Online tool speeds up temporary layoff application process

EMPLOYERS and workers who need to extend temporary layoffs due to COVID-19 can more easily apply for a variance using the Employment Standards Branch’s new online application.

In June, the government extended the time period for temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 to a maximum of 24 weeks, expiring on August 30. This is expanded from 16 weeks, to give employers and workers more flexibility.

The new online application simplifies and streamlines the process for employers and workers to jointly apply for an extension beyond August 30 by eliminating the need for hardcopy documents and signatures, while ensuring the integrity of the branch’s decision-making process.

The government engaged with stakeholders, including small businesses, to test the online process to make it as simple as possible to support B.C.’s workplaces in economic recovery.

Employers are encouraged to apply as soon as they have received worker support. An application deadline of August 25, has been set to ensure that all applications will be processed by the August 30 expiry date.

There are now two steps. Employers must:

* Survey their workforce to obtain more than 50% support from workers before applying. Workers will receive information about the variance, including what their rights are and can provide their support using a new online response tool;

* Once worker support is documented, employers complete the online form and submit the document in a new portal directly to the Employment Standards Branch.

* There are new supportive templates and tools to assist employers and workers in taking these steps.

Under B.C.’s Employment Standards Act, temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 can last up to 24 weeks, or until August 30, before the layoff becomes permanent. Government recommends that employers submit their variance applications early to avoid the potential of permanent staff layoffs and compensation for length of service to eligible workers upon the expiry of the COVID-19 emergency layoff period on August 30.

The government says BC’s Restart Plan is supporting business to safely reopen and get people back to work.

Employers are also encouraged to make use of the federal wage subsidy to assist them in bringing their workers back.