COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Updated July 30, 2020.

This page will be updated frequently, to provide information to help address common HR and health and safety inquiries related to COVID-19 that we are receiving.

Topics:

Q: What is the BC Emergency Benefit for Workers?

A: The BC Emergency Benefit for Workers provides a one-time $1,000 payment to people whose ability to work has been affected due to COVID-19.

Eligibility:

To be eligible, individuals must:

  • Have been a resident of BC on March 15, 2020
  • Have met and been approved for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), even if they haven’t received a federal benefit payment yet
  • Be at least 15 years old on the date of application
  • Have filed, or agree to file, a 2019 B.C. income tax return
  • Not be receiving provincial income assistance or disability assistance
  • Not be incarcerated in a provincial or federal correctional facility for a period of 90 days or longer that includes March 15, 2020

Individuals who are eligible for and receive at least one Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payment and then return to work, may still be eligible for the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers, provided they are not required to repay the CERB benefit. Individuals must still meet all other eligibility criteria.

How it Works:

  • Payments will be provided within 10 days
  • Payments are only being made via direct deposit
  • Documentation isn’t required when for the application however, all applications will be verified and applicants may be asked to provide proof of eligibility at a later date
  • Individuals who receive a payment and are later determined to be ineligible for the benefit may be required to repay it with penalties and interest

APPLY:

  • Online
  • Telephone: Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm:
    • 1-855-955-3545 (within BC only) 1-778-309-4630 (outside B.C.)

More Information:


Q: What is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and where can I apply?

A: The Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides temporary income support to workers who have stopped working and are without employment or self-employment income for reasons related to COVID-19.

  • UPDATE: Taxable benefit: $2,000 a month ($500 per week), for up to 24 weeks (previously 16 weeks)
  • Duration: Available retroactively from March 15, 2020 – October 3, 2020

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 (e.g. laid off, unpaid leave) 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
  • seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work because of COVID-19
  • workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020 and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19

Eligibility:

To qualify, individuals must:

  • Reside in Canada and be at least 15 years old.
  • Have stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted their Employment Insurance regular or fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020.
  • Who had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; and,
  • Who have not voluntarily quit their job.

More Information:

  • When submitting the first claim, individuals cannot have earned more than $1000 in employment or self-employment income for 14 or more consecutive days within the four-week benefit period of your claim.
  • When submitting subsequent claims, individuals cannot have earned more than $1,000 in employment and/or self-employment income for the entire four-week benefit period of your new claim.

Income while on CERB:

  • Individuals are permitted to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB.

Apply:

Individuals can apply for the CERB benefit:

More information: 

Q: Can employers choose to top up the CERB?

A: While the CERB legislation does allow individuals to earn up to $1,000 during each claim period, it doesn’t specifically permit employers to top up the CERB.

Q: When an individual’s regular EI benefits have been exhausted, can they then apply for the CERB?

A: Yes. As long as the individual meets the eligibility requirements for the CERB which includes those who have exhausted their Employment Insurance regular benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020.

Q:  Can B&B owners who collect a pension also apply for the CERB?

A:  It would depend on their situation and whether or not they meet the eligibility requirements of the CERB.

Pensions do not count towards the employment and/or self-employment income requirement of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application.

Q: If an employee quits are they still be eligible for the CERB?

A: No, individuals who voluntarily quit will no longer be eligible to receive the CERB.


Q: What is the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and how can we apply?

A: UPDATE: July 13, 2020 – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced proposed changes to the CEWS, including extending the emergency wage subsidy program to December 2020.

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) encourages employers to keep existing employees on payroll and if possible, working, as well as re-hire previously laid off employees so that they are better positioned to return to normal operations following the COVID-19 pandemic crisis

Reimbursement wage subsidy of up to 75% of the pre-crisis salary (or 100% if there has been a 25% decrease in wages) for each employee, up to an annual salary of $58,700. The maximum subsidy is $847/week, per employee.

Eligibility Requirements

Employers:

  • Employers must be able to demonstrate a reduction in baseline revenue as a result of COVID-19, for each eligibility period:
    • Eligibility Period 1: March 15 – April 11
    • 15% reduction, March 2019 vs March 2020 OR Average of January and February 2020
    • Eligibility Period 2: April 12 – May 9
    • 30% reduction, April 2020
    • Eligibility Period 3: May 10 – June 6
    • 30% reduction, May 2020
    • Eligibility Period 4: June 7 – July 4
    • Period 3 rules apply
    • Eligibility Period 5: July 5 – August 1 (Proposed)
    • Eligibility Period 6: August 2 – August 29 (Proposed)

Employees:

  • Employed in Canada by the eligible employer during the claim period, as long as the employee has not been without remuneration from the eligible employer in respect to a period of 14 or more consecutive days in the claim period.

How it Works:

  • All applications must be received before October 2020
  • Employers must pay salaries or wages to employees and then submit an application for this reimbursement through this subsidy
  • Employers are required to submit a separate application for each CEWS claim period, even if they will automatically qualify for the wage subsidy for that period.
  • Eligibility for the subsidy does not require businesses to pay the remaining 25% if they are unable to do so, however they are expected to make best efforts to do so and bring employees’ wages to their pre-crisis levels.
  • Employers are required to reapply for the subsidy, for each of the eligibility periods
  • Employers cannot claim the subsidy for a period of time during which an employee was laid off and in receipt of EI or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
  • For employers and employees participating in a Work-Sharing program, EI benefits received by employees within a Work-Sharing program will reduce the benefit that their employer is entitled to receive under the CEWS
  • CEWS can be combined with the 10% Temporary Payroll Subsidy
  • As part of the CEWS, employers can claim a 100% refund for the employer-paid part of CPP and EI contributions made on behalf of eligible employees who are on leave with full or partial pay for any full week in the claim period, and for which the employer is eligible to claim the CEWS for those employees.

APPLY:

Employers can apply using:

More Information:

Q: Can the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) be combined with Work-Sharing?

A: Yes, however EI benefits received by employees within a Work-Sharing program will reduce the benefit that their employer is entitled to receive under the CEWS

Q: Can the 75% Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) be combined with the 10% Temporary Payroll Subsidy?

A: Yes

  • Eligible employers must use the 10% wage subsidy, before using the 75% CEWS
  • There is no application required for the 10% wage subsidy
  • The CEWS and the 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy are intended to provide employers with a total support of up to 75% for payroll

More Information:

Q: Can we recall employees from a layoff and then pay them with the CEWS, even if there is no work for them?

A: Yes. The legislation does not require employers to actually provide work to eligible employees in order to receive the CEWS. In order to qualify for the CEWS, employees must not be without remuneration for 14 or more consecutive days in the qualifying period.

HR Consideration:

This may be an option for employers who don’t want to risk losing valuable employees due to a layoff and/or for employers who want to entice employees who are in receipt of the CERB back to work – more so if the remaining 25% can be paid, bringing the employee’s wage back up to pre-crisis levels.

Q: If employers receive the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), are they required to top-up the remaining 25 per cent of the employee’s wage?

A: Eligibility for the subsidy does not require businesses to pay the remaining 25% if they are unable to do so. They are expected to make best efforts to do so and bring employees’ wages to their pre-crisis levels.

Q: Can employers lay off some employees and apply for the wage subsidy to keep or bring others back off from a layoff?

A:  Yes. The legislation does not require employers to actually provide work to eligible employees in order to receive the CEWS. Also, it remains up to each individual employer to determine their workforce needs, who they recall from layoffs and when.

HR Consideration: We encourage employers to determine and document their criteria for employee layoff recalls. Consider prioritizing critical roles and skills needed to reopen or restart the business. Be mindful of employment-related legislation such as Employment standards, Workers Compensation and Human rights when determining recalls so as to avoid potential liabilities.

Q: Can employers pay employees retroactively and then claim the wage subsidy?

A: Yes. Employees who have been laid off or furloughed can be eligible for the CEWS retroactively, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria for the claim period.

You must rehire and pay such employees before you include them in your calculation for the subsidy.

Rehired individuals may have received, or continue to receive, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Depending on the specific situation, these individuals may be required to repay some or all of the amounts they received.

Q:  We run a seasonal lodge and are planning to recruit employees for the summer season. Can we apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and use it for our future summer staff?

A: As of May 15, the CEWS program has been extended to August 29, 2020

Depending on when the employee is hired, they may qualify for the CEWS program.

Employee eligibility for the CEWS:

  • is determined in respect of each week, in each claim period.
  • Requires that the employee has not been without remuneration from the eligible employer in respect of a period of 14 or more consecutive days in the claim period
  • A new employee who is not eligible in a preceding claim period (because, for example, the 14-day remuneration condition has not been met) may become eligible in a following claim period

Q:  Can part time employees qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage subsidy (CEWS)?

A:  Yes. The subsidy is available in respect of employees employed in Canada who have not been without remuneration for 14 or more consecutive days.

More Information: Frequently asked questions – Canada emergency wage subsidy (CEWS)

Q:  Can employers apply for the CEWS to pay contract employees?

A:  No, Contractors do not qualify for the Canada Employee Wage subsidy (CEWS) program as they are not considered to be an employee of the company.

Contractors can apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Providing they meet the eligibility criteria.

Q: Can employers apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) if the employees are receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)?

A:  In certain situations, an eligible employer may be qualified to claim the wage subsidy for an eligible employee who has received payments under the CERB program.

If an individual has not been paid any remuneration from the eligible employer in respect of a period of 14 or more consecutive days in a claim period, the individual will not qualify as an eligible employee for that period of employment. The employer would not be eligible for the CEWS in respect of that employee, for that claim period

If the employer has claimed the CEWS for an individual, they would no longer be eligible for the CERB. The onus is on the individual to determine their CERB entitlement.

More Information: Frequently asked questions – Canada emergency wage subsidy (CEWS)

Q:  Can overtime for hourly paid employees from the January-March reference period be used in the calculation of CEWS?

A:  Eligible pre-crisis or baseline remuneration pay includes salary, wages, and other remuneration (i.e. overtime pay, commission, taxable benefits)


Q: Have there been any changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program, in response to COVID0-19?

A: Yes. Temporary changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program for 2020 include:

  • Eligible employers who have already applied for the 2020 program will receive up to 100% reimbursement of the provincial minimum hourly wage for each employee
  • Employment period has been extended, May 11, 2020 – February 28, 2021
  • Employers will be able to adapt work activities and projects to support the delivery of critical services
  • Part-time positions (fewer than 30 hours per week) qualify for the program

Q: We missed the Canada Summer Jobs Program application deadline. Will the application process reopen so more businesses can apply?

A: There are no plans to reopen the application process however, we understand that Service Canada will be working with local MPs across the province to identify businesses that haven’t applied but could qualify and may be interested.

Interested businesses are encouraged to contact their local MPs directly and express interest in the program

Q: We run a small, independent business and unfortunately will not be able to recall all of our employees due to a lack of business because of COVID-19. Are employers required by legislation to make employee recall decisions based on seniority? 

A: In a non-union workplace, legislation does not require employers to make recall decisions based on seniority. Rather, length of service should be one of many considerations taken into account when determining criteria (e.g. business needs, skills, full time/part time, length of service, etc.).

Document recall criteria and ensure that it is objective, non-discriminatory and applied in a fair and consistent manner for all employees.

Q: Can employees refuse to return to work from a temporary layoff because they just don’t want to go back to work?

A: BC’s Employment Standards legislation states that employees cannot simply refuse to return to work when being recalled from a laid off. If they do, employers could deem them to have resigned and would not owe the employee any severance. The employee would also no longer be eligible to receive the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

As individual situations vary, employers should address employee return refusals on a case-by-case basis.

Employer should take into consideration statutory leaves (e.g. COVID-19 leave) and human rights legislation.

We would encourage open communication with employees to discuss and clarify why they don’t want to return, take action to address any concerns and if required, provide options for accommodation.

Terminations of employment (including whether or not to consider an employee to have resigned) during the COVID-19 pandemic may require additional considerations. Employers are encouraged to consult legal counsel.

Q: What if an employee refuses to return to work because they don’t feel safe?

Workers in BC have the right to refuse work if they believe it presents an undue hazard. An undue hazard is an “unwarranted, inappropriate, excessive, or disproportionate” risk, above and beyond the potential exposure a general member of the public would face through regular, day-to-day activity.

As individual situations vary, employers should address employee return refusals on a case-by-case basis.

Workers Compensation legislation requires employers to address the refusal of unsafe work within their health and safety policies and program for their workplace.

A refusal of unsafe work would require the employer and the employee/worker to follow specific steps within their workplace to investigate and resolve the issue. If the matter is not resolved, the worker and the supervisor or employer must contact WorkSafeBC and a prevention officer will then investigate and take steps to find a workable solution for all involved.

Work refusal situations can be challenging and complex, please feel free to contact us if additional support or information is required: safety@go2hr.ca

Q:  How can we encourage employees to return to work if they are hesitant or we only have minimal hours for them?

Individuals can earn up to $1000 in income within a max of 14 consecutive days of a four week benefit period, and still be eligible to receive the CERB. The option to supplement their CERB benefits while they are eligible, may be enough to entice some employees to return.

This situation is similar to that of recruiting in a tough labour market, pre-COVID. Employers may also want to consider what they can offer in the way of incentives to entice their employees back to work (as opposed to staying home or considering other job opportunities).

Recognizing that each business is different and that the COVID crisis has put many businesses in a difficult financial situation, below are a range of non-monetary and other incentive options for employers to consider:

Non-monetary Incentives:

  • Flexible working arrangements (e.g. choice of hours or shifts, compressed work week, remote work)
  • Consider signing up for an employee rewards program (e.g. Perkopolis)

Other suggestions:

  • Shift premium for working during the COVID crisis (such as grocery stores are doing)
  • Additional paid time off (e.g. birthday, personal days, time to volunteer)
  • Additional vacation time

Q:  We are revising our medical form that staff fill out when we hire them, in order to gain a better understanding of their medical conditions and medication that they may be on. Are you able to give some guidance on what employers are and are not allowed to ask?

A:  Personal information requested from employees are subject to both human rights and privacy legislation.

Only personal information that is directly required for the performance of the job may be collected (and this is a very narrow description), and should be stored in accordance with privacy regulations.

Under normal circumstances, requesting any medical information can be challenging. But due to the current scenario, employers can ask employees if they are exhibiting any symptoms related to COVID-19 (and other related questions) through a questionnaire if need be.

Q:  One of our employees is scheduled to return in the coming weeks when her maternity leave ends but we don’t have a position for her, as we have laid off all of our employees due to COVID-19. What should we do?

A:  The laws around maternity and parental leaves have not changed. You need to bring your employee back to work however in this case you may then need to lay her off due to COVID-19.  She could then apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

As this is a sensitive situation, we encourage employers to ensure clear, ongoing and transparent communication with your employee.

Q: We are getting ready to recall employees from layoffs. What should we be communicating to them when they return?

A:  Ensure employees are aware of health and safety policies and procedures and what their working conditions will be upon return (hours, pay) and how their return coud  (e.g. their eligibility for the CERB).

 


Q: Have there been any changes related to the BC Employer Health Tax (EHT)?

A: The BC Employer Health Tax filing and payment deadline for the 2019 calendar year has been extended to September 30, 2020

More Information:

Q:  How long can an employee be on a temporary layoff before the employer needs to bring them back, to avoid the layoff becoming a termination?

A:  UPDATE: On June 25, the BC government announced the extension of COVID-19 related temporary layoff provisions under the Employment Standards Act to a maximum of 24 weeks, ending on or before August 30, 2020.

  • This change only applies to layoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Employee(s) must agree to extend their temporary layoff status

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Employment Standards Act only permitted temporary layoffs of up to 13 weeks in a period of 20 consecutive weeks, after which time the layoff was treated as a termination of employment.

This latest extension follows a previous amendment on May 4, 2020 which extended the temporary layoff provisions for COVID-19 related layoffs from 13 weeks to 16 weeks in any 20 consecutive week period.

Q: Does the employee vacation need to be paid out before they can go on EI? Some of our staff don’t want their vacation to be paid out as they want to take it at a later stage.

A: If the layoff is considered temporary as defined within the Employment Standards Act (ESA) then paying vacation pay is not a requirement. If the layoff is not temporary, then vacation pay would need to be paid out.

We are inclined to be sympathetic and say if employees don’t want to be paid out, don’t force it on them. We have high hope the layoff will last a short time. Employees will need their vacations. They aren’t being terminated, just sent home for the duration. If it drags on, employees have a little stash of vacation money they can ask for at a later time.

More Information:

Q: What do we do if an employee requests a layoff so that they can stay home and care for a child because they have no daycare or need to care for an ill family member?

A: Under these circumstances, the employee would qualify for the new COVID-19 Leave as provided for with BC’s employment standards. They would also be able to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Q: Did the BC minimum wage increase on June 1, 2020?

A:  Yes. Effective June 1, 2020 the BC minimum wage increased to $14.60 per hour, from $13.85 per hour.

This increase is part of the BC government’s original planned move towards a $15.20 per hour minimum wage by June 1, 2021.

More Information:

Q: I have to close my business and lay staff off staff. The Employment Standards Act states I must pay final wages within 48 hours after the last day worked. These layoffs will happen between regular paydays and I am concerned I won’t be able to do that within the 48-hour time period because of payroll system technology and financial cash flow issues. What do I do?

A: Do the very best you can in meeting your obligations and use your very best due diligence in meeting the legal requirements. Under these circumstances it is unlikely that there will be repercussions if you did everything possible and in good faith. Ensure open communication with your employee(s).

Provides employees with immediate, unlimited and unpaid, job-protected leave if they are not able to work for any of the following reasons:

  • They have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are following the instructions of a medical health officer or the advice of a doctor or nurse
  • They are in quarantine or self-isolation and are acting in accordance with an order of the provincial health officer, an order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada), guidelines from the BC Centre for Disease Control or guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Their employer has directed them not to work due to concern about their exposure to others
  • They need to provide care to their minor child or a dependent adult who is their child or former foster child for a reason related to COVID-19 (including closures of school, daycare or similar facilities)
  • They are outside of BC and unable to return to work due to travel or border restrictions

Effective:

  • This leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020 and will remain in effect until such time as is no longer needed, then will be removed from the Employment Standards Act.

Duration:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no limit to how long employees can take this job-protected leave for, without putting their job at risk, as long as the reason is related to those the above.


Provides employees with up to three (3) days of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for employees who are covered by the Employment Standards Act and can’t work due to personal illness or injury.

  • Employees must have worked for the employer at least 90 days
  • If requested, employees will be required to provide enough information to satisfy their employer that they are ill or injured and therefore entitled to this leave
  • This leave is a permanent addition to the Employment Standards Act

More Information:

Q: What do I put on the ROE as the reason for layoff?

A: Shortage of Work (Code A). Do not add comments.

Q: If an employee requests a lay off so that they can look after their mother and self-quarantine (not risk covid-19 exposure/passing anything on) what do I use as the ROE layoff reason? Illness/sickness or other?

A: K (other). Do not add comments

Q: What code do we use for an employee who refuses to come to work but is not sick or quarantined?

A: Use code E (Quit) or code N (Leave of absence), as appropriate. Avoid adding comments.

Q: Where can I find more information about how to fill out an ROE?

A: Website: How to Complete the Record of Employment (ROE) form


Q: Can we hire new employees on a temporary basis to replace current employees who are away from work due to an illness, self-quarantine or having to care for others due to COVID-19?

A: Yes, employers are able to hire new employees if needed to fill gaps left by employees who are away and unable to work due to COVID-19.

  • Important to note that the new COVID-19 leave or new Personal Illness or Injury leaves as provided for within BC’s employment standards legislation are both job-protected leaves. This means that when the leave ends, employers are required to bring individuals back to their job or one like it.
  • It is up to the employer to contact the employee and arrange for the return to work.

Q:  Is it acceptable for tourism employers to post job ads and recruit at this time?

A:  Absolutely! Industry employers can log in and post jobs onto the go2HR job board at no cost.

In response to COVID-19, employers may want to include information in their job postings about what they are doing to ensure a safe and health workplace for their employees.

Q:  What is a Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) Plan?

A:  A Supplemental Unemployment Benefits (SUB) plan allows an employer to top up an employee’s EI benefits during periods of unemployment (e.g.  temporary stoppage of work or illness, injury or quarantine).

  • All SUB Plans must be approved by Service Canada before they can start
  • The employer’s contribution combined with the weekly EI benefit cannot exceed 95% of the employee’s weekly earnings
  • SUB Plans must be in effect for at least one year and may be in effect for up to five years.

Eligibility:

  • Employer required to submit a SUB Plan in advance of implementation
  • Employee must be eligible for EI

Application Process:

  1. Create a SUB Plan
  2. Submit the SUB Plan, Registration form and any additional supporting documents
  3. Obtain Service Canada Approval before implementing the plan

Resources:

Q: Can a SUB Plan be used to top up the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)? 

A: Unfortunately the provisions under the Employment Insurance (EI) Regulations that enable employers to make additional payments to workers in receipt of EI benefits through SUB plans do not apply to the CERB.

Q: We have an employee who is on an EI claim that started before March 15, 2020. Could we submit a SUB plan for that employee?

A: Yes. Employers may continue to submit SUB plans to enable them to make payments to employees who are currently receiving EI regular or sickness benefits for claims that started prior to March 15, 2020.

Q: Could a SUB plan be used to top up employees once they exhaust the 16 weeks of CERB, if they are not recalled to work?

A: Eligible employees who move onto regular EI benefits after the CERB may be topped up through a SUB plan.

Q: Can employers extend the duration of an existing and already approved SUB Plan or do they need to re-apply?

A: Employers who are already participating in the program will automatically receive a request to renew from Service Canada – SUB Program before the end date of their plan.

Q: Are Temporary Foreign Workers eligible for EI benefits?

A: In response to COVID-19, Temporary Foreign Workers that have met the eligibility requirements (hours worked) will qualify for EI benefits.

Q: What if a Temporary Foreign Worker has only been here a short time and hasn’t worked enough hours to qualify for EI?

A: Those who have not met the eligibility requirements of EI will qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Q: We have Temporary Foreign Workers living in our staff housing, with nowhere else to go. Will they qualify for the $500 temporary rental supplement being provided by the BC government?

A: Not likely if their name is not on the lease. In those cases, some employers are choosing to provide rent reductions or eliminations to assist those employees.

Q: What options do Temporary Foreign Workers have who no longer have jobs, are unable to work for another employer and are stuck in Canada – unable to return to their country due to travel restrictions?

A: Temporary foreign workers in Canada under a work permit can apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to extend their work permit and remain in Canada as a temporary worker or apply to stay as a visitor.

If no longer working, foreign workers can apply to change their status to visitor, as long as the work permit has not expired.

Workers that intend to continue working may be able to extend their work permit if they are eligible.

Q: What if a Temporary Foreign Worker wants to extend their work permit but it has already expired?

A: If the work permit has already expired, and it has been less than 90 days, workers can apply to restore status.

If it has been more than 90 days since the worker permit has expired the worker may be eligible to apply for a temporary resident permit. With a temporary resident permit, the worker can remain in Canada with legal status.

Applicants needing a work permit extension to remain in Canada, even during a lay-off, should advise IRCC of the current situation by either attaching a note to their application to extend their work permit or, if they’ve already applied, by making a case-specific enquiry via the IRCC Web form.

More information is available on IRCC’s website for special measures to help temporary and permanent residents and applicants affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID 19)

Q: What should Temporary Foreign Workers do if they have an application for permanent residence in process and have now been laid off?

A: Depending on the worker’s situation, they will need to take the following actions:

  1. IF they have applied through Express Entry under the Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades, or Canadian Experience Class AND they received points in the Comprehensive Ranking System for a valid job offer, they should advise IRCC by making a case-specific enquiry via the Web form. When the application for permanent residence is assessed, IRCC will consider the current status of their employer due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  1. IF they’ve applied through the BC PNP with a full-time, permanent job offer and have since been laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic, they should advise the BC PNP so that this information can be taken into consideration. BC PNP will advise of the next steps to be taken.

Applicants needing a work permit extension to remain in Canada, even during a lay-off, should advise IRCC of the current situation by either attaching a note to their application to extend their work permit or, if they’ve already applied, by making a case-specific enquiry via the IRCC Web form.

Q: Can foreign workers with Working Holiday, Young Professional or Post-Graduate work permit holders extend their work permits?

A: Working holiday and young professional work permits under International Experience Canada are not extendable (although candidates with one may be eligible to apply for a second participation in the program).

Post-graduation work permits are also not extendable, unless they were not issued to the maximum possible length due to the validity of the applicant’s passport.

Q: Are International Student Study permits extendable?

A: Yes. An international student whose study permit will be expiring in the next 90 days can apply to extend it.

Q: Can International Students continue to work?

A: Yes, they can continue working as long as they continue to meet the conditions printed on their study permit. In some cases, due to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, their courses may have been suspended or moved to distance learning.

Students in this situation are able to continue working 20 hours per week during academic sessions and full-time during scheduled breaks in the academic calendar.

Q: Can international workers apply for a new work permit if their current permit is expiring?

A: Yes, they can reapply.

Q: What are the options for an international worker who is interested in applying for an open work permit?

A: There are also several ways to be eligible for an open work permit, including as the spouse or common-law partner of an international student or skilled foreign worker, or as an in-Canada applicant for permanent residence awaiting decision.

More Information:

Q: I understand that International Experience Canada (IEC) invitations are on hold. Is there a timeline for this or is it indefinite at the current time?

A: Invitations are on hold until further notice is posted on the IRCC website.

Q: Will IEC still be processing applications?

A: IRCC is continuing to accept submissions of profiles into IEC pools. However, due to service interruptions, applications are not being processed at this time.

No applications in process will be closed or refused due to a lack of documentation or inability to complete the application process in time, such as giving biometrics or completing a medical exam.

More information:


Q: If an employee is terminated due to a business closure or staffing reduction related to COVID-19, is an employer required to pay compensation for length of service?

A: The BC Employment Standards Regulation provides an exception to the requirement of compensation for length of service or group termination pay, for terminations due to unforeseen circumstances, including COVID-19.

The regulation states that if a business closure or staffing reduction is directly related to COVID-19 and there is no way for the employee to perform work in a different way (for example, working from home) an exception may apply to exclude employees from receiving compensation for length of service and group termination pay. However, this may not always be the case.

If an employer terminates an employee for reasons that are not directly related to COVID-19, or if the employee’s work could still be done (perhaps in a different way) this exemption would not apply.

Important to note that employee terminations during the COVID-19 pandemic may require additional considerations, including individual circumstances and common law.

If there is question as to whether or not this exception would apply to a specific situation, employers are encouraged to consult legal counsel prior to terminating in order to avoid potential liabilities.

If an employee chooses to file a complaint through the Employment Standards complaint resolution process, decisions regarding whether this exception applies are made by the Director on a case-by-case basis.

More Information:

Q:  Are there any special considerations that employers should give thought to if they are terminating employees during COVID-19?

A: The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a difficult time for many. Employee terminations during the COVID-19 pandemic should be handled with added compassion and extra consideration should also be given to the following areas:

  • COVID-19 Leave – Employees on this job-protected leave should not be terminated prior to the end of their leave
  • Timing – Is it necessary to terminate the employee now (e.g. economic or financial necessity) or is it possible to delay the termination?
  • Layoff – Is the employee on layoff? If so, termination may be possible but is it not recommended

Q: Is the COVID-19 pandemic being treated as a “group termination” and hence do employers need a code from the Minister of Labour?

A: If the employer is laying off 50 or more employees from a single location within a 2-month period, the group termination provisions of the BC ESA still stand.

More Information:

Q: I run a small (non-union) hotel and have an employee who was hired 2 weeks ago and then didn’t show up for work. He claims he has allergies (not COVID-19 related). We advised him to stay home and then he quit with a letter stating that he is not in good health. Since he has only been with us for 2 weeks and didn’t show up for work, do we have any obligations to him?

A: As the employee resigned from his employment, you have no obligations to him.

More Information:


Q: We are going to have some of our staff work from home and think this is a good opportunity to have them take a course. Please let me know the courses which are beneficial for hotel and other front-line employees.

A: Please find below links to a range of online training programs that may be of interest for front line and supervisory employees. We want to make training accessible for everyone during this time, so we are offering 20% off SuperHost online courses.

Q:  Is there any support for training (property management courses) and/or longer term funding available for employing an unemployed person to better our business? 

A:   Here are a couple of resources that you may want to consider:

BC Employer Training Grant
The BC Employer Training Grant program supports skills training to address provincial labour market needs.

Wage Subsidy Program – WorkBC
The Wage Subsidy Service provides interim financial support (wages) to assist an employer with some of the costs associated with on the job training and skill development. WorkBC offices throughout the Province that have their own contacts for Wage Subsidy.

Q: Is Work Sharing an option for tourism employers?

A: The Work-Sharing program can help employers avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business activity that is beyond the employer’s control

  • Employees agree to reduce their hours, equally share the available work and receive EI to supplement their income

Eligibility Requirements

Employers:

  • A year-round business in Canada for at least 1 year
  • Private business, not-for-profits and publicly held companies
  • Shortage of work is temporary, beyond the employer’s control and not cyclical
  • Business activity has declined by at least 10% in the last 6 months
  • At least 2 employees (who share similar work) in a work sharing unit
  • Required to submit and implement a recovery plan to return employees to normal hours

Employees:

  • Year-round, full-time, part-time or temporary “core” employees who are needed to carry out the day-to-day functions of the business (Casual, on-call and seasonal employees are not eligible)
  • Eligible to receive EI benefits, and
  • Must all agree to reduce their normal working hours by the same percentage and to share the available work
  • NEW – Employees considered essential to the recovery and viability of the business (due to COVID-19) can now be eligible to participate in Work Sharing

How it Works:

  • Program duration: Min. 6 weeks/ max 76 weeks due to COVID-19 (normally 38 weeks)
  • Waiting period: None, however processing of EI benefits may take a few weeks

Apply:

More information:

Q: Are seasonal employees, summer or co-op students eligible for the Work Sharing program?

A: Unfortunately, no. Neither are casual, on-call employees.

Q: Do employee benefits continue while they are on a work sharing agreement?

A: Yes. Employers are required to continue all existing employee benefits (including vacation, health/dental insurance, pension benefits, group disability, etc.) for the duration of the Work-Sharing agreement.

If benefits are calculated based on earnings or hours of work, those benefits (including any subsequent payout of benefits) may be reduced.

If statutory holidays occur within a Work-Sharing period compensation those hours is the responsibility of the employer as employees will not be compensated by EI benefits.

Q: Can an employee who is part of a work sharing agreement also receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)?

A: No