Amendments to the BC Employment Standards Act

On May 4, 2020 the BC government announced that it has amended the BC Employment Standards Act to extend the maximum allowable period for a temporary layoff.  Previously, a temporary layoff could only extend to 13 weeks in a 20-week period before being considered a permanent layoff/termination.  Now the Act allows for a maximum of 16 weeks, which aligns with the length of the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for employees.    It remains to be seen whether the Act will be further amended in the coming weeks as the pandemic progresses.  We will be watching for any further amendments. 

Over the past several weeks, many employers have tried to institute temporary layoffs for their employees as their businesses have been forced to dramatically reduce expenses and/or close temporarily.  For employers who initiated temporary layoffs, they now have a few more weeks to determine if and when/how they can reactivate some or all of those employees.  These will be difficult decisions for employers and will present challenging situations for employees. 

In our previous blog posts, we have discussed options for employers looking to reduce staff levels or salary costs (e.g. salary or hours reductions, applying for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, termination based on frustration of contract, etc.).  While there are already some risks for employers who initiated temporary layoffs, the risks for employers will be particularly significant with respect to any employees who are not reactivated by the end of the 16 weeks.     

Have more questions about Canada’s COVID-19 pandemic and how to manage it in the workplace? Contact Scott Marcinkow at or anyone else from our team listed on the Authors page.