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Temporary layoff provisions for workers, employers extended

Following conversations with business and worker representatives and pressure from the BC Liberals, the Province of British Columbia has extended the temporary layoffs provisions to a maximum of 24 weeks expiring on Aug. 30, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The extension will give employers and workers additional flexibility to support economic recovery in the province 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,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour, in a news release. “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.

“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.”

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.”

Government will continue discussions with worker and employer representatives to ensure the Section 72 applications are processed in a timely and effective manner to support economic recovery and protect workers’ rights.

“For weeks, small businesses and non-profits in every corner of our province have pleaded with John Horgan to extend temporary layoff time limits that, if not addressed, would have triggered thousands of permanent job losses and business bankruptcies,” said MLA John Martin, BC Liberal Labour Critic. “It’s outrageous that it took John Horgan and the NDP this long to acknowledge the severity of the situation and do something. Their inaction created needless uncertainty for thousands of already-struggling businesses and workers.”

BC’s Restart Plan is supporting business to safely reopen and get people back to work. Employers are also encouraged to make use of the federal wage subsidy to assist them in bringing their workers back.

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