Temporary Layoff and Minimum Wage Changes to BC Employment Standards Act
Extension of Temporary Layoff Period
On May 4, 2020, the BC government announced a temporary amendment to the Employment Standards Act (“Act“) which extends the maximum length of a temporary layoff to 16 weeks in any 20 week period. This is an increase of 3 weeks from the previous maximum length of 13 weeks and aligns the temporary layoff period with the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit period. Under this amendment, which is effective immediately, an employee is now deemed to have been terminated if they are not returned to work after 16 weeks.
This extension provides employers, who have temporarily laid off staff members, three additional weeks to evaluate the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and its impact on the economy. Employers should be aware that despite extending the duration of a temporary layoff under the Act, the Act has not been amended to allow all employers to institute temporary layoffs unilaterally. Employers can only implement temporary layoffs if the employee agrees, or if it is an established industry-wide practice.
Minimum Wage Increase
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the many recent amendments to the Act, the BC government has not announced any plans to postpone the pre-scheduled minimum wage increases.
Unless postponed, on June 1, 2020, the minimum wage in BC will increase by $0.75 to $14.60 per hour. This increase is part of a scheduled annual increase plan that commenced in 2017, and that will come to an end next year on June 1, 2021 when minimum wage increases again to $15.20.
Liquor servers – different minimum wage
There is currently a lower minimum wage for individuals who work as liquor servers (and other workers such as live-in camp leaders, live-in home support workers or resident caretakers). The Act and its associated Regulations define a liquor server as an employee who works mainly as a server of food or drink (or both) who regularly serves liquor directly to customers and who works in a premises with a liquor licence.
Employees are not considered liquor servers (and therefore must be paid at least regular minimum wage) if they only occasionally serve liquor, or if they prepare drinks that are delivered to customers by another server.
Restaurant and bar owners should be aware that the minimum wage for liquor servers will increase by $1.25 on June 1, 2020, raising the hourly total to $13.95.
All businesses that are grappling with making ends meet and supporting their employees, and especially restaurant and bar owners in light of the mandated bar and restaurant shutdown, are likely concerned with legislated increases to minimums wages in this particularly challenging economy. We will continue to monitor and update you on any legislative developments that may come to pass to address these concerns.