'This will also give additional time to ensure that employers and workers are able to craft agreements if there is a need to further extend temporary layoffs'
British Columbia has extended the temporary layoffs provisions during the COVID-19 pandemic to a maximum of 24 weeks expiring on Aug. 30, 2020.
The extension will give employers and workers additional flexibility to support economic recovery in the province, says the government, with the expectation that businesses honour their obligations to workers and reach agreement with their employees in the event a further extension is required.
“This extension will provide even more certainty and flexibility,” says Harry Bains, minister of labour. “This will also 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.”
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.
“Our goal is to maintain connections between employers and workers who have a joint interest in supporting the economic recovery of businesses in B.C. and the jobs that go with them. Employers who are not able to return to full operations and need additional time can do so with agreement from their employees, but we expect those employees will be recalled when operations have resumed,” says Bains.
“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.”
The development did not sit well with Paul McLean, a workplace and OHS lawyer in B.C.
“Some common sense as #temporarylayoffs go to 24 weeks in BC. Still premised on ‘employee consent’ which is a fight we can have another day as that phrase isn’t in the ESA,” he tweeted.
“Of course, anyone who thinks we are back to normal in August I wish you well... this will have to be revisited in another month.”
The federal government earlier extended the time period given to federally regulated employers to recall temporarily laid-off workers by up to six months amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) later claimed that the changes to the rules around temporary layoffs amid the COVID-19 pandemic are “an attack” on the most vulnerable workers.