What You Need to Know About Temporary Layoffs in BC

Employment Law | July 21, 2022

If you have ever been temporarily suspended from your work duties and recalled at a later date, it is likely that you were temporarily laid off. While temporary layoffs were extremely common during the height of the pandemic, they have been a regular occurrence for various industries and workplaces for many years. Temporary layoffs can be a complex area of employment law, making it difficult for employees and employers to understand the requirements surrounding them. That is why the employment lawyers at Linley Welwood have outlined what you need to know about temporary layoffs in BC to help you understand what you are entitled to as an employee and what you can do as an employer.

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Can Employers Temporarily Lay-Off Employees in BC?

Under the Employment Standards Act (ESA), employees in BC can only be laid off only under certain circumstances. In most situations, an employee can only be laid off temporarily if they are made aware of it, consent to it, and one of the following applies:

  • The lay-off is normal and expected in the industry. For example, in logging or construction work it is often understood that the contract or work may be temporary or seasonal.
  • The pay-off is expressly permitted as part of an employment contract/agreement.
  • A temporary layoff has been previously agreed upon with your employer.

If the employee does not consent to the lay-off, they will need to have their employment terminated and a severance package in lieu of notice must be provided by the employer.

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When is an Employee Considered to be Temporarily Laid-Off?

An employee is considered to be laid off in BC if they earn less than 50 percent of their average weekly wages—averaged over the previous eight weeks of employment. As noted by their name, temporary layoffs cannot last indefinitely. The expectation is that once the situation improves, the employee will be called back to work. While pay is stopped during a layoff, benefits, vacation accruement, leave, and other entitlements should remain intact as they are protected.

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What is The Maximum Length of Temporary Layoffs in BC?

Under BC employment law, an employer can temporarily lay off an employee for up to 13 weeks in a consecutive 20-week period starting from the first day of the lay-off. If the temporary lay-off extends beyond 13 weeks, it will be treated as a termination without cause and, under the Employment Standards Act in BC, adequate severance must be paid to the employee. In some cases, the temporary layoff can be extended beyond 13 weeks by applying for a “variance” with the Employment Standards Branch, though there are several conditions that must be met for a successful application.

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To learn more about temporary layoffs or to speak with one of our employment lawyers, get in touch with the team at Linley Welwood. We can be reached through our online contact form and will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding our services.

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