The COVID-19 pandemic is creating novel challenges for employers and employees alike. In light of this current global situation, many businesses here in Saskatchewan are confronted with the difficult decision of having to lay off employees until the economy stabilizes. In reaction to this trying reality, the Federal Government of Canada has made changes to the Canada Employment Insurance (“EI”) benefits program to support those affected by COVID-19. To qualify for EI, an employee must work a certain number of insured hours in the past 52 weeks. The number of insured hours varies by region. For example, an employee in Saskatoon or Regina must have worked for 665 insured hours in the past 52 weeks. The following will highlight the changes to the EI program effective as of March 15, 2020:
- The one-week waiting period, during which an employee is not entitled to be paid benefits has been waived for those who are applying for EI sickness benefits;
- Individuals claiming EI sickness benefits due to quarantine or self-isolation will not have to provide a medical certificate; and
- Individuals who cannot complete their EI sickness benefits due to quarantine may apply later and have their EI claim backdated to cover the period of delay.
An employer must issue a Record of Employee (“ROE”) to all affected employees who have been laid off. If the employee is sick or quarantined, code D (illness or injury) should be used by the employer on the ROE and add no additional comments noted. If the employee is not working due to a shortage of work, code A (shortage of work) and add no additional comments should be used by the employer. For further information on completing ROE’s, please refer to the Government of Canada’s website.
Once in receipt of their ROE, an employee can apply for EI through the Government of Canada’s website The Government of Canada has requested for all applications to be made online, rather than attending in person to a Service Canada office. Completing the application online will help ensure the health and safety of those within our communities. Service Canada has been experiencing an unprecedented number of EI applications in the past weeks. If an employee is having difficulty accessing the online system, be advised that this is due to the influx of applications received by Service Canada and the Federal Government is working on remedying any outstanding issues with the online application process.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit
In addition to the above changes, the Government of Canada has announced the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This is a taxable benefit of $2,000 per month for up to 4 months. The Government of Canada stated that individuals that qualify for this benefit include:
- Those unable to work due to COVID-19, whether or not they are still employed and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
- Those who are sick or quarantined or are taking care of someone sick with COVID-19.
- Those who are forced to stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need care due to school and daycare closures.
- Those who are self-employed or contract workers who are not otherwise eligible for EI.
Those currently receiving EI are ineligible for the CERB until their EI benefits cease. Individuals who receive CERB are not precluded from applying for EI after the CERB ends.
The Government of Canada has stated that to be eligible for the CERB, the worker must:
- Reside in Canada and be at least 15 years old
- Have stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for EI
- Have had an income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or the 12 months prior to their date of application
- Expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four week period.
The Government of Canada’s application page has more information.
Self-Isolation Support Program
The Government of Saskatchewan has announced a Self-Isolation Support Program, intended to provide financial assistance for those not covered by any of the federal government programs, such as EI or the CERB and are in self-isolation due to contracting COVID-19 or having returned from abroad. More information can be found on the Government of Saskatchewan’s website.
Amid the global response to COVID-19, the top priority of our firm remains the health and safety of our colleagues and our community. As an essential service, our experienced team at Scharfstein Gibbings Walen Fisher LLP remains available to assist you during this time. For further information, please contact us.
April 1, 2020
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