B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)

B.C. extends temporary layoff rules for COVID-19 pandemic

Can be up to 16 weeks to match federal CERB program

The B.C. government has changed its employment regulations to allow employers to extend temporary layoffs up to 16 weeks due to COVID-19 restrictions, to match the duration of federal emergency aid.

The change is to allow more laid-off employees to keep their jobs and employers to restart operations more quickly. Premier John Horgan is expected to lay out details of B.C.’s initial lifting of pandemic restrictions this week.

Previously, if a worker was laid off for 13 weeks of any 20-week period, B.C.’s Employment Standards Act required that to be treated as a permanent layoff with written notice of termination and severance pay if applicable. Now if the employee agrees, that can be extended to 16 weeks for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This change to the Employment Standards Act aligns B.C.’s temporary layoff provisions with the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) period,” Labour Minister Harry Bains’ office said in a statement May 4. “The federal period provides 16 weeks of financial support, allowing employees to take full advantage of those benefits.”

During a temporary layoff, people are still considered employed and any benefits, vacation and leave of absence provisions are protected, according to the ministry’s website.

If employees’ hours are reduced, they are considered laid off as soon as they earn less than 50 per cent of their weekly wages at the regular rate, measured as an average of the previous eight weeks.

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