B.C. extends temporary layoff provision to a maximum of 24 weeks ending Aug. 30

The province has extended the temporary layoff provision to a maximum of 24 weeks ending on Aug. 30, B.C. labour minister Harry Bains announced Thursday.

The move comes after a meeting between Bains, premier John Horgan and B.C. business associations who are worried that an end to the temporary layoff period would make COVID-19-related temporary layoffs permanent - thus forcing companies to pay severance and take another major financial hit.

"We heard loud and clear from employers that they need this extension," Bains said in a statement, but added Thursday’s extension is meant to work in conjunction with Section 72 of the B.C. Employment Standards Act - which puts the onus on business owners to work with employees to extend temporary layoffs in a joint application.

“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,” Bains continued in the statement, adding that workers also have the right to “decline the layoff and accept the compensation for length of service which they are entitled to."

Officials also noted it will do everything in their power to make sure applications for temporary layoff extensions would be processes in a timely manner.

In a separate statement from a number of business associations in B.C., the sector it is glad of the decision to extend the temporary layoff period, as it gives businesses more breathing room for sorting out their finances and to potentially hire people back.

“We appreciate the government listening to the businesses community and providing the necessary extension," said Greater Vancouver Board of Trade president and CEO Bridgitte Anderson in the statement. "Collaboration has never been more important and it will be vital moving forward. As we restart more of B.C.’s economy, employers will continue to work overtime to do whatever is in their power to bring their customers and employees back.”

Greg D’Avignon, president and CEO of the Business Council of BC, agreed.

"This issue is one of many before us that we will need to work together on to climb out of the deepest economic hole in a century," D'Avignon said in his statement. "I want to thank the Premier for listening to our concerns and acting in the spirit of collaboration."

Earlier in the week, Bains came under heavy fire from Liberal MLAs for not extending the temporary layoff period to Aug. 31. The original period was to end in July after a duration of 16 weeks - after having been extended once already from 13 weeks.

At the time, Bains said the province does not plan on extending the temporary layoff period until after speaking with business stakeholders on Thursday. Bains did, however, already mentioned the availability of Section 72 applications in B.C. - something that is unique among Canadian jurisdictions.