Update July 20th:
Employers and workers who need to extend temporary layoffs due to COVID-19 can more easily apply for a variance using the Employment Standards Branch’s new online application.
The new online application simplifies and streamlines the process for employers and workers to jointly apply for an extension beyond Aug. 30 by eliminating the need for hardcopy documents and signatures, while ensuring the integrity of the branch’s decision-making process.
Update June 25th:
Following conversations with business and worker representatives, the Province of British Columbia has extended the temporary layoffs provisions to a maximum of 24 weeks expiring on Aug. 30, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The extension will give employers and workers additional flexibility to support economic recovery in the province with the expectation that businesses honour their obligations to workers and reach agreement with their employees in the event a further extension is required.
Update June 23rd:
The Government of Canada has announced changes to extend time periods for temporary layoffs to allow employers more time to recall laid-off employees.
Prior to these changes, employers could temporarily lay-off employees for up to three months if no notice with a recall date was provided, or for a period of up to six months if they provided notice with an expected recall date.
The amendments, which came into effect on June 22, extend these time periods by up to six months:
- For employees laid off prior to March 31, 2020, the time period is extended by six months or to December 30, 2020, whichever occurs first.
- For employees laid off between March 31, 2020, and September 30, 2020, the time period is extended until December 30, 2020, unless a later recall date was provided in a written notice at the time of the layoff.
Before considering a temporary layoff, have you researched the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and Expanded Work Sharing Program? Both provide viable solutions that can help prevent layoffs. If temporary layoffs are unavoidable, legally one of two things must happen: either the employee must agree to the layoff or the layoff is part of a contract or agreement in place before the layoff.
If either of the above apply, you can layoff an employee for a maximum of 16 weeks for COVID-19 related reasons. If the layoff is longer than 16 weeks, or there isn’t an agreement in place for the layoff, it becomes a termination of employment.
Possible exceptions due to COVID-19
If a business closure or staffing reduction is directly related to COVID-19 and there is no way for employees to perform work in a different way (for example, working from home) an exception may apply to exclude employees from receiving compensation for length of service and/or group termination pay.
This exception is not automatic in all situations during the pandemic. If an employer terminates an employee for reasons that are not directly related to COVID-19 or if the employee's work could still be done (perhaps in a different way, such as working from home) the exception would not apply. Decisions on whether this exception applies are made by the Director on a case-by-case basis.