The shutdown of De Beers' Snap Lake diamond mine in the N.W.T. was bad news for the 434 workers who were laid off, but it was worse for some than it was for others.

By law, De Beers is required to give its employees 16 weeks notice of layoffs.

Those not needed to wind down operations at the mine, located 220 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, are collecting full pay and benefits while sitting at home. Those who have to work during the notice period get their regular pay and a small hourly bonus.

But it's people who worked for contractors at the mine who fared the worst.

For example, workers with Det'on Cho Corporation's Bouwa Whee Catering received only four weeks notice they were being laid off.

That's because employment law sets different notice periods for companies according to how many people they are laying off — the more layoffs, the more notice is required.

"It does appear that, on the face of it, there is some disparity, but the legislation clearly sets out the number of weeks they have to give based on the number of employees they lay off," said Heather Cane, who practices employment law in the Northwest Territories.

Under the Employment Standards Act, companies laying off more than 300 people are required to give 16 weeks notice. Companies like Bouwa Whee that are laying off less than 50 are only required to give four weeks notice.

About 30 per cent of the 747 people who worked at the mine were employed by contractors. About two thirds of the people at the mine are from outside the N.W.T.