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Province stands firm on not extending temporary layoff period

B.C. businesses fear that with no extension, having to pay out severance will cripple their chances of surviving pandemic
NDP Labour Minister Harry Bains. File photo BIV.

The province is standing firm on not extending the temporary layoff period beyond the original 16-week stretch that will end in July, but added it is open to discuss possible solutions with business stakeholders later this week.

In Tuesday’s legislative session in Victoria, Labour Minister Harry Bains came under heavy fire from opposition Liberal MLAs for the position that the province will not extend temporary layoff limits to Aug. 31. A joint letter was sent on Monday from groups like the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business asking for the extension.

Bains noted that the temporary layoff period was already extended from 13 to 16 weeks.

“We fully understand the difficulty businesses and workers are going through during this pandemic,” Bains said during Tuesday’s legislative session. “Many businesses and workers alike fear this layoff could become permanent… We want to support them, and that’s why we extended the temporary layoff provision to 16 weeks. That’s why we’ve put together relief programs while, at the same time, saying we will continue to listen.”

Both Bains and Premier John Horgan said they are scheduled to discuss ways to address businesses’ concerns on Thursday, but opposition MLAs said a more urgent response is needed given how dire the situation is for many business owners looking to provide continued employment to those who were laid off.

If no extension is granted, businesses would be required to pay laid-off staff severances when the temporary layoff period expires, which companies say would cripple their survival odds in the uncertainty of a post-COVID economy. Many added the plan is to hire back those who are laid off—but more time is needed for businesses to assess their situations.

North Vancouver-Seymour MLA Jane Thornthwaite said Ottawa’s decision last week to extend the Canada Emergency response benefit to Aug. 29 (as well as an announcement earlier Tuesday to extend federal temporary layoff periods by up to six months) reflects the type of urgency that B.C. should have in its own policies.

“The federal government is supporting and protecting,” Thornthwaite said. “Why is this minister not taking the steps to make sure that temporary layoffs don’t become permanent?”

Bains did note in response that B.C. has provisions in its Employment Standards Act to allow employers to work with employees to file further extension to the temporary layoff period on a case-by-case basis, adding that the province has received very few such applications on that front.

This article origianlly appeared here.