BC employers must apply to extend COVID-19 layoffs beyond August 30th

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On June 25th, the BC government announced that it would extend the time period for temporary layoffs connected to COVID-19 to a maximum of 24 weeks in a 28 week period, ending on or before August 30, 2020.

As the pandemic is still affecting the full functioning of business, many employers in BC might need more time before they are ready to recall their employees. If an employer expects that a temporary layoff will surpass 24 weeks or August 30, they need to apply to the Employment Standards Branch (“ESB”) to further extend the layoff. Failure to submit an application will result in the permanency of the temporary layoff and the termination of inactive employees.

Prior to July 20, any extensions had to be requested through the submission of a letter to the ESB Director that outlined the requested period and the reason for the request, and which was signed by the majority of affected employees.

An accessible new online tool has now been launched by the province to create a more efficient application process.The process is free to complete and takes a suggested 15 minutes to fill in. Along with documented support from the majority of employees, the online application recommends:

  • all affected employees be notified of the application, and
  • a list of affected employees be included with the application.

Currently, the expected wait time for the application is one week, during which the ESB considers each application on a case-by-case basis and notifies the employer if the application has been granted.

Employers hoping to extend temporary layoffs past August 30 must apply by August 25 at the latest to ensure that the ESB has an opportunity to process the application.

The Director of the ESB can still impose new expiry dates and conditions, depending on the circumstance. For work situations that do not strictly meet the Act requirements but are consistent with the intent of the act, exceptions can be made by way of a variance that can amend parts of the Act. However, this only applies to non-unionized and non-excluded employees. If you are unsure whether you are included under the BC Employment Standards Act, click here to read more.

Be mindful that extensions cannot be granted indefinitely and the BC government has indicated that applications to extend layoffs past December 31, 2020 would be granted only in exceptional circumstances.

Benefits and Risks of Temporary Layoffs

Temporary layoffs can help employers that do not need their full workforce yet, as they are not forced to terminate employees or provide termination pay. It gives them the ability to retain existing employees while they ramp up their business to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

As we have discussed previously, however, temporary layoffs can be risky, as most employers do not have the right to impose them. Employment standards legislation sets out the parameters for implementing temporary layoffs where employers have the right to do so, but does not necessarily confer that right, which must come from contract. Before you proceed to do so, feel free to contact us so we can make sure you don’t unintentionally expose yourself to liability.

Whether you are an employer or an employee, the COVID-19 has complicated the employment relationship in unprecedented ways. We aim to keep our readers updated with the most current information, which can be found on our COVID-19 and the Workplace Resource Page.

If you are struggling to navigate the new extension process or have any questions or concerns about your rights and obligations in this challenging time, feel free to contact us.

We know this is a stressful time. Please take care of yourself and let us take care of you.

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