Support for Employers and Employees in the Wake of COVID-19

by John Bonn
woman learning about employment benefits due to covid-19 measures

It is trite to say, but we are in an unprecedented time for everyone right now in Canada. For everyone’s safety, businesses are closed and we have been instructed to stay inside and not come within 6 feet of our neighbours. We are seeing big changes in our everyday lives.  Both the federal and provincial governments are being required to respond very quickly to rapidly changing circumstances. One such response that affects a vast number of Canadians is the changes to the laws that govern employers and employees.

An overview of the changes to the laws governing employers and employees

With a view to easing the burdens imposed on both employers and employees and workers by the ongoing pandemic, there have been changes made to existing employment law, new programs have been created, and additional benefits have been made accessible. A review of a few of those changes follows.

The Ontario Employment Standards Act provides for “Declared Emergency Leave” (DEL) (s.50.1) for employees in situations where they will not be working because of an emergency declared under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. A number of circumstances will permit an employee to qualify for DEL, including being required to give care, assistance or support to a family member, or even a person who considers the employee to be like a family member.

  • Employees must advise their employer if they intend to take the leave
  • The leave only lasts for the duration of the declared emergency
  • Employees are entitled to return to their jobs at the end of the leave – if their position no longer exists, they are entitled to return to a similar position
  • Employers must continue to pay benefits, make pension contributions and maintain any other entitlements related to the job for the duration of the leave

Canada Emergency Response Benefit has been implemented to provide temporary assistance to workers who have stopped working and are without employment or self-employment for COVID-19 related reasons. It will be paid in blocks of four weeks at a rate of $500 per week, or $2,000 per block, up to a maximum of 16 weeks. You should apply whether or not you are eligible for EI. Details can be found at:

 EI Sickness Benefits are payable up to 55% of the gross salary of an employee who qualifies. The employer may top up that Benefit to 95% of regular earnings for the employee through a “Supplementary Unemployment Benefit Plan” (SUBP).

  • The employer must register the SUBP with Service Canada so the employee does not have the additional payments clawed back

The Work-Sharing program is designed to help employers avoid layoffs when faced with a reduction of the normal level of business activity.

  • Agreement between employer and employee will work a reduced workweek and Service Canada will pay EI on the days not working  (Service Canada)
  • Need to be registered before can go into effect
  • The benefits payable will be calculated by comparing the hours of work missed as a result of the Work-Sharing agreement against the normal number of working hours for that employee. Benefits are paid as a percentage of the hours missed as a result of the Work-Sharing agreement.
  • The reduction in work must be between a minimum of 10% and 60%
  • The streamlined application process has an approximately 10-day waiting time. Prior to COVID-19, there was a 30 day waiting period
  • The Work-Sharing program must last for at least 6 weeks and may now (as a result of COVID-19) be extended to up to 76 weeks

Details, including the guidelines and application, for the Work-Sharing program, can be found here:

Changes to employment programs and benefits will continue to change and time goes on. 

Whether you are an employer, an employee, or self-employed staying informed about the ongoing changes to employment-related programs and benefits is going to be important. The Federal Government has developed a COVID-19 webpage where you can access information about various programs and benefits and how they are affected by the current situation.

You can access that site here:

Stay informed about your rights and the support available to you. 

These are difficult times. Programs are being developed and rolled out daily. Existing programs are being changed just as quickly. It is important to keep yourself informed about the changes to any programs that are available to you. Please keep checking the sites mentioned above. If you think you are being denied your rights by your employer, give us a call so we can help you navigate through difficult, fast-changing times.

As ever, we are here when you need us most.