Maximum Allowable COVID-Related Layoffs Extended to 24 Weeks

BC's Minister of Labour has announced that there will be a further extension to the maximum temporary COVID-related layoff periods allowed under the BC Employment Standards Act.

In cases of COVID-related layoffs, the maximum allowable temporary layoff period will be extended from 16 weeks to 24 weeks. In non COVID-related cases, the maximum temporary layoff period continues to be 13 weeks.

This announcement means that employees and employers may agree to COVID-related temporary layoffs that will last for more than 16 weeks. But after 24 weeks of layoff, the employment relationship will terminate automatically under the Employment Standards Act (unless the government extends the maximum temporary lay-off period again).

However, the Employment Standards Act changes do not mean that employers necessarily have the contractual right to temporarily lay employees off. It is always up to the employee and employer to agree whether a temporary layoff is mutually agreeable. Unless permitted by the employment contract, an employer's failure to obtain an employee's consent may result in a constructive dismissal at common law, as well as a termination under the Employment Standards Act.

Further details of today's announcement will become available once the full text of the new regulation is revealed.

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About the Author

Brendan Harvey advises and represents employees and small businesses at all stages before, during, and after the employment relationship. His primary areas of practice include wrongful dismissal, employment standards, and human rights litigation. If you would like to schedule a meeting with Brendan Harvey or any other of our lawyers, give us a call at 604-988-1000.

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