Act Amendment: British Columbia extends COVID-19 related temporary layoff period

Victoria, British Columbia ⁠— British Columbia’s provincial government has extended the temporary layoff period to 16 weeks for COVID-19 related reasons.

The decision comes about two weeks after Automotive Retailers Association (ARA) President Adrian Scovell penned a letter to the province’s Joint Information Centre raising the layoff concern according to B.C.’s Employment Standard Act.

Previously under the Act, a temporary layoff longer than 13 weeks in any 20-week span (or about three months in a five-month period) was considered a permanent layoff. With a permanent layoff, employers are required to provide employees with written notice of termination and/or pay severance to qualify employees based on their length of service.

The change to the Act aligns the provincial temporary layoff previsions with the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit period. The federal period provides 16 weeks of financial support, allowing employees to take full advantage of those benefits.

It also allows employees to keep their jobs⁠—even if they are not working⁠—for 16 weeks of a temporary layoff. Employers will be able to quickly resume operations⁠, should the public health emergency end within that time. 

Click here for more information on B.C.’s employment standards around temporary layoffs.

In Ontario, a similar time limit of 13 weeks over a 20-week period exists.

Other provinces differ. In Saskatchewan, the temporary layoff of employees for a total of more than 12 weeks in a 16-week period constitutes a termination.

Alberta has increased its maximum time for temporary layoffs from 60 days to 120 days so temporary laid-off employees are ensured a job longer. 

Meanwhile, in Manitoba, the employment standards state that employees who have been laid off for eight or more weeks in a 16-week period are considered terminated and entitled to wages in lieu of notice. Under the new rule, any period of layoff after March 1 will not be counted toward the period after which a temporary layoff would become biome a permanent termination. 

Quebec’s Act Respecting Labour Standards says a period exceeding 6 months will be deemed a termination, in which case the laid-off employee may be entitled to termination pay.

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