As we move further into Phase 3 of British Columbia’s Restart Plan there have been some important changes in the COVID-19 labour and employment law landscape.
Employment Standards Act
The government of British Columbia has extended the temporary lay-off provisions under the Employment Standards Act to 24 weeks for employees laid-off due to COVID-19. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Act only permitted employers to temporarily lay-off employees for up to 13 weeks in a period of 20 consecutive weeks. The temporary lay-off provisions were previously amended in May 2020 to allow for temporary lay-offs of up to 16 weeks.
For more information, see the following link: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/employment-business/employment-standards-advice/employment-standards/forms-resources/igm/definitions#temporary-layoff. Also, please see our previous bulletins COVID-19 and Temporary Lay-Off and Extended Temporary Layoffs due to COVID-19.
Canada Labour Code
On June 22, 2020, the Federal government extended the temporary lay-off provisions under the Canada Labour Standards Regulations. This extension gives federally regulated employers more time to recall employees who are temporarily laid-off before those employees are deemed to be terminated under the Canada Labour Code.
Prior to the temporary extension, employees could be laid-off for up to 3 months, or 6 months if a recall date was provided in a written notice at the time of the layoff. Now, those allowable time periods have been extended as follows:
- For employees laid-off for a period of 3 months or less
- by 6 months for employees laid-off prior to March 31 2020
- to December 30, 2020 for employees laid-off between March 31 and September 30, 2020
- For employees laid-off for more than 3 months with a fixed recall date or a fixed period within 6 months
- by 6 months or until December 30, 2020, whichever occurs first, for employees laid-off prior to March 31, 2020
- to December 30, 2020 for employees laid-off between the period of March 31, 2020 and September 30, 2020, where the fixed date or fixed period specified in the written notice occurs before December 30, 2020
- until the recall date where the fixed date or fixed period specified in the written notice occurs on or after December 30, 2020
The temporary extension does not apply to employees who are:
- Covered by a collective agreement that contains recall rights or a minimum work guarantee
- On strike or lockout
- Receiving employer payments
- Receiving employer benefits
- Receiving or eligible for supplementary unemployment benefits
- Terminated prior to the coming into force of these changes
For more information, see the following link: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/portfolio/labour/notice-covid-19.html.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit
On June 16 the Federal government announced an extension of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). CERB will now be available for up to 24 weeks for employees who have stopped working due to COVID-19. This is an 8 week extension from the previously available 16 weeks.
For more information, see the following link: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html. Also, please see our April 24, 2020 bulletin Summary of Income Relief Programs for its discussion on CERB.
British Columbia Emergency Benefit for Workers
The British Columbia Emergency Benefit for Workers has recently been expanded to include British Columbians who lost their ability to work between March 1 and 14, 2020 due to COVID-19. The original Emergency Benefit followed the same eligibility requirements as CERB, which did not cover that two-week period. The benefit consists of a one-time, tax-free payment of $1000 to B.C. residents who meet various eligibility criteria.
For more information, see the following link: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/employment-business/covid-19-financial-supports/emergency-benefit-workers. Also, please see our April 24, 2020 bulletin Summary of Income Relief Programs for its discussion on the BC Emergency Benefit.
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
The federal government’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) has been extended by an additional 12 weeks. CEWS was implemented to assist businesses to avoid lay-offs and dismissals as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing eligible employers with a wage subsidy. Eligible employers can now claim the subsidy until August 29, 2020.
In addition, the government has expanded the eligibility for CEWS to include: partnerships with one or more non-eligible members; certain Indigenous government-owned businesses; registered amateur athletic associations; registered journalism organizations; and non-public educational and training institutions.
For more information, see: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/subsidy/emergency-wage-subsidy/cews-who-eligible-employer.html. Also please see our April 24, 2020 bulletin, COVID-19: Details on Canada’s Wage Subsidies.