Options & Programs for Employers

Shawnee Love   •   March 24, 2020

Small business owners wondering what is available to help manage their employees through this situation, here is what we know:

  1. If you have work for staff and can have them do it safely, keeping people working is a win-win-win. Not only will your customers be served, but if past experience is correct, your employees will recognize and appreciate you for keeping them employed amidst difficult times. Learning from past recessions, beyond doing the work you have committed to clients, it is a great time to:
    1. Upgrade equipment and processes;
    2. Paint, clean, repair, retool, and maintain machines, equipment and production / manufacturing lines;
    3. Provide necessary training and certifications; or
    4. In the spirit of never letting a good crisis go to waste, brainstorm and create new ways of doing things or new products and services entirely.

To help while keeping your people working, the federal government has introduced a temporary wage subsidy where up to 10% of the remuneration you pay between March 18, 2020, and June 20, 2020 (up to $1,375 per employee and to a maximum of $25,000 total per employer) is available.

If you have employees who can’t work either due to having COVID or quarantining or caring for someone who has COVID or kids, they may be eligible for Employment Insurance Sickness benefits or the Emergency Care Benefit (effective in April) so you can rest assured they will be receiving support as well.

  1. If you have some work, the government of Canada has a Workshare Program which may assist. This program allows people in the work unit to equally share in available work and provides income support to employees eligible for EI. It is a 3-party agreement between the employer, employees and service Canada and most recently had to be applied for a month in advance although this may be reduced. Additionally, if you lay people off (see below) and then give the person some part time work as it comes available during this temporary layoff period, the employee is able to keep 50 cents of their EI benefits for every additional dollar earned while on layoff.
  1. If you have no work, employees may have to be laid off either temporarily or permanently.
    1. A temporary layoff may be an option for your workplace, e.g., if you have it already written in your employment contracts, or your employees agree, or your province permits it. I like this option for employers and employees who are willing to work together to get through these times, because it shows positive intent and the desire to pull together to get through this. While on layoff, employees claim EI and employers can continue to stay in touch and offer the extended health and dental portions of group benefits (check with your benefits service provider if applicable).  I also like temporary layoffs because they afford opportunities such as the Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Plan (SUBP).  Employers interested may top up some of the money employees receive while on EI.
    2. A permanent layoff is another word for termination although the reason is due to lack of work. But in this situation, the appropriate notice or pay in lieu of notice and/or severance where applicable would apply.

I have been trying to get through to Service Canada for the last two weeks to ask questions about the practical implementation of the Workshare and SUPB programs and their phone lines have all been not accepting calls. I will update as I know more!

And please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions as our On Demand Service (778-754-5683) enables you to only pay for what help you need without any further commitment.