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The BC Employment Standards Branch released a much-anticipated update regarding the interpretation of the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”). In its update, it recognizes that that the COVID-19 pandemic could be considered an ‘unforeseeable event’ for the purpose of group and individual terminations under the ESA.

The update states the following:

“Many business closures or staffing reductions that are due to the current COVID-19 pandemic could be seen as resulting from unforeseeable events that make an employee’s work impossible to perform. If the closure/reduction is directly related to COVID-19 and there is no way for the employee to perform work in a different way (for example, working from home) the exception may apply to exclude employees from receiving compensation for length of service and group termination pay. However, this may not always be the case.

If an employer terminates an employee for reasons that are not directly related to COVID-19, or if the employee’s work could still be done (perhaps in a different way) this exemption would not apply. These situations will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis”

This means that compensation for length of service on termination and group termination pay do NOT apply if the employment contract is impossible to perform due to unforeseeable event or circumstance.

For additional information please refer to the relevant portion of the Employment Standards Act.

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