Government of B.C.

Before you start

This page applies to you if you're an employee covered by B.C. employment standards who is temporarily laid off due to COVID-19.


In B.C., you cannot be laid off for more than 13 weeks in any given 20-week period (about three months in a period of five months).

If your employer is not ready to recall you back to work after 13 weeks of layoff, they have two options. 

1. Extend the temporary layoff

Employers and employees apply together to the Employment Standards Branch to extend the temporary layoff beyond 13 weeks. This process is called a variance because it amends part of the Employment Standards Act.

Your employer must be able to show that at least 51% of affected employees support the application.

2. Terminate your employment

Your employer does not extend the temporary layoff. Your employment will end after you've been laid off for more than 13 weeks. Your employer may be required to pay you compensation for length of service.

Get informed

Get informed and exercise your rights as an employee.

What is a variance?

Variances allow for work situations that don’t strictly meet the requirements of the Employment Standards Act. For example, changing when hours must be paid at overtime rates.

Variances must follow the purposes of B.C. employment standards to:

  • Promote fair treatment of employees and employers
  • Help employees balance work and family responsibilities

What is the benefit of a variance?

A variance will extend the temporary layoff period. You stay continuously employed, with no interruption to your:

  • Rate of pay
  • Vacation accrual
  • Years of service
  • Benefits
  • Leaves of absence

If the variance application is approved, you won't be able to claim or receive compensation for length of service during the layoff period since you'll remain continuously employed.

How does a variance application work?

Employers and employees apply for a variance together. Employers must be able to show that at least 51% of affected employees support the application.

For example, if your workplace has 30 staff, at least 16 people need to support remaining temporarily laid off. If your employer is not able to show this support, the variance will not be approved.

Make the decision that is best for you

Your employer may contact you to ask for your support. Make sure you understand when your employer plans to end the temporary layoff.

You can decide to:

  • Decline support. No further action required
  • Give support. You must provide documentation to prove your decision

How to provide documentation

Complete the form. Save two PDF copies:

  • Send one to your employer (email is best)
  • Keep one for your records

Give your support (Optional)

Prefer paper? Download a printable version (PDF).

Next steps

If you give support

You may be contacted by someone from the Employment Standards Branch. If you are contacted, it is important that you take part. We’ll confirm your support of the variance application and make sure you’re aware of what the application means for you.

If the variance is approved, a notice is emailed to your employer. Your employer must send you a copy of the variance.

If you decline support

You don’t need to take any action. Your employer still needs to show at least 51% of affected employees support the application.

A variance can be approved even if you do not support the application. If the variance is approved, all affected employees will remain laid off. Your employer must send you a copy of the variance.

If you have questions about a temporary layoff variance that has been granted and how it applies to you, contact us.


Contact us for confidential support and information.

Send us an email

Call 1-833-236-3700

Monday to Friday, 7:30 am to 5:00 pm (Pacific Time)

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