The provincial government has extended the period of time in which an employee can be considered “temporarily” laid off to 16 weeks.

Under the Employment Standards Act, any employee laid off for a period longer than 13 weeks in a 20-week period (or about three months in a five month period) would previously be considered permanently laid off.

With a permanent layoff, employers are required to provide employees with written working notice of termination and/or pay severance to qualifying employees, based on their length of service.

However as of May 4th, layoffs related to COVID-19 business closures or reductions will remain “temporary” for a period of 16 weeks.

According to the Ministry of Labour, this measure was made to keep British Columbians connected to their employers for a longer period of time.

The amendment to the Employment Standards Act aligns B.C.’s temporary layoff provisions with the federal government’s financial assistance program, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides income assistance for a period of 16 weeks.

“It also allows employees to keep their job, even if they are not working, for 16 weeks of temporary layoff. Employers will be able to quickly resume operations should the public health emergency end within that time,” reads a statement from the Ministry.

The extension of the temporary layoff period in B.C. will be repealed once it is no longer needed in the aftermath of the COVID-19 public health emergency.