In response to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on organizations across Canada, the Government of Canada has announced changes to EI sickness benefits, a new Emergency Care Benefit and new temporary measures under its Work-Sharing program.
Changes to EI Sickness Benefits
- The mandatory one-week waiting period in applying for EI sickness benefits is waived for those workers who are sick or quarantined due to COVID-19.
- A dedicated toll-free line (1-833-381-2725) has been created for applicants seeking to waive the waiting period.
- An online EI application form is must still be completed. However, the usual requirement for a medical certificate has now been waived.
- Those who are unable to complete their claim for EI sickness benefits due to quarantine may apply later and have their EI claim backdated to cover the period of delay.
The general eligibility requirements for EI sickness benefits include that the worker has accumulated 600 hours of insurable employment in the 52 weeks before the start of this claim or since the start of the worker’s last claim, whichever is shorter.
Emergency Care Benefit
The new Emergency Care Benefit provides up to $900 bi-weekly of income support, for up to 15 weeks. This flat-payment Benefit would be administered through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for:
- Workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
- Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
- Parents with children who require care or supervision due to school or daycare closures, and are unable to earn employment income, irrespective of whether they qualify for EI or not.
Application for the Benefit will be available in April 2020 through the CRA MyAccount secure portal, My Service Canada Accounts or by calling a toll-free number equipped with an automated appplication process. Applicants will be required to declare that they meet the eligibility requirements every two weeks to reconfirm their eligibility.
Work-Sharing (WS) is a program designed to help employers avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in business activity for reasons beyond the control of the employer. The program provides income support to employees eligible for EI who work a temporarily reduced schedule.
Temporary special measures have been introduced to specifically support employers and employees affected by a downturn in business due to the COVID-19 outbreak:
- The maximum duration of Work-Sharing agreements has been extended to 76 weeks from 38 weeks.
- The mandatory waiting period has also been waived so that employers with a recently expired agreement may immediately apply for a new agreement
Temporary special measures are in effect from March 15, 2020 to March 14, 2021.
In addition to having experienced a downturn in business activity due to the global outbreak of COVID-19, employers must have:
- Work-Sharing agreements signed between March 15, 2020 and March 13, 2021
- Work-Sharing agreements that began, or ended between March 15, 2020 and March 14, 2021, and
- Work-Sharing agreements that ended between June 23, 2019, and March 14, 2020 and are in their mandatory cooling-off period