To say this is a challenging time for workplaces would be an understatement. Unfortunately, there is no pandemic playbook and we are all doing our best to adapt to this ever-changing workplace landscape. On April 3, 2020, the Ontario government revised its list of essential businesses and that has caused some employers to have to make some difficult workforce decisions.
The provincial government announced on April 8, that they will be increasing workplace inspections to ensure that essential businesses are operating in a safe manner to ensure the well-being of their employees.
Work Sharing Program
On a positive note, the federal government has revised the application process for the Work Sharing Program in response to COVID-19. What was a rather ominous application is now down to two relatively easy-to-complete pages and garners a pretty quick response back. Employers should be mindful of higher-income employees who they want to bring on this plan as the employee may be required to pay back some of the benefits if they make over a certain threshold.
Supplemental Employment Benefit Program (SUB)
Some employers may want to provide a top-up to their employees who are temporarily laid off due to COVID-19. This top-up can be done through the federal government’s SUB program. As part of this program, payments received are not considered earnings and, therefore, are not deducted from EI benefits. To be eligible to do this, the employer must register for this program with Service Canada.
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
There are positive changes to the recently-announced Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program. This program is geared to reduce further job losses and allow eligible employers to rehire workers that may have been laid off due to COVID-19. With the new changes, employers need to show a 15% decline in revenue and would be compared with previous months (e.g., March compared with the average of January and February).
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
The CERB program has been front and centre this week. This program provides those out of work with temporary income support. This can be a resource for those employees that do not qualify for employment insurance. Eligibility requirements included that the employee has stopped work due to COVID-19, is not receiving any EI or other government-provided benefits in relation to COVID-19 and has earned a minimum of $5,000 in income in the last 12 months.
Revisions are also being finalized for the Canada Summer Jobs Programs. The program enrolment is being extended and some employers may be eligible for a subsidy of up to 100% to cover the cost of hiring students. We’ll provide more details once they become available.