

HR and legal information and guidance relating to lay-offs and short-time working.

Coronavirus and your workforce podcast

In the latest of our series of HR coronavirus podcasts, Darren Newman, employment lawyer, discusses how flexible furlough will work under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme from 1 July 2020. Listen now >>

You can submit your HR questions for our coronavirus podcast series via email.

Lay-offs and short-time working: key resources