BC Government Extends Temporary Layoff Period for Workers, Employers

Following pressure from business organizations, the BC Government has agreed to extend its temporary layoff period from 16 to 24 weeks, with a new expiration date of August 30, 2020.

At issue was the potential for bankruptcy and insolvency for small and medium-sized businesses and not-for-profits if forced to payout severance costs before they are ready to reopen (Phase 3 of the Province’s restart program launched the week of June 22).

The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce was one of the organizations petitioning the BC Government to make the change. “On behalf of Chamber members, I’m thrilled that BC’s Labour Minister Harry Bains heard us ‘loud and clear’ after we told him it was critical for the province to extend its temporary layoff provisions,” says Bruce Williams, Chamber CEO. “This shows that the provincial government is willing to listen to The Chamber and businesses who are doing everything in their power to make it through this crisis.”

As organizations collaborated across the province to push the issue forward, The BC Chamber of Commerce noted in a recent media release that labour force data indicates that 353,000 people in BC are out of work, with a general unemployment rate at 13 percent, and their BC Mindreader Survey showed their members were in desperate need of more support.

In urging the Government to rethink its stance earlier this week, Val Litwin, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce wrote “our pulse surveys have shown that businesses want to reopen and bring back their teams – but they just need more time. By not extending the temporary layoff period we’re knowingly hampering the business community’s earnest attempts at restart. A simple solution that works for everyone, if enacted today, could change BC’s recovery trajectory for the long term. We urge the minister to embrace a decision that gets BC’s economy moving, one that supports workers and businesses.”

In announcing the extension, Harry Bains, Minister of Labour said it will “provide even more certainty and flexibility [and] give additional time to ensure that employers and workers are able to craft agreements if there is a need to further extend temporary layoffs, while still protecting workers’ rights to compensation for length of service.”

In a media release, the BC Government noted that Section 72 of the B.C. Employment Standards Act provides a tool unique in Canada, allowing employers and workers to extend temporary layoffs by making a joint application to the Employment Standards Branch.

“We heard loud and clear from employers that they need this extension,” Bains said. “We also know it is important to ensure that workers know that they have to be involved in the agreement with the employer to extend the temporary layoff and have a right to decline the layoff and accept the compensation for length of service which they are entitled to.”

Learn More:

B.C.’s economic recovery planning: http://gov.bc.ca/recoveryideas

BC’s Restart Plan, visit: http://gov.bc.ca/restartbc

The City of Victoria’s Build Back Victoria Program: https://www.victoria.ca/EN/main/business/covid-19-business-resources.html