Employers' Guide to COVID-19

In December 2019, a mysterious illness was reported in Wuhan, China. At the time, no one could have anticipated that this novel coronavirus, commonly referred to as COVID-19, would have such wide-reaching impact.

Now, containing the spread is taking a huge financially toll on financial institutions, schools and universities, the healthcare system, and virtually every manner of business operation.

Surviving the first quarter of the year has never looked so daunting. Many business have closed their doors, either out of an abundance of caution, or because they have been required to do so. But how are employers to manage to keep paying the bills, including payroll, given the drastic decrease in sales?

Here's a quick guide on how to deal with some COVID-19 issues arising for employers and workers:

1. The government is proposing to provide eligible small employers, including non-profit organizations and charities, a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months. The subsidy will be equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.

2. All businesses are allowed to defer until after August 31, 2020 any income tax amounts, that become owing on or after March 19, 2020 and before September 2020.

3. The EI Work Sharing Program will allow employees who agree to reduce their normal working hour as a result of developments beyond the control of their employers to be eligible for benefits. The temporary special measures extend the Work-Sharing agreements by an additional 38 weeks and waive the mandatory waiting period between agreements. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/work-sharing.html

4. Employees can apply for Employment Insurance sickness benefits online at https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness/apply.html by providing a record of employment (ROE) from the employer with the code "D - Illness". Workers don't have to wait to receive their ROE statement to apply for sickness benefits. Two days after submitting their claim for EI sickness benefits, workers should call1-833-381-2725 (toll free) to waive the one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits.

5. The Emergency Care Benefit will pay up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks to provide income support to those who must stay home and do not have access to paid sick leave.

6. The requirement for a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits is now waived.

7. If the employer closes the business and you are laid off indefinitely, you can apply for regular EI benefits at https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/privacy-notice.html by providing a record of employment (ROE) from your employer with the code "A - Lack of work".

8. If someone refuses to work because of the risk of contracting the virus, they can apply for regular EI benefits, but the employer will produce an ROE marked with "E = Voluntary termination" or "N = Leave".

9. It may be reasonable for some employers to require health testing measures, including temperature checks. While this adheres to workplace occupational health & safety rules, this testing should done equally to all employees to avoid perceived human rights discrimination.

10. Updates from the Federal Government, and local governments, means that employers and employees should continue to stay informed as new programs and measures are announced.