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Making sense of layoffs during a pandemic. Sheridan King featured on Island Thrive podcast.

Making sense of layoffs during a pandemic. Sheridan King featured on Island Thrive podcast.

Early in July, Sheridan King joined Dave Monahan and Paul Holmes, of Smart Dolphins IT Solutions on their podcast, Island Thrive. Sheridan provided an update on employment law issues in B.C.’s current economic climate, focusing on temporary layoffs and COVID-19.

Sheridan reviewed a broad range of employment law concepts that come into play when a B.C. employer considers temporary layoffs. She also offered several strategies to survive the pandemic’s economic hit. The discussion covered constructive dismissal, common law notice and severance obligations as well as how they intersect with EI, the CERB, and other programs, like the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). Issues around health and safety and work arrangements, creative alternatives to layoffs, and how to approach employees with collaborative solutions to the impact of COVID-19 also came up. Handling human resources matters during times of uncertainty is challenging. Still, the conversation highlights that there is room for innovative approaches to help business owners and employees get through the current health crisis.

You can listen to this information-packed discussion here.

Island Thrive was started to provide a space for local leaders to discuss the ups and downs of doing business on Vancouver Island with a particular focus on navigating the opportunities and challenges of running a business during a pandemic.

Click to subscribe to Island Thrive.


Since this interview, the province has amended the Employment Standards Act (ESA) to address temporary layoffs during the pandemic. (See:

The temporary layoff provision under the ESA has been expanded in terms of length. Until August 30, 2020, the time period of a temporary layoff for reasons related to the COVID-19 emergency may be extended to a maximum of 24 weeks in a period of 28 consecutive weeks.

This means that if an employee is laid off for a total of 24 weeks in a 28 consecutive week period, then the employee is deemed to be terminated from their employment as at the date the layoff started.

The concept of constructive dismissal as it concerns temporary layoffs continues to apply. The main difference is now a layoff can be for 24 in a 28-week period (as opposed to 13 weeks in a 20-week period). The extension applies for layoffs specifically related to COVID-19 only.

It’s important to know that under the ESA, any week in which an employee earns less than 50% of regular wages is considered to be a week of layoff for the purposes of the termination of employment provisions.

The CRA has also launched an updated CEWS calculator, and the government of Canada website for the CEWS was updated on August 11, 2020.

We strongly encourage business owners to get independent legal advice to see which of the above concepts and suggestions might apply to your unique situation before acting or failing to act on any of the above. If you have questions, we invite you to contact Sheridan or the Employment Law group to discuss your circumstances and options.

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