COVID-19 – Update for Employers

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This morning the BC government announced amendments to the BC Employment Standards Act (“ESA”). These amendments will provide job protection for employees who are unable to work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. We anticipate that this protection will mirror the current right of employees who return from parental leave or other statutory leaves to be returned their jobs. We will provide further details as they become available.

At the moment many employers are struggling with maintaining their workforce in light of decreased demand for services and products as well as the need for self-isolation of certain employees. Layoffs may be inevitable. Currently the ESA allows employers to temporarily layoff employees for up to 13 weeks in a 20 week period. If employees are recalled before the expiration of the 13 week period, no notice or pay in lieu of notice is owing under the ESA. This includes group termination notice, if applicable. While employees can waive the right of recall and demand to be paid out immediately (as well as contractual severance or common law pay in lieu of notice), given the uncertainty of the future job market, we anticipate most employees will accept the layoff.

During these unprecedented times, we anticipate further employment law changes and the emergence of new best practices. We will continue to update you regularly.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to Clark Wilson’s Employment and Labour lawyers with any questions during this challenging time.