Apply to extend a temporary layoff

Last updated on January 31, 2024

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An employee cannot be temporarily laid off for more than 13 weeks in any given 20-week period. Employees are laid off (even if they're still working) when they earn less than 50% of their regular wages in a week.

If you won't be ready to recall employees back to work before the time limit, you can apply together with the affected employees to extend the temporary layoff beyond 13 weeks through a variance under the Employment Standards Act.

What is a variance?

Variances allow for employment situations that follow the purposes of B.C. employment standards but do not strictly meet the standards set out in the Act. If employers and employees agree and would both benefit from extending the temporary layoff period beyond 13 weeks, then a variance application may be appropriate.

While a temporary layoff is extended through a variance, employers maintain employment relationships and do not have to

Employees stay continuously employed, with no interruption to their

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

Who is affected by a variance?

As an employer, you choose which employees are affected by a variance:

  • All employees
  • Employees with specific jobs or duties
  • Specific named employees

You must show that at least 51% of affected employees support the application. Your application should show as much employee support as possible. This will ensure it meets the 51% employee support requirement even if some employees withdraw their consent during the process.

All employees

This means the variance will apply to all employees that have been temporarily laid off as of the application date. Employees who are working and/or recalled back to work are not affected by the variance application and cannot support it.

Employees can get informed about extending a temporary layoff to understand their options.

Specific job titles or duties

This means the variance will only apply to certain job positions or classifications within your business. You'll need to tell us which job titles or duties are affected.

Specific employees

This means the variance will only apply to the names of the employees specifically included in the application. This category is most common with a small group of employees.

You must plan to recall employees by a specific date

If you're unable to determine a specific recall date for employees (for example, because of BC’s Restart Plan), choose a reasonable date based on your plans to partially or fully resume operations. You can apply for another extension if you do not resume operations by the date you gave on your application.

Variances must meet the purposes of the Act and are issued at the discretion of the Director of Employment Standards. Applications and renewals are considered on a case-by-case basis and must include an end date even if the applicants are not certain when they will be fully operational.

In situations where applicants are unsure of a restart date, the Director will consider extensions of four months or less to be reasonable in the majority of cases. If the applicant requests an extension of more than four months, the Director will require additional supporting information and clear reasons why a longer extension is needed. The application also needs to show that the employees understand and agree with the reasons for an extension of more than four months.

When considering the circumstances of the application and the purposes of B.C. employment standards, the Director can issue a variance for a shorter duration than requested.

Notify employees and prove support

This is a joint application. Before you apply, notify affected employees that you intend to apply. Make sure they understand the reason for the temporary layoff extensions and agree to continue to be temporarily laid off from work.

You must prove employee support

You're responsible for demonstrating that at least 51% of affected employees support the application. Applications should show as much employee support as possible to ensure your application can still succeed if some employees withdraw their support after you submit your application.

Send affected employees a support form

You must be able to show proof that affected employees were informed about the application and support it.

Download employee support form (PDF)

Employee support forms must be completed directly by individual employees and included with your application. A document listing the employees who support the application is not sufficient to demonstrate employee support. A variance is a joint application and requires proof of support directly from at least 51% of the employees.

Employees give or decline support

If the employee supports the application, then they agree to extend the temporary layoff until the recall date. To show their support, employees are asked to provide employment details and contact information.

Employees have the right to decide not to support the application. If less than 51% of employees in the affected group support the variance application, then it will not be accepted by Employment Standards.

Employees have the ability to withdraw their support for the application. If a variance with majority support is approved, it will cover all affected employees, not just those who gave support.

Demonstrate support for the application

Applications must include employee support forms

You need to send us a support form for every employee that agrees to extend the layoff. Your application will not be approved if it does not include your employees' completed support forms.

Provide a list of all affected employees

You also need to tell us the name, phone number and email address of each employee affected by the application.

Download employee list template (XLSX)

You must include the list of all affected employees and a support form completed by each affected employee.

Apply for a variance online

Employers can apply for a variance and provide support documents online.

Apply to extend a temporary layoff

Contact the Employment Standards Branch

The Employment Standards Branch administers the Employment Standards Act and Regulation.

Ask a question

Get confidential support and information about temporary layoffs, variances and B.C. employment standards.

Contact Employment Standards

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