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Insights & advice

What to do if you get laid off

July 2022 – 5 min read

Key takeaways

  • Layoffs are a very common practice in business, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • There are things you can do to help manage financially in the short-term.

  • You can also take this opportunity to re-evaluate your career before taking next steps that could shape your medium- to long-term future.

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Have you been laid off?  

Layoffs are a common and often unavoidable part of working life.

There are many reasons why companies decide to lay off employees, from economic conditions to restructuring, cutting costs, seasonal requirements, going through a merger or acquisition, and more.

Being laid off however is not the same thing as being let go. If you’ve been fired, your company is letting you go due to elements that are within your control, such as performance, breach of contract or misconduct. If you’ve been laid off, it’s for reasons that are beyond your control, as was the case with for many people during the COVID-19 pandemicOpens in a new window.

Whether you’ve been laid off temporarily or permanently, there are some steps to take to deal with the immediate impact, as well as to set yourself up for success afterwards.

Things to do right away 

If you’re laid off, the process will likely involve a meeting with a senior member of the team and/or human resources. They’ll explain why you’re being laid off (and if they don’t, ask), as well as conditions for your termination. 

This can be a lot of information to process, especially if you feel the news has come out of nowhere. There are some things to do in the hours and days immediately following the news that you’ve been laid off, including: 

Taking a step back

You may feel a mix of emotions, including confusion, anger, shock, and frustration. It’s important to take a step back to allow any negative emotions to subside, especially if you want to maintain a good relationship in the hopes of getting a good reference.  

Talk to your loved ones

Letting your loved ones know as soon as possible will help not only with the emotional aspect of dealing with the news, but it may be especially important if you need to figure out financial commitments such as how to keep up with mortgage paymentsOpens in a new window or the cost of childcareOpens in a new window

Apply for Employment Insurance (EI)

If you’ve lost your job through no fault of your own, you can claim regular benefits to help cover your cost of living as soon as you stop working. Make sure you apply for EI benefitsOpens a new website in a new window - Opens in a new window as soon as you’ve learned you’re being laid off. 

Ask about severance

In Canada, an employee has the right to collect severanceOpens a new website in a new window - Opens in a new window if they’ve worked for 12 consecutive months before they are laid off. Make sure you ask your employer about severance pay, including how much this will be and when it will be paid. For example, you could receive severance as a lump sum payment or as a salary continuance. In either case, severance pay is taxable, and so you may wish to transfer it directly into a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)Opens in a new window - Opens in a new window if you’re able to limit the tax you pay. 

Ask about your final paycheck

Make sure you ask about when you’ll receive your final pay check, and whether it will include any additional money such as pay outs of accrued sick leave, vacation, overtime or back pay. 

Know your rights

Make sure you know the rules to protect yourself if you're laid off. Check the Government of Canada’s websiteOpens a new website in a new window - Opens in a new window and be sure and brush up on your province’s labour rules, too.

Ask about your benefits coverage 

Ask about what happens to your benefitsOpens in a new window - Opens in a new window, as it may be that coverage for you and your dependents will stop when you leave the company. If this is the case, you might want to look into purchasing some personal insuranceOpens in a new window - Opens in a new window to keep you covered until/if you join another workplace benefits plan. 

Make a plan for your pension 

You may also want to look into what happens to your workplace pensionOpens in a new window - Opens in a new window if you’ve been paying into 1. It may be that you can transfer your pension, increase your contributions to your RRSP until you’ve found a new job, or even take your pension with youOpens in a new window - Opens in a new window when you leave. 

Tell your wider network

Layoffs are a very common occurrence, and it doesn’t hurt to reach out and let your network know you’re looking for a new opportunity. Many people are often willing to help, especially if they’ve been through a similar situation. This help could come in the form of introductions to hiring managers or recruiters, a reference, or letting you know about positions or that could be of interest to you. 

Plan for next steps

The days and weeks following a lay off may be filled with mixed emotions, but they can also provide you with the opportunity for a fresh start and to take exciting new steps in your career. You may choose to:

Start a job search

You may have been happy in your chosen field and/or position and want to stay working in the same industry. Take some time to update your resume and cover letter with recent experience, as well as social media networks like LinkedIN (you can change your profile settings to let recruiters know you’re open to work). If you’re applying to many positions, it’s a good idea to have a system to track what you’re applying to, when, and if you’ve had any follow up from human resources to help you stay organized.

Go back to school or update your skills

Now could be the time to go to college or university to learn some new skills, which could be useful if you’re looking to upskill or change careers. You could also take a course online, which you could continue around your next job if you return to full-time work.

Think about relocating

If you felt that your job tied you to where you live, you’re now able to explore other options. You could look for work in different cities, provinces or territories or even countries, and many places will interview online, so you may be able to line something up before relocatingOpens in a new window.

Try consulting or freelance work

Maybe you’ve never considered self-employmentOpens in a new window before, or perhaps you’ve had a side hustleOpens in a new window that you’ve always wanted to expand. Offering your services as a contractor or on a freelance basis could be a great way to limit the amount of time you spend out of work, and now could be as good a time as any to give working for yourself a try.

Changing careers

You may take some time to reflect on your career to date and might decide that this lay off has provided you an opportunity to change careersOpens in a new window completely.

Staying prepared for the future


Remember, even if you never experience being laid off, it’s always a good idea to have a plan in place for what could happen if you did. This plan might include:

  • Carrying out an annual financial health check

    Look at your budgetOpens in a new window once a year to see how much you have saved in the event you were out of work, along with how you’d manage any debt repayments.  

  • Keep your resume updated

    It's always a good idea to keep your resume fresh and ready to send if the right opportunity comes up.

  • Save important documents

    Make sure to save things like work samples, reviews and other documents that could help you in the event you need to start applying unexpectedly.

  • Update your social media

    Make sure to regularly ask colleagues for reviews and recommendations that could help you in a job hunt.

  • Have an advisor

    An advisorOpens in a new window can provide advice when it comes to the financial side of being laid off, such as transferring out of a company pension and how stay on track with your retirement goalsOpens in a new window.  

The information provided is based on current laws, regulations and other rules applicable to Canadian residents. It is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the date of publication. Rules and their interpretation may change, affecting the accuracy of the information. The information provided is general in nature, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for advice in any specific situation. For specific situations, advice should be obtained from the appropriate legal, accounting, tax or other professional advisors.