Federal and BC Government Response to COVID-19: Fact Sheet for Employers and Employees

Current to March 30, 2020

The following Fact Sheet compiles information relating to the following financial programs and initiatives the Canadian and BC governments are implementing in response to the COVID-19 crisis:

A. Federal Government Programs

  1. Temporary Wage Subsidy
  2. Tax Filings
  3. GST Credit
  4. Canada Child Benefit
  5. Canada Emergency Response Benefit
  6. Work-Sharing Program
  7. Employment Insurance 
  8. Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits

B. BC Government Programs

  1. BC Emergency Benefit for Workers
  2. BC Climate Action Tax Credit
  3. Extension of Tax and Other Payment Deadlines
  4. COVID-19 – Related Leave under BC’s Employment Standards Act (ESA)
  5. New Illness or Injury Leave under the ESA

We will continue to update this Fact Sheet as new information becomes available.

A. Federal Government Programs

1. Temporary Wage Subsidy

The government is proposing a temporary wage subsidy for eligible employers. PM Justin Trudeau announced on March 30, 2020 that businesses and non-profit organizations seeing a drop of at least 30% in revenue due to COVID-19 will qualify for the government’s 75% wage subsidy program. The number of people a business employs will not determine its eligibility.

For those companies experiencing a decrease in revenues of at least 30%, the government will cover up to 75% of a salary on the first $58,700, which could mean payments of up to $847 a week. The prime minister also encouraged businesses to top up their employees wages with the remaining 25% of their salaries.

The subsidy will be retroactive to March 15, 2020.

2. Flexibility for Filing Taxes (Individuals and Businesses)

For individuals, the tax filing deadline has been deferred to June 1, 2020. However, individuals who receive the Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC) or the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) are recommended to file as soon as possible.

Any income tax amounts payable will not become due until after August 31, 2020. No interest or penalties will accrue during this period.

For businesses, the payment of any income tax amount owing after March 15, 2020 and before September 2020 will be deferred until August 31, 2020.

The Canada Revenue Agency will not be contacting any small or medium business for the next four weeks regarding post assessment GST/HST or Income Tax audits.

The Liaison Officer who meets with owners of small businesses in person to help them understand their tax obligations is now available via telephone.

 3. GST Credit (GSTC)

For low- and modest-income families, the government is proposing an additional one-time payment through the GSTC.

4. Canada Child Benefit (CCB)

For the 2019-2020 benefit year, the government is proposing to increase the maximum annual CCB payment amounts by $300 per child.  Qualifying families will receive an extra $300 per child as part of their May payment.

5. Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

To support workers and help businesses keep their employees, the federal government has proposed legislation to establish the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This taxable benefit would provide $2,000 a month for up to 4 months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB replaces the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.

This benefit will be available to:

  • workers who must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
  • workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19.
  • working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures.
  • workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work.
  • wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will be accessible through a secure web portal starting in early April 2020. Applicants will also be able to apply via an automated telephone line or via a toll-free number. For more information, visit the government website here.

6. Work-Sharing Program

Work-Sharing is available to employers and employees to avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in business activity that is beyond the control of the employer. This measure is available to employees eligible for EI benefits who work a temporarily reduced work week while the employer recovers.

Work-Sharing is an agreement between employers, employees, and Service Canada. Under this program, employees must agree to a reduced work schedule and to share the available work over a specific time period.

The government has temporarily extended the maximum duration of Work-Sharing agreements from 36 weeks to 76 weeks for businesses affected by COVID-19.

A Work-Sharing agreement Application must be submitted a minimum of 30 days prior to the requested start date.

Eligibility qualifications can be found here.

7. Employment Insurance

Individuals can apply for EI if they have been without work (e.g. laid off) and pay for at least seven (7) consecutive days out of the last fifty two (52) weeks. These benefits can provide individuals with fourteen (14) to forty five (45) weeks of financial assistance. A list of individual qualifications can be found here.

For most (but not all) individuals, the basic rate for calculating EI benefits is 55% of their average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $573 per week.

An individual will receive their first payment received approximately 28 days after being approved for EI.

EI is issued every two (2) weeks after approval. An individual is required to complete bi-weekly EI reports online to continue to qualify for benefits. The EI amount will be paid to the individual via direct deposit within 2 business days after the online report is completed.

EI benefits will end if an individual:

  • has received the maximum amount of benefits payable to them;
  • has reached the end of their claim period;
  • has stopped filing their bi-weekly report; or
  • requests a termination of their claim to file a new claim.

8. Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits

EI sickness benefits are for individuals who cannot work for medical reasons and need financial assistance. These benefits can provide individuals with up to fifteen (15) weeks of financial assistance. A list of individual qualifications can be found here.

For most (but not all) individuals, the basic rate for calculating EI benefits is 55% of their average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $573 per week.

Employees claiming EI sickness benefits are normally subject to a one week waiting period. This is one week where an individual will not be paid.

For employees in imposed quarantine who are claiming EI sickness benefits, the one week waiting period will be waived. The requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits is also waived.

For quarantined individuals, the government requests that you submit your application before calling to request waiving the waiting period.

The individual will receive their first payment approximately 28 days after being approved for EI sickness benefits.

EI is issued every two (2) weeks after approval. An individual is required to complete bi-weekly EI sickness benefits reports online to continue to qualify for benefits. Benefits will be paid to the individual via direct deposit within 2 business days after the online report is completed.

EI sickness benefits will end if an individual:

  • can start work again;
  • has received fifteen (15) weeks of EI sickness benefits payments;
  • has received the maximum amount of benefits payable to them; or
  • has reached the end of their claim period.

B. BC Government Programs

1. BC Emergency Benefit for Workers

The details of this benefit are as follows:

  • One-time, tax-free $1,000 payment to any British Columbian whose ability to work has been affected by the outbreak, and who receives EI, or the new federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) as a result of COVID-19 impacts.
  • Includes workers who have been laid-off; are sick or quarantined; are parents with sick children, or who stay at home from work while child care centres and schools are closed; and those caring for sick family members, such as an elderly parent.
  • Workers can be EI-eligible and non-EI eligible, such as the self-employed.
  • The benefit will be paid to B.C. residents, in addition to their federal income supports.

2. BC Climate Action Tax Credit

The provincial government is increasing and expanding this tax credit in July 2020 as follows:

  • Up to 86% of British Columbians will see some extra money from this enhancement.
  • Eligible families of four will receive up to $564 and eligible individuals will receive up to $218 in an enhanced payment.
  • This boosts the regular climate action tax credit payment of up to $112.50 per family of four and up to $43.50 per adult.

3. Extension of Tax and Other Payment Deadlines

 BC Student Loans

Starting March 30, 2020, the Province is freezing BC student loan payments for six months. Federal student loan payments are being frozen as well.

Provincial Tax Deadlines

  • Effective immediately, businesses with a payroll over $500,000 can defer their employer health tax payments until September 30, 2020. Businesses with a payroll under this threshold are already exempt from the tax.
  • Tax filing and payment deadlines for the provincial sales tax (PST), municipal and regional district tax, tobacco tax, motor fuel tax and carbon tax are all extended until September 30, 2020.
  • The scheduled April 1 increase to the provincial carbon tax, as well as the new PST registration requirements on e-commerce and the implementation of PST on sweetened carbonated drinks, will be delayed and their timing will be reviewed by September 30, 2020.

4.  COVID-19 – Related Leave under BC’s Employment Standards Act (ESA)

The new section 52.12 of the ESA, which came into force on March 23, 2020, allows workers to take to take unpaid, job-protected leave if they are unable to work for reasons relating to COVID-19.

Under section 52.12, employees have a right to an unpaid leave of absence in the following circumstances:

  • the employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is acting in accordance with
    • instructions or an order of a medical health officer, or
    • advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse
  • the employee is in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with
    • an order of the provincial health officer,
    • an order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada),
    • guidelines of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, or
    • guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada
  • the employer, due to the employer’s concern about the employee’s exposure to others, has directed the employee not to work
  • the employee is providing care to an “eligible person”, including because of the closure of a school or daycare or similar facility

An “eligible person” includes:

  • a child who is under 19 years of age and under the day-to-day care and control of the employee, when the employee is the parent or guardian of that child, or responsible for day-to-day care of the child under an agreement or court order
  • a child of the employee who is 19 years or older who remains dependent and under the day-to-day care and control of the employee due to illness, disability or other reasons
  • the employee is outside the province and cannot return to BC because of travel or border restrictions

People can take job-protected leave under this provision for as long as the circumstance that requires them to be away from work applies. The leave will be retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in BC.

5.  New Illness or Injury Leave under the ESA

The provincial government has also implemented changes to the ESA (section 49.1) to provide that employees with 90 consecutive days of employment may take up 3 days of unpaid, job-protected leave each year due to illness or injury.

 

 


NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on the Kent Employment Law website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action, based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. One of our lawyers would be pleased to discuss any specific legal concerns you may have.

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