Workers and employers who may need to extend temporary layoffs past the expiry date are being reminded by the province to apply for a variance using the Employment Standards Branch’s new online application.

Last month, the Ministry of Labour launched a variance application process to help businesses navigate the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic more easily.

Employers are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. An application deadline is set for August 25 for workers and employers to jointly apply for an extension, to ensure that the August 30 expiry date will process all applications.

“I urge any employers who think they need to extend temporary staff layoffs further, to please read the information we have online and reach out if you have any questions,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour. “We have made the application process simple and easy to use, and there is ministry staff available to help guide an employer through the process or answer any questions.”

The new two-step online application simplifies and streamlines the process for employers and workers to jointly apply for an extension by allowing documents and signatures to be submitted electronically.

Employers must first reach out to their workforce to ensure they have more than 50% support from workers before applying. Workers will receive information about the variance, including their rights under the Employment Standards Act, and will be able to voice their support using the online tool. Once worker support is documented, employers can complete the online form and submit directly to the Employment Standards Branch.

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. The government encourages employers to submit their variance applications to avoid permanent staff layoffs and compensation for length of service to eligible workers upon the expiry of the COVID-19 emergency layoff period August 30.

– Files from Tanner Wallace-Scribner, My Cariboo Now