To ease financial hardship on businesses and to keep employees connected with their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, British Columbia’s government has extended the temporary layoff period to 16 weeks for COVID-19 related reasons.
Previously under the Employment Standards Act, a temporary layoff longer than 13 weeks in any 20-week period (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 working notice of termination and/or pay severance to qualifying employees, based on their length of service. Now, temporary layoffs relating to the COVID-19 pandemic can be extended to 16 weeks, if the employee agrees.
This change to the Employment Standards Act aligns B.C.’s temporary layoff provisions 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 job, even if they are not working, for 16 weeks of temporary layoff. Employers will be able to quickly resume operations should the public health emergency end within that time.
The COVID-19 emergency temporary layoff provisions are not intended to be permanent and will be repealed when no longer needed.
For information on employment standards around temporary layoffs, visit: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/employment-business/employment-standards-advice/employment-standards/termination#laying-off
Other jurisdictions represent a patchwork of time limits and responses to the COVID-19 affects.
In Ontario, a similar time limit of 13 weeks of temporary layoff over a 20-week period exists. Other provinces differ. For example, in Saskatchewan temporary layoff of employees for a total of more than 12 weeks in a 16-week period constitutes termination.
However, the Alberta government has increased the maximum time for temporary layoffs from 60 days to 120 days to ensure temporarily laid-off employees stay attached to a job longer.
Manitoba amended its rules too. The province’s 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 occurring after March 1 will not be counted toward the period after which a temporary layoff would become a permanent termination.
Under Quebec’s Act Respecting Labour Standards, a temporary layoff must not exceed a duration of 6 months. Layoffs for a period exceeding 6 months will be deemed a termination, in which case the laid off employee may be entitled to termination pay.