Streamlined process for temporary layoff variance applications

A new initiative by the provincial government is helping to keep employers and workers connected as British Columbia continues on the path towards economic recovery.  A streamlined variance application process is now available for employers and workers to jointly apply to the Employment Standards Branch to extend a temporary layoff period. 

In June, government amended the Employment Standards Regulation to allow workers and employers to agree to an extended “COVID-19 emergency layoff” of up to 24 weeks in any consecutive 28-week period. The “COVID-19 emergency layoff” period expires on August 30, 2020. 

While there are signs of increased economic activity in many sectors, some employers are not yet able to recall their workers. To extend a “COVID-19 emergency layoff” beyond August 30, the provincial Employment Standards Act provides a tool unique in Canada, allowing for workers and employers to apply jointly to the Employment Standards Branch for a temporary layoff variance.

Without a variance, the employment relationship will be permanently severed upon the expiry of the “COVID-19 emergency layoff” period on August 30, and eligible employees must be provided with termination pay.  Government therefore recommends that employers submit their variance applications early to avoid the potential of permanent layoffs. 

Under the new streamlined variance process, applications can be made using an online form.  The Employment Standards Branch has also assigned additional resources to ensure that applications are processed efficiently.  A province-wide marketing  campaign is underway, and the Branch has new supports and information on its website.

To apply for a variance, employers must follow a simple, two step process: 

Step 1: Survey your workforce using a template and tool from the Employment Standards Branch to ensure more than 50% of employees who will be affected by the variance support the application. 

Step 2: Complete the application form on the online portal and upload your employees’ responses from the tool.  

The Employment Standards Branch will review the application and notify employers once the variance is decided. To ensure applications are decided by the August 30th deadline, employers are encouraged to submit their variance applications by August 25th.

Additional information on the temporary layoff variance application process is available on the provincial website. 

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