If I am laid off work for a lengthy period, what is my position?

An employer facing financial difficulties may attempt to lay you off or suspend work for a fixed or unspecified period. 

What you are entitled to be paid depends on your contract of employment. You should be paid your normal pay unless your contract clearly allows your employer to pay you something less, or unless you or your union rep negotiates a temporary change to your pay, to respond to a short-term situation, for example to avoid redundancies. 

If your contract of employment does not allow your employer to lay you off without pay, then your employer will be in breach of contract if they do this without your agreement. 

Rules about lay-off are often found in a collective agreement. Unions can and often do negotiate better terms than the statutory minimum protection the law provides. 

Even if the contract allows your employer to lay you off without pay, any employee with at least a month’s service must be paid at least statutory guarantee pay

Statutory guarantee pay is based on your normal pay, but there is an upper cap of £30 per day (from April 2020) and there is a maximum of five days’ pay in any three month period. 

If you have two years’ service and are laid off for at least four consecutive weeks (or six non-consecutive weeks in a 13-week period) you may qualify for a redundancy payment

If you agree to any temporary lay-off arrangements that involve a cut in your pay, be sure to record clearly: 

  • that the arrangement is temporary, and exactly when the arrangement is going to end; and 

  • that any redundancy payment, if redundancies turn out to be unavoidable, will be based on your normal pay and hours, before the temporary cut. 

  • During the coronavirus pandemic, a special temporary form of government-funded lay-off or ‘furlough’ was put in place to support the jobs of workers unable to work during the public health crisis. The scheme, known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, came about following lobbying by the TUC and unions. The COVID situation is fast-moving and subject to change. You can find information about the latest position on the TUC’s main website. 

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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