On Monday, May 4, 2020, the B.C. Ministry of Labour announced a change to the B.C. Employment Standards Act. More specifically, temporary layoffs are now extended to 16 weeks. This is a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and its unprecedented effects on the labour market. The B.C. government changed its employment regulations in order to match the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The CERB is an emergency aid for impacted workers that offers financial support extending over a 16 week period. 

What is the point of this change?

 The goal of the extended temporary layoff period is to allow employees to stay connected with their jobs. In turn, this maintains a better sense of security amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, this measure will hopefully ease the financial stress on businesses. As a result, employers may be able to get back on their feet and restart their operations more efficiently when restrictions get lifted.

What were the original terms of a temporary layoff?

In a previous post, we explored how one can manage temporary layoffs during COVID-19. In general, layoffs are a period of time where the contract between an employer and employee is temporarily suspended. This means that the employer will stop giving work and compensation for the duration of the layoff. However, the contractual relationship between the employer and employee is maintained, not terminated. A week of layoff is a reduction of 50% or more of an employee’s regular weekly wages, averaged over the previous 8 weeks. 

Prior to this extension, a temporary layoff meant that a worker was laid off for 13 weeks out of any 20 week period. According to the B.C. Employment Standards Act, any longer equates to a permanent layoff. As a result, the employer must provide a written notice of termination as well as severance pay if it’s applicable. For more details regarding severance pay including how much you will receive and what determines this amount, please see the following post.

In a nutshell, all other terms of the B.C. Employment Standards Act remains the same except for the 3 week extension from 13 weeks to 16 weeks. However, note that for this extension to be valid, both the employer and employee must agree to it. For more information regarding layoffs during COVID-19, this link will direct you to the government website.

Is this change permanent?

No. The temporary layoff extension has only been implemented because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore, it will be repealed once restrictions are lifted and it is no longer necessary.

If you need further clarification or information regarding temporary layoffs during COVID-19, feel free to contact our Firm. We want to help you navigate these troubling times and have the resources necessary to service your needs remotely.

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