Government of B.C.

Do you qualify?

Variances allow work situations that don't strictly meet B.C. employment standards but follow their purposes, such as an extension to a temporary layoff.

Under the Employment Standards Act, variances only apply to non-unionized, non-excluded employees.


An employee cannot be laid off for more than 13 weeks in any given 20-week period (about three months in a period of five months). An employee is considered to be laid off (even if they're still working) when they earn less than 50% of their regular wages in a week.

If employers are not ready to recall employees back to work after 13 weeks of layoff, they can jointly apply with the affected employees to extend the temporary layoff through a variance under the Employment Standards Act. Employers must have reasonable plans to recall employees by a specific date.

Employers who are unable to determine a specific recall date for employees (for example, because of BC’s Restart Plan) should choose a reasonable date based on their plans to partially or fully resume operations.

Variances are issued at the discretion of the Director of Employment Standards. New applications and renewals are considered on a case-by-case basis. When considering the circumstances of the application and the purposes of B.C. employment standards, the Director has the authority to grant a variance for a shorter duration than requested.

Who is affected by a variance?

Employers choose which employees are affected by a variance:

  • All employees
  • Employees with a specific job title or job duties
  • Specific named employees

Employers must show that at least 51% of affected employees support the application and are highly encouraged to show as much employee support as possible. For example, an employer could apply together with only the employees who support the application. If approved, the variance would only apply to those specific employees.


Employers and employees both benefit from an extension to a temporary layoff.

Employer benefits

Employers keep existing, stable employees and do not have to:

Employee benefits

Employees stay continuously employed, with no interruption to:

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



Inform employees you intend to apply

This is a joint application. Before applying, you must notify affected employees that you intend to apply and make sure they agree to continue to be temporarily laid off from work.

We recommend emailing employees to explain how extending the layoff will affect their employment.

Download sample email (DOCX)

If you don't use the sample email, make sure your notice includes everything the sample email does. Clearly explain what a variance is and how the process works. You may need to send us a copy of the notice.


Document employee support

Employers are responsible for documenting employee support.

Employers must show that at least 51% of affected employees support the application for a variance and are highly encouraged to show as much employee support as possible.

Employees can use the support tool below to help document their support.

Launch support tool

Prefer paper? Download a printable version (PDF).


Submit online application

To help us review your application faster, provide a list of all affected employees (XLSX) as part of your application.

You still need to provide documented support from at least 51% of affected employees.


Keep a copy for your records. A delegate of the Director of Employment Standards may contact you to review your application in detail.

You can also submit an application by email (PDF), but it will take longer to process.


Receive notice from the Employment Standards Branch

If the variance is granted, you will be emailed a copy of the variance decision.

If the variance is denied, a formal decision is sent by email and registered mail to both the employer and affected employees.

The Director of Employment Standards may investigate to ensure compliance with the Act and the regulations, at any time and whether or not the Director has received a complaint.


Implement the change and inform employees

Employers must:

  • Follow any terms and conditions in the variance
  • Send a copy of the variance to employees
  • Post a copy of the variance at the workplace


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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