B.C. extends temporary COVID-19 layoff provisions

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains arrives at the start of the debate at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, June 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The B.C. government is extending temporary layoffs provisions under COVID-19 to a maximum of 24 weeks after concerns were raised by business groups and the B.C. Liberals.

The layoff provisions will now expire on Aug. 30.

Business groups have warned of widespread bankruptcies if businesses were forced to pay out severance for staff they intended on bringing back to work as the economy reopens.

Labour Minister Harry Bains said the extension will provide “even more certainty and flexibility.”

“This will also give additional time to ensure that employers and workers are able to craft agreements if there is a need to further extend temporary layoffs, while still protecting workers’ rights to compensation for length of service.”

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This new timeline aligns with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which extends to a maximum of 24 weeks.

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Earlier this week the federal government lengthened its temporary layoff program to six months. The change impacts federally regulated private businesses including banks and airlines.

Read more: B.C. unemployment rate hits 13.4% in May, even though 43,300 jobs added

B.C.’s hotel sector would be particularly hard hit if required to pay out severance. As the province moves to Phase 3 of its restart plan, around 60 per cent of the provinces 1,250 hotels remain closed.

The province had originally turned down a request from business leaders to extend the benefit.

“There’s an easy solution,” BC Liberal MLA Mike de Jong said. “There’s a solution that the federal government has adopted that other provinces have adopted. I can’t explain why the premier’s minister of labour, speaking for the government, said no.”

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