March 17, 2020by Israel Foulon LLP
Since our March 16, 2020 E-Bulletin, there have been even more announcements of which employers should be aware (a couple of which are listed below):
- The Ontario government has officially announced a state of emergency. This designation allows the provincial government the power to order businesses and workplaces to close instead of just making a recommendation. Public events of more than 50 people are banned until March 30, 2020. All bars and restaurants are closed (takeout is allowed), as are places of worship, theatres, private schools, and daycares. Supermarkets, pharmacies, and medical offices will remain open. Shopping malls will also still be allowed to stay open for now (although many stores have voluntarily closed).
- The federal government will be returning to Parliament shortly to pass emergency economic measures (details of which have not yet been announced). In an interview with 680 News, Prime Minister Trudeau said that the federal government is considering a range of measures, including helping Canadians with their mortgages, providing cash to families through the Canada child benefit, and improving access to EI. The federal government has also announced that, in the coming days, they will be making changes for the upcoming tax season to assist individuals and businesses.
Given the exceptional and unprecedented situation, we expect further developments in the coming hours and days. In particular, it is expected that the federal government will be announcing the referenced financial support for Canadians in the coming days.
Frequently Asked Questions
*The following is for general informational purposes only. We strongly encourage you to seek legal advice pertaining to your specific matter prior to taking any action.*
Q: Am I able to provide employees with Supplemental Unemployment Benefits (SUB) on top of any Employment Insurance benefits my employees may receive?
A: Employers can use a SUB plan to increase their employees’ weekly earnings when they are unemployed due to a temporary stoppage of work, training, illness, injury or quarantine. Payments from SUB plans that are registered with Service Canada are not considered as earnings and are not deducted from EI benefits. Until a plan is registered, any amounts paid will be treated as earnings and may be deducted from the employee’s EI benefits. Please refer to the following website for more information: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/ei/ei-list/ei-employers- supplemental-unemployment-benefit.html
Q: What are requirements for SUB Plans?
A: SUB plans must be registered before their effective date and must meet a number of requirements set out in subsection 37(2) of the EI Regulations. For detailed information regarding these requirements, please refer to the following website: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social- development/programs/ei/ei-list/ei-employers-supplemental-unemployment-benefit.html
Q: How should employers be handling top-ups or supplemental benefits in the current situation?
A: Each employers must make a decision based on their own needs and circumstances. Generally speaking, some employers are choosing to pay full wages for up to a maximum number of weeks, following which employees are told to access full EI benefits (with no top-up).
Q: What is the Work-Sharing (WS) program?
A: Work-Sharing (WS) is an adjustment program designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business activity that is beyond the control of the employer. Work-Sharing is a three-party agreement involving employers, employees and Service Canada. Employees on a Work-Sharing agreement must agree to a reduced schedule of work and to share the available work over a specified period of time. For more information, please refer to the following website: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/work- sharing.html
Q: Has the WS program been adapted in light of COVID-19?
A: The Government of Canada has introduced temporary special measures that extend the maximum duration of Work-Sharing agreements from 38 weeks to 76 weeks across Canada for those businesses affected by the downturn in business due to COVID-19. The government has also waived the mandatory waiting period between agreements. However, it appears that an application for a Work-Sharing agreement must still be submitted a minimum of 30 days prior to the requested start date. Please refer to the following website for more information: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social- development/services/work-sharing.html
Q: Where can I get more information regarding the WS Program?
A: Please visit the Service Canada website (link provided above) or call the following toll-free number: 1- 800-367-5693 (TTY: 1-855-881-9874).
Israel Foulon’s Response to COVID-19
Israel Foulon is assessing the situation as it evolves, and is taking all necessary precautions within its workplace. However, please be aware that our offices remain open and are fully functioning. In the circumstances, we encourage our clients to contact us by phone and email to the extent possible. Voicemail messages left at our office phone numbers are immediately forwarded via email. All messages will be promptly responded to. We remain steadfast in our commitment to our clients and would be more than happy to assist you with concerns regarding COVID-19 or any other employment or labour matters.