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

Updated August 20, 2020.

The following Fact Sheet compiles information found on government websites relating to the key financial programs and initiatives that the Canadian and BC governments have implemented in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

A. Federal Government Programs

  1. Temporary Wage Subsidy
  2. Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
  3. Temporary Changes to Canada Summer Jobs program
  4. Tax Filings
  5. GST Credit
  6. Canada Child Benefit
  7. Canada Emergency Response Benefit
  8. Recovery Benefits
  9. Work-Sharing Program
  10. Employment Insurance 
  11. Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits
  12. Support for Students and New Grads

As new programs are constantly emerging and existing programs are evolving, we suggest you also visit the Federal government’s website summarizing its COVID-19 Economic Response Plan for the most complete and up-to-date information on Canada-wide programs.

B. BC Government Programs

  1. BC Emergency Benefit for Workers
  2. BC Climate Action Tax Credit
  3. Extension of Employer Health Tax Payment Deadline
  4. COVID-19 – Related Leave under BC’s Employment Standards Act (ESA)
  5. New Illness or Injury Leave under the ESA
  6. Temporary Layoff Extension – Online Application Process

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

A. Federal Government Programs

1. Temporary Wage Subsidy

The Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy is a three-month measure that will allow eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deduction required to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

You are an eligible employer if you:

  • are a(n) individual (excluding trusts), partnership. non-profit organization, registered charity, or Canadian-controlled private corporation (including a cooperative corporation) eligible for the small business deduction;
  • have an existing business number and payroll program account with the CRA on March 18, 2020; and
  • pay salary, wages, bonuses, or other remuneration to an eligible employee.

For more information on this subsidy, visit the federal government FAQ page here.

2. Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

  • As a Canadian employer whose business has been affected by COVID-19, you may be eligible for a subsidy of 75% of employee wages for up to 24 weeks, retroactive from March 15, 2020, to August 29, 2020.
  • This wage subsidy will enable you to re-hire workers previously laid off as a result of COVID-19, help prevent further job losses, and better position you to resume normal operations following the crisis.

Applications for claim period 5 (July 5 to August 1) will open August 17, 2020.

On July 17, 2020, the government announced proposed changes to the CEWS. More information will be coming soon.

Find out more about the CEWS here.

3. Temporary Changes to Canada Summer Jobs program

The Canada Summer Jobs program provides opportunities for youth to develop and improve their skills within the not-for-profit, small business, and public sectors, and supports the delivery of key community services. The federal government is creating up to 116,000 jobs, placements, and other training opportunities to help students find employment and develop valuable skills this summer and over the coming months.

They have also made temporary changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program to allow employers to:

  • receive an increased wage subsidy, so that private and public sector employers can also receive up to 100 per cent of the provincial or territorial minimum hourly wage for each employee;
  • extend the end date for employment to February 28, 2021;
  • adapt their projects and job activities;
  • hire staff on a part-time basis.

4. Flexibility for Filing Taxes (Individuals and Businesses)

The payment due date for current year individual, corporate, and trust income tax returns, including instalment payments has been extended to September 30, 2020. Penalties and interest will not be charged if payments are made by this date. For updates on changes to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) services, due dates and programs affected by the pandemic, click here.

 5. GST Credit (GSTC)

The federal government provided a one-time special payment through the GSTC for low and modest-income families. The average additional benefit will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. More information is available here.

6. Canada Child Benefit (CCB)

For the 2019-2020 benefit year, an extra $300 per child was delivered through the CCB.

This benefit was delivered as part of the scheduled CCB payment on May 20.

Those who already receive the CCB do not need to re-apply.

7. Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

To support workers and help businesses keep their employees, the federal government established the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

If you have stopped working because of COVID-19, the CERB may provide you with temporary income support. The government will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000 every 4 weeks for up to 16 weeks to eligible workers who have lost their income due to COVID-19.

The CERB is available to workers who:

  • live in Canada and are at least 15 years old
  • stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits
  • have not voluntarily quit their job
  • had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application.

On April 15, the government announced changes to the eligibility rules to:

  • Allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB.
  • Extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work because of COVID-19.
  • Extend the CERB to workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19.

On August 20, the federal government announced that the CERB was extended to 28 weeks (ending September 27) for workers who:

  • stopped working due to COVID-19 or
  • are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or
  • have exhausted their Employment Insurance regular benefits or Employment Insurance fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020.

For more information visit the government website here.

8. Recovery Benefits

On August 20, 2020, the federal government announced three new EI-like recovery benefits that still require parliamentary approval:

  1. Benefits for those who are eligible for EI and are receiving CERB.
  2. Sick leave benefits for workers who fall ill or have to self-isolate due to COVID-19.
  3. Benefits for a worker who must stay home to care for a child under 12 or another dependent because their school, daycare or other day program facility is shut down due to COVID-19.

More information about these benefits can be found in a recent CBC article here.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12.  Support for Students and New Grads

Canada Emergency Student Benefit

The federal government is providing a taxable benefit of $1,250 every 4 weeks to eligible students or $2,000 to eligible students with dependents or with disability who are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or Employment Insurance or unable to work due to COVID-19.

This benefit is available from May to August 2020.

Canada Student Loans Program

The government also made changes to the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) to allow more students to qualify for support and be eligible for greater amounts.

The changes include:

  • doubling the Canada Student Grants for all eligible full-time students to up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020-21. The Canada Student Grants for Students with Permanent Disabilities and Students with Dependents would also be doubled.
  • broadening eligibility for student financial assistance by removing the expected student’s and spouse’s contributions in 2020-21.
  • raising the maximum weekly amount that can be provided to a student in 2020-21 from $210 to $350.

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.

As of July 2020, this benefit is now available to eligible BC residents who stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 between March 1 and 14, 2020.

To find out if you are eligible for this benefit and to apply, click here.

2. BC Climate Action Tax Credit

As part of BC’s COVID-19 Action Plan, the B.C. government announced a one-time enhanced B.C. climate action tax credit payment for July 2020. If you’re eligible for the tax credit, you’ll be eligible for the one-time enhanced July 2020 payment.

The one-time enhanced July 2020 payment is:

  • Up to $218, an increase of up to $174.50 from the regular tax credit amount, for you, your spouse or common-law partner, or your first child in a single parent family

  • Up to $64, an increase of up to $51.25 from the regular tax credit amount, for each additional child

This means the maximum annual climate action tax credit payment amounts for the July 2020 to June 2021 benefit year are:

  • Up to $348.50 each for you, your spouse or common-law partner, or your first child in a single parent family

  • Up to $102.25, for each additional child

The enhanced payment will be made in July 2020 combined with the federal goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit.

3. Extension of Employer Health Tax Payment Deadline

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.

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.

6. Temporary Layoff Extension – Online Application Process

In June 2020, the provincial government extended the time period for temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 to a maximum of 24 weeks, expiring on Aug. 30, 2020. This is expanded from 16 weeks, to give employers and workers more flexibility.

As of August 2020, employers and employees can apply together to the Employment Standards Branch for a variance to further extend a temporary layoff. Applications submitted by August 25, 2020 will be processed before August 30, 2020.

This process is called a variance because it amends part of the Employment Standards Act. Variances allow work situations that don’t strictly meet B.C. employment standards but follow their purposes, such as an extension to a temporary layoff.

For more information or to apply for a variance, visit the BC government website here.

 


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.

Facebooktwitterlinkedin