Last updated: April 13, 2021

Variances allow work situations that follow the purposes of B.C. employment standards but don't strictly meet the standards.

Not all changes to work schedules need a variance. Some changes may be made by an averaging agreement: a written agreement between an employer and an affected employee.

On this page:

Apply for a Variance

You can apply to vary the standards for:

  • The number of weeks covered by an averaging agreement
  • Paydays
  • Split shifts
  • Daily hours of work
  • Hours free from work
  • Overtime wages for employees not on a flexible work schedule
  • Special clothing
  • The maximum length of a temporary layoff
  • Notice and termination pay requirements for group terminations

A variance application is made jointly with the employer and employees. The variance must promote fair treatment of employees and employers and benefit the majority of affected employees.

To extend a temporary layoff due to COVID-19, employers and employees should follow a different process and submit a joint application online.

Before applying for a variance, employers must make sure that the majority of employees who will be affected are aware of the application and approve of it.

The employer and employees should submit a completed Variance Application Form (PDF, 279KB) or write a letter to the Director of Employment Standards.

Submit the application or letter by email to​.

A variance application is usually reviewed within two weeks of receiving it. As part of our review, we'll contact some of the employees who support the application to make sure they understand the application and agree to it.

If the variance is approved, a notice will be mailed to the applicants.

A copy of the variance notice must be displayed in the workplace where all affected employees can read it.

The terms or schedule in the variance must be followed, except in circumstances beyond the control of the employer or employees.

If the variance applies to a specific employee, the employee must be identified on the variance. The variance will end if that employee stops working.

Initial variance applications may be approved for up to two years. Renewed variances can be approved for up to five years.

Renewal applications must be submitted at least 30 days before the previous variance expires to allow time for processing. If a new variance isn't issued by the time the current one expires, the employer must follow all of the requirements of the Employment Standards Act.


Renew a Variance

To renew a variance, submit a new application. The Employment Standards Branch must receive the application at least 30 days before the previous variance expires to allow time for processing. If a new variance isn't issued by the time the old one expires, the employer must follow all of the requirements of the Employment Standards Act.

Change a Variance

To make minor changes to a variance – for example, to make a small change to a work schedule, the employer and employees should contact the Employment Standards Branch by email at

An employer can cancel a variance if employees won't be negatively affected. They must:

  • Notify the Employment Standards Branch and the employees affected by the cancellation
  • Pay overtime to all employees who are not given the opportunity to finish their shift cycle according to the terms of the variance

If an employer doesn't follow the rules of a variance, the Director of Employment Standards may cancel it.

Rules About Overtime & Statutory Holiday Pay

Getting paid for overtime

If an employee who is covered by a variance works hours that are not part of the scheduled hours in a regular shift cycle, the extra hours must be paid at overtime rates:

  • Time-and-a-half for hours worked over the terms of the variance up to 12 hours a day
  • Double-time for any hours worked over 12 hours in a day
  • Time-and-a-half for any hours worked over an average of 40 in a week, over the course of the shift cycle

Employees covered by an overtime variance must work or earn wages for the full shift cycle. If there is not enough work for the employee to work a full shift cycle, overtime must be paid. This does not apply if an employee quits or is fired.

Regular overtime payment may apply if the employer is not following the requirements of a variance.

Statutory holiday pay

An employee covered by a variance is entitled to statutory holiday pay once he or she has been employed for 30 days. They do not need to have worked 15 of the 30 days prior to the statutory holiday.

What You Can Do

If you're having issues at work, find out what you can do: