Burnaby Board of Trade Calls for Extension to Allowable Duration for Temporary Lay Offs as Deadline Looms for Termination, Severance

June 19, 2020 — The Burnaby Board of Trade is asking the provincial government to immediately extend the allowable duration of temporary layoffs beyond the current limit of 16 weeks to allow businesses more time to re-open and recover before having to re-hire staff of terminate and pay severance and other costs . Without an urgent change to this requirement, either thousands of Burnaby employees will lose their connection to their employer, or many Burnaby businesses will face significant financial obligations at a time when they can ill afford them.  The Burnaby Board of Trade fears this will serve to set back our local economic recovery.

Under the Employment Standards Act and a subsequent provincial order, a temporary layoff of longer than 16 weeks in duration in considered a termination. Currently, at the end of 16 weeks if an employer is not able to bring an employee back to their normal hours and pay, the law considers that employee terminated and obliges that employer to provide written working notice of termination or pay in lieu of notice, as well as pay severance to qualifying employees, based on their length of service.

As a result of the economic repercussions of COVID-19 restrictions, closures and curtailments, many businesses in Burnaby found it necessary to temporarily lay off staff, and are only now re-opening and beginning to recover and re-hire.  Without an extension to the 16-week layoff timeframe, these Burnaby businesses will be forced to either hire staff back potentially before they can afford to, or terminate their staff and potentially have to pay a significant new severance/pay-in-lieu obligation.

The Burnaby Board of Trade also fears this rule will sidetrack our recovery by severing the employer-employee relationship and making it more difficult for businesses to recall workers quickly as sales and revenues increase. Businesses may lose touch with terminated employees, and if positions re-open new employees could have to be found and trained. This will not only negatively impact the recovery of Burnaby businesses but will make it more difficult for laid off workers to resume full employment and regain their ability to earn an income.

In light of the above, the Burnaby Board of Trade is strongly encouraging the provincial government to act to extend the temporary layoff provision beyond the current 16 week limit. This will provide employers with certainty around their financial obligations, will ensure workers can retain their connection to their employer, and will align BC with similar changes enacted in Alberta and Ontario that do not force employers to terminate employees due to COVID-19.

The Burnaby Board of Trade has written to the four Burnaby MLAs and Premier Horgan, and will continue to engage on this issue.