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B.C. government unveils new tool to extend layoffs due to COVID-19

B.C. government unveils new tool to extend layoffs due to COVID-19

VANCOUVER — Officials in B.C. have unveiled a new tool for employers and workers who need to extend temporary layoffs due to COVID-19.

The process to apply for a variance can now be done using the Employment Standards Branch’s new online application.

In June, the B.C. government extended the time period for temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 to a maximum of 24 weeks, expiring on Aug. 30. This is expanded from 16 weeks to give employers and workers more flexibility.

The province worked to streamline the process with an application that allows employers and workers to jointly apply for an extension beyond the deadline. The tool eliminates the need for hardcopy documents and signatures, while ensuring the integrity of the branch’s decision-making process.

The government created the tool after hearing from stakeholders, including small businesses.

Employers are encouraged to apply as soon as they have received worker support. An application deadline of Aug. 25 has been set to ensure all applications will be processed by the Aug. 30 expiry date.

There are now two steps.

Employers must:

  • Survey their workforce to obtain more than 50 per cent support from workers before applying. Workers will receive information about the variance, including what their rights are and can provide their support using a new online response tool.
  • Once worker support is documented, employers complete the online form and submit the document in a new portal directly to the Employment Standards Branch.
  • There are new supportive templates and tools to assist employers and workers in taking these steps.

Under B.C.’s Employment Standards Act, temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 can last up to 24 weeks, or until Aug. 30, before the layoff becomes permanent.

Government officials recommend employers submit their variance applications early to avoid the potential of permanent staff layoffs and compensation for length of service to eligible workers upon the expiry of the COVID-19 emergency layoff period on Aug. 30.

The province also encouraged employers to make use of the federal wage subsidy to assist them in bringing their workers back.

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