Online portal released for COVID-19 temporary layoff variance applications

The British Columbia Employment Standards Branch has recently released an online portal for temporary layoff variance applications. The purpose of the online application tool is to simplify and streamline the variance application process for employers who need to extend temporary layoffs due to COVID-19.

Currently, temporary layoffs due to COVID-19 must end after 24 weeks, or by August 30, 2020 (whichever is first) under the British Columbia Employment Standards Act. Without a variance of this August 30, 2020 expiry of the COVID-19 emergency layoff period, a temporary layoff will convert into a termination and may trigger obligations to pay compensation for length of service.

The variance application tool allows employers with “reasonable plans” to recall employees at a specific date after August 30, 2020 to apply for an extension of the temporary layoff period. The Employment Standards Branch will grant variance applications on a discretionary basis, and may allow extensions to December 31, 2020, or later in exceptional circumstances. If  laid-off workers return before August 30, 2020, there is no need to apply for a variance.

The deadline to apply is August 25, 2020, to ensure applications are processed by August 30, 2020. The variance application process consists of two steps:

    1. Prior to applying, the employer must provide their employees information about their rights and the variance, and obtain more than 50% support for the variance from their employees; and
    2. Once employee support for the variance is documented, they can complete the variance application through the online portal.

We encourage employers to review the application tool carefully, or contact your Harris lawyer for more information.

If you have any questions about this article, please contact Sari Wiens, Ilan BurkesNicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.

Note to our Readers: Information regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. We are working to bring you up-to-date articles as the legal issues develop and to keep our previous posts updated. Given that the legal issues related to COVID-19 are constantly changing, if you are looking for legal advice or are dealing with an issue in relation to COVID-19, please contact your Harris lawyer or a member of our COVID-19 response team: Sari Wiens, Ilan BurkesNicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.

To read our most recent articles and other updates on COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 Updates page.