OTTAWA -- The federal government has extended the time period for temporary layoffs by up to six months, giving employers more time to recall employees who were laid off due to COVID-19.

Now, for employees who were laid off before March 31, their employers have six months or until December 30 to bring back their worker, whichever comes first. And for employers laid off between March 31 and September 30, their employer will also have until December 30 unless a later recall date was given on their layoff notice.

Prior to the extension, a worker would be deemed terminated if their temporary layoff notice expired before their employer brought them back to work.

Without the change announced Tuesday, some of the workers who were issued three-month layoff notices in March or April due to COVID-19 were facing termination as they approached the deadline to be reinstated by their employers.

When a layoff becomes a termination of employment, employees can become eligible for severance and vacation pay, which the government says could become a financial burden employers can’t afford as the pandemic wages on, particularly if their intention is to re-hire staff.

“We know that many employers who have had to temporarily lay off employees intend to bring them back to work. However, there is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding exactly when that will be possible,” Labour Minister Filomena Tassi said in a statement.

The changes, which apply to jobs in the federally-regulated private sector, came into effect on June 22 and will have no impact on any layoffs that occur after September 30.