What business owners need to know about the temporary layoff period in British Columbia

Posted on August 12, 2020

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Posted By Kendall Robertson
An image of different tools used in the workplace

Kendall Robertson // Prince George Chamber of Commerce

The deadline for British Columbia’s temporary layoff period is fast approaching. On June 25th, the province extended the temporary COVID-19 layoff period to August 30th after recommendations to do so from the B.C. Chamber of Commerce network. So, what does that mean for business owners?

What is a temporary layoff?

The Government of B.C. states that an employee is laid off when they’re given less or no work with the plan that the employee will eventually return to a regular schedule. If an employee is laid off, they are still considered to be employed and all of their benefits are protected. Layoffs typically have a maximum length of 13 weeks over a period of 20 weeks in British Columbia. However, that timeline has been stretched to accommodate for disruptions to business operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, employers can extend layoffs that are related to the COVID-19 emergency to a maximum of 24 weeks, ending on or before August 30th, 2020. The new 24-week period only applies to layoffs that began before June 1st, 2020. This extension gives employers the flexibility to keep their staff employed even if there is limited work available. The extension aligns B.C. with the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit timeline which allows eligible workers to access the benefit for up to 24 weeks.

It’s a two-way street

Section 72 of the B.C. Employment Standards Act allows employers and workers to extend a temporary layoff by making a joint application to the Employment Standards Branch. This is to ensure that workers are involved in the agreement with their employer to extend the layoff as they have a right to decline and accept compensation for their length of service. Employees must agree to be laid off.

What happens next?

The extension will expire on August 30th, 2020. If employers are unable to recall their workers, the layoff classification will change from temporary to permanent and the employee will be considered to be terminated from their position. That means the employee may be entitled to severance pay.

Critics say the August deadline is still too soon and will need to be extended for a third time in British Columbia. If you are concerned about recalling your employees at the end of August, make sure you are staying connected with the Chamber of Commerce network. We are always listening to the concerns of the local business community and will continue to advocate on your behalf to all levels of government. For more information on B.C.’s temporary layoff period and how to apply for an extension, visit this article on My PG Now.

About the author: After completing a Broadcast News diploma at SAIT in Calgary, Kendall worked in a small TV newsroom in Dawson Creek. She was delighted to move home in 2017 to work at the local TV news station, where she reported on a variety of stories that affect northern residents, anchored the evening program, and produced an hour-long documentary about the history and growth of Prince George called “This Place We Call Home.” Kendall is a huge supporter of all things local and enjoys working with business professionals in her role at the Chamber of Commerce.

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