COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

This page is being updated on an on-going basis, to provide information to help address common HR inquiries related to COVID-19 that we are receiving.

Topics:

Q:  We need to train our employees for the upcoming summer season. Are there any training grants or funding programs that we should be aware of?

The BC Employer Training Grant (ETG) supports skills training to address provincial labour market needs. The program recently announced two new funding streams, in addition to existing 4 streams:

C19 Impacted Worker Training Stream

This new stream supports British Columbians that are employed or have been employed in a sector where job opportunities have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Employers may receive 100% of eligible training costs, up to a max. of $10,000 per participant, to train British Columbians impacted by the pandemic. Learn more here.

Persons with Disabilities Training Stream

This stream supports British Columbians who are designated Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

Employers may receive 100% of eligible training costs, financial supports and training allowances for participants while in training, up to a max. of $20,000 per participant.  employers must have a job for the participant at their company once training is completed. Learn more here.

Did you know?

Employers can apply for up to 100% reimbursement of the cost of SuperHost Customer Service Training programs through the BC Employer Training Grant. Reimbursement amounts vary depending on the funding stream and eligibility of individuals, please refer to the eligibility criteria or contact go2HR for more information.

The B.C. increased employment incentive is a one-time refundable tax credit for employers, based on an employer’s payroll.

  • This credit sets aside up to $190 million for businesses that were able to hire new workers, hire back people who were let go or increase workers’ hours during the last three months of 2020.
  • Businesses could be eligible for a credit that could equal up to 15% of any increase in total eligible payroll paid in the last quarter of 2020. The tax credit could be as much as $2,230 per employee.

How it works:

The credit is 15% of the amount that the employer’s total eligible remuneration for all eligible employees in the qualifying period exceeds the employer’s total eligible remuneration for all eligible employees in the base period.  The base period is from July 1 to September 30, 2020.  The qualifying period is from October 1 to December 31, 2020.

  • The credit does not have a maximum amount but a credit amount less than $10 will not be paid
  • Is not reduced by any provincial or federal support you may receive, such as the B.C. training tax credits or the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)
  • Will offset any provincial tax debts an employer has outstanding at the time the credit is payable (e.g. employer health tax or the provincial sales tax)

Eligibility:

All employers, including employers who did not have to pay the employer health tax, are eligible for the credit if they:

  • Increased their eligible remuneration for the qualifying period compared to the base period
  • Had a permanent establishment in B.C. for the qualifying period, even if they didn’t begin to have a permanent establishment in B.C. until after September 30, 2020
  • Employers may be individuals, corporations, partnerships or trusts.
  • Public institutions and registered political parties are not eligible for the credit.
  • Indigenous businesses as described for the Canada emergency wage subsidy (CEWS) are not public institutions and are eligible for the credit.

Calculation:

The credit is calculated at 15% of the amount that the employer’s total eligible remuneration for all eligible employees in the qualifying period exceeds their total eligible remuneration for all eligible employees in the base period.

(Total eligible remuneration for all eligible employees in the qualifying period – total eligible remuneration for all eligible employees in the base period) x 15%

Apply Now:

More Information: B.C. Increased Employment Incentive

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.

  • Taxable benefit: $2,000 a month ($500 per week), available to eligible individuals for a maximum of 28 weeks.
  • Deadline to apply for retroactive payments: Dec 2, 2020 (Now closed)

More information: Canada Emergency Response Benefit

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

A: The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) enables 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

UPDATE:

  • On March 3, 2021, the Government announced proposed details for CEWS claim periods from March 14 to June 5, 2021 (claim periods 14 to 16):
  • the revenue drop will continue to compare your eligible revenue to a time prior to March 2020 (specific comparison months and years are listed here for each claim period)
  • employers may use a new pre-crisis pay period when calculating an employee’s pre-crisis pay (baseline remuneration) for the new claim periods
  • the maximum subsidy amount for employees on leave with pay will remain at $595

More Information:

Eligibility Requirements

Employers:

To participate in this program, employers must:

  • Meet the eligible employer criteria
  • Have a payroll account with the CRA as of March 15, 2020
  • Employers must be able to demonstrate a reduction revenue as a result of COVID-19, for each eligibility period.

How it Works:

  • 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.
  • Employers must pay salaries or wages to employees and then submit an application for this reimbursement through this subsidy
  • Eligibility for the subsidy does not require businesses to pay the remainder and bring employees’ wages to their pre-crisis levels if they are unable to do so, however they are expected to make best efforts to do so
  • 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:

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: Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Application Guide

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 remainder and bring employees’ wages to their pre-crisis levels if they are unable to do so, however they are expected to make best efforts to do so.

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: 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.
  • May or may not require that the employee have been without remuneration from the eligible employer in respect of a period of 14 or more consecutive days in the claim period (depending on the claim period)
  • Eligible employee status is determined in respect of each week in each claim period. An 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

Employers can apply using:

More Information:

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

A:  Eligible employee status is determined in respect of each week in each claim period. An 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

More Information: FAQs – Technical guide – Eligible Employees

Q:  Can employers apply for the CEWS to pay contractors?

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: What is the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) and who is it for?

A: The CRB provides income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are directly affected by COVID-19, but are not entitled to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.

  • Eligible individuals can receive $1,000 ($900 after taxes withheld) for a 2-week period
  • If their situation continues, past 2 weeks they will need to apply again
  • Individuals can apply up to total of 19 eligibility periods (38 weeks) between Sept 27, 2020 – Sept 25, 2021

More Information & Apply: Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)

Q:  What is the Canada Recovery Caregivers Benefit (CRCB) and who is it for?

A:  The CRCB provides income support to employed and self-employed individuals who must care for their child under 12 years old or a family member who needs supervised care. This applies if their school, regular program or facility is closed or unavailable to them due to COVID-19, or because they are sick, self-isolating, or at risk of serious health complications due to COVID-19.

  • Eligible individuals can receive $500 ($450 after taxes withheld) for each 1-week period
  • If their situation continues past 1 week, they will need to apply again
  • Each household may apply up to a total of 38 weeks between Sept 27, 2020 – Sept 25, 2021
  • The CRCB is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

More Information & Apply: Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)

Q:  What is the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) and who is it for?

The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) provides income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are sick or need to self-isolate due to COVID-19, or have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of getting COVID-19.

  • Eligible individuals can receive $500 ($450 after taxes withheld) for a 1-week period
  • If their situation continues, past 1 week they will need to apply again
  • Individuals can apply up to total of 4 weeks between Sept 27, 2020 – Sept 25, 2021
  • Individuals cannot apply for periods that are closed
  • The CRCB is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

More Information & Apply: Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)

The Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant provides fully funded grants to hospitality and fitness businesses impacted by the March 30, 2021 Provincial Health Officer (PHO) orders.

Grants of $1,000 to $10,000 are available to hospitality and fitness businesses impacted by the March 30, 2021 PHO orders on gatherings and events and liquor and food serving premises.

Grants are available until June 4, 2021 or until funds are fully expended, whichever comes first.

Eligibility:

All hospitality and fitness businesses that partially or fully closed in order to comply with the March 30, 2021 PHO orders are eligible. Examples include:

  • Restaurants, pubs and bars
  • Coffee shops, cafes and cafeterias
  • Lounges and nightclubs
  • Breweries, wineries and tasting rooms

Available Funding:

  • Grants are fully funded and do not have to be paid back
  • Business owners can use the grant for expenses such as: rent and utilities, insurance, maintenance, cost of perishable food loss
  • The grant amount is based on number of BC employees or contracted staff
Number of BC employees or contracted staff Grant amount
None $1,000
1-4 $2,000
5-99 $5,000
100+ $10,000

Apply:

 Applicants will be asked to confirm:

  • Your business was impacted by the March 30, 2021 PHO orders
  • You are registered as a B.C. business
  • You can demonstrate majority ownership and operations in B.C.
  • You pay taxes in B.C.

More Information: Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant

Q: When can we apply for the Canada Summer Jobs program?

A: Deadline to apply is January 29, 2021. (Now Closed)

The COVID-19 Leave covered by BC Employment Standards provides employees with unpaid, job-protected leave if they are not able to work for any of the following reasons:

  • They are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine
  • They are assisting a dependent being vaccinated against COVID-19
  • 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.

More InformationLeaves of absence – British Columbia Employment Standards

On April 19, 2021 the BC government has introduced amendments to the Employment Standards Act that, if passed, will provide workers with up to three hours of paid leave to get each dose of their COVID-19 vaccine.

If passed, the effective date will be retroactive to April 19, 2021.

More information:

Q: What if I need financial support but can’t work or don’t qualify for Employment Insurance (EI)?

A: As of Oct 2, 2020, the federal government passed legislation to create three new recovery benefits for individuals impacted by COVID-19 but who don’t qualify for EI. These benefits replace the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) which came to an end on Sept 26, 2020:

Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)

Provides income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are directly affected by COVID-19 and are not entitled to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.

  • Eligible individuals can receive $1,000 ($900 after taxes withheld) for a 2-week period
  • If their situation continues, past 2 weeks they will need to apply again
  • Individuals can apply up to total of 19 eligibility periods (38 weeks) between Sept 27, 2020 – Sept 25, 2021
  • The CRB is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

More Information & Apply: Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)

Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)

Provides income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are sick or need to self-isolate due to COVID-19, or have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of getting COVID-19.

  • Eligible individuals can receive $500 ($450 after taxes withheld) for a 1-week period
  • If their situation continues, past 1 week they will need to apply again
  • Individuals can apply up to total of 4 weeks between Sept 27, 2020 – Sept 25, 2021
  • Individuals cannot apply for periods that are closed
  • The CRSB is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

More Information & Apply: Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)

Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)

Provides income support to employed and self-employed individuals who must care for their child under 12 years old or a family member who needs supervised care. This applies if their school, regular program or facility is closed or unavailable to them due to COVID-19, or because they are sick, self-isolating, or at risk of serious health complications due to COVID-19.

  • Eligible individuals can receive $500 ($450 after taxes withheld) for each 1-week period
  • If their situation continues past 1 week, they will need to apply again
  • Each household may apply up to a total of 38 weeks between Sept 27, 2020 – Sept 25, 2021
  • The CRCB is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

More Information & Apply: Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)

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 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: 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. The program provides Employment Insurance (EI) benefits to eligible employees who agree to reduce their normal working hours and share the available work while their employer recovers.

The Program allows employers to retain qualified and experienced workers, and avoid recruiting and training new employees. It also allows employees to keep their jobs, and maintain their work skills.

How it works:

  • WS Units: A Work-sharing unit is a group of at least 2 employees with similar job duties who agree to reduce their hours of work over a specific period of time
  • Equal sharing of work: All members of a WS unit agree to reduce their hours of work by the same percentage and to equally share the available work
  • Expected work reduction: A WS unit must reduce its hours of work by at least 10% to 60%. The reduction of hours can vary from week to week, as long as the average reduction over the course of the agreement is from 10% to 60%
  • Agreement length and extension: A WS agreement has to be at least 6 consecutive weeks long and can last up to 26 consecutive weeks. However, due to COVID-19, employers who request an initial Work-Sharing agreement, which used to be for a duration of 26 weeks, automatically receive up to 76 weeks, even if they expect that their employees will return to normal work hours sooner. Employers can end their Work-Sharing agreement at any time
  • Work-Sharing is an agreement between employers, employees and the Government of Canada
  • Mandatory cooling off period has been waived for employers who have already used the Work-Sharing program so that eligible employers may immediately enter into a new agreement

Eligibility Requirements

Employers:

  • A year-round business in Canada for at least 1 year
  • Private business and publicly held companies
  • Not-for-profit employers experiencing a shortage of work due to a reduction of business activity and/or a reduction in revenue levels due to COVID-19
  • 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)
  • Must be 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

Duration:

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

Apply:

More information:

Email Inquiries: EDSC.DGOP.TP.REP-RES.WS.POB.ESDC@servicecanada.gc.ca

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

A: Unfortunately, no. Neither are casual, on-call employees or non-core 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:  Will employees who are collecting EI required to return to work when recalled?

A:  In order to continue receiving EI benefits, claimants will be required to make “reasonable and ongoing job search efforts”.

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.

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

Important: 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?

A: 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?

A: 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 some links and suggestions for non-monetary and other incentive options for employers to consider:

Government Financial Support programs:

  • Work-Sharing agreement
  • Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

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 EI or the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), depending on her eligibility.

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

Q: Have there been any changes to EI, related to maternity or paternity benefits in response to COVID-19?

A:  As of September 27, 2020, the following temporary changes were introduced to the EI program to help individuals access EI maternity and parental benefits.

  • Individuals will only require 120 hours to qualify for benefits, they will be given a one-time credit or 480 hours towards the required 600 hours of insured work
  • Maternity and standard benefits – individuals will receive at least $500 per week (before taxes),
  • Extended parental benefits – individuals will receive at least $300 per week (before taxes)
  • The 52-week period to accumulate insurable hours will be extended for individuals who received the CERB

These changes will be in effect for one (1) year.

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

Website: EI maternity and parental benefits: What these benefits offer

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 any consequences of their return (e.g. their eligibility for or earning limits while on EI)

Q:  Have there been any changes to BC’s Employment Standards legislation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: Yes. Employer should be aware of the following changes:

COVID-19 Leave

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.

Personal Illness or Injury Leave

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 are the 2021 installment due dates for the BC Employer Health Tax (EHT)?

A:  The installment due dates are as follows:

  • June 15, 2021
  • September 15, 2021
  • December 15, 2021

Deadline to file return and make final payment is March 31, 2022.

More Information:

Q:  We need to reduce our staffing levels as a result of business decline. What is a layoff and can we lay our employees off until we need them? 

A:  A temporary layoff is when an employee earns less than 50% of their regular weekly wages (averaged over the previous eight weeks that they worked), with the plan that the employee will return to a regular work schedule.

  • Layoffs are not automatic. BC’s employment legislation requires that employees must agree to be laid off or layoffs must be part of the employment contract. If an employee doesn’t agree to the layoff, it may be considered a termination of employment.
  • If the employee won’t be returning to work, the layoff is a termination of employment.
  • If an employee is laid off, they’re still considered to be employed. Any benefits and entitlements (including vacation and leaves of absence) are protected.

More information:  Temporary layoffs – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)

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:  An employee cannot be laid off for more than 13 weeks in any given 20-week period (about three months in a period of five months).

  • Every week that an employee earns less than half of their regular wages counts as a week of layoff.
  • If an employee is laid off for more than the maximum number of weeks, the Employment Standards Branch may decide that their employment has been ended and employers may need to pay compensation for length of service.

In this situation you may want to apply to the Employment Standards Branch for a variance to extend the temporary layoff.

More Information:  Extend a COVID-19 Temporary Layoff

Previously, the British Columbia government announced the extension of the temporary layoff provisions under the Employment Standards Act up to a maximum of 24 weeks however this extension expired on August 30, 2020.

Q:  Are we required to provide employees with compensation if we can’t bring them back from a layoff due to COVID-19 and end up terminating them?

Employment Standards states that If a business closure or staffing reduction is directly related to COVID-19 and there is no way for employees to perform their work in a different way (for example, working from home) the exception may apply in terminations resulting from the COVID-19 emergency.

This exception is not automatic for all layoffs that have occurred during the time of the COVID-19 emergency and employment standards requires specific criteria that must be met.

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.

More Information: COVID-19 terminations and permanent layoffs section

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: Quitting, Getting Fired or Laid Off – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)

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.

Q:  How will the government financial support programs (CERB, CEWS and CESB) affect T4s for the 2020 tax year?

A:  For the 2020 tax year, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has introduced additional reporting for the T4 slip, Statement of Remuneration Paid.

Additional reporting requirements will apply to all employers, and will help the CRA validate payments under the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), and the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB).

Employers who have already filed their T4 slips and summary for 2020 will not need to refile.

Additional information: CRA and COVID-19 – Information for Employers

Q: Will the BC minimum wage increase on June 1, 2021?

A: The BC minimum wage is still set to increase to $15.20 per hour, from $14.60 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:  Minimum Wage – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)

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).

Q:  We are looking forward to hiring our first employees and wondering where we can find information related to our obligations for payroll?

A:  As an employer, you are responsible for ensuring you understand and meet your obligations. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Employers’ Guide – Payroll Deductions and Remittances provides full details related to all of the requirements regarding employee payroll and the steps for payroll will guide you through setting up new employees for source deductions (CPP, EI) and remittances.

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: We are a restaurant with dozens of staff who we have had to temporarily lay off until we can reopen for dine in. Do we need to provide an ROE for everyone?

A: Yes. An ROE should be issued any time there is an interruption of earnings, which is a period of 7 consecutive days with no work and no insurable earnings.

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 COVID-19 leave or 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:  We have often have volunteers contribute within our retreat location doing odd-jobs in return for a discount on services. Is there anything that we should be aware of, related to our

A: Below are a few links to information about volunteers, in relation to the BC Employment Standards Act and WorkSafeBC that you should be aware of:

Employment Standards Act & Regulation Definitions – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)

This page provides the definition of an “employee” as well as the policy interpretation (implications that you need to be aware of) for the BC Employment Standards Act.

It is important for employers to be aware of this definition in order to ensure that volunteers are not actually doing the work of “employees”, and in fact entitled to minimum pay, etc. as guided by BC Employment Standards legislation.

Are Volunteers Covered under the Workers Compensation Act? – go2HR

When Volunteers are “Workers”: 5 Key Ways to Effectively Manage OHS Risk – go2HR

Should you have any questions or require any additional information, please feel free to contact one of our HR specialists at go2HR.

Q:  We rely heavily on our international staff, typically Australians who are here on Working Holiday Visas. Several of our staff are coming to the end of their 2-year visas. Is there any process to extend that visa under COVID conditions? 

A:  Unfortunately, there are a limited number of circumstances in which an extension would be granted and there are no exceptions.

Below are a few links to the IRCC website section related to COVID-19. They provide information for IEC participants who are in Canada regarding extending or changing work permits:

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:  We own a hotel with a large event space and had to lay off all of our banquet employees as there are no events, due to COVID-19.

Unfortunately, we don’t currently have any events booked so we are not going to be able to recall our employees before the layoff deadline (13 of 20 weeks), as we had hoped. We cannot afford to pay out severance for these employees. What are our options?

A:  In this situation you may want to apply to the Employment Standards Branch for a variance to extend the temporary layoff.

APPLY:

Visit the Employers Section of the portal website:

  • A step-by-step overview of the variance application process
  • Access to an email template – can be used to survey employee support
  • Access to online support tools – can be used to document your employee support
  • APPLY – complete the online application form and submit the document directly to the Employment Standards Branch

Notes:

  • Application takes approx. 15 minutes to complete
  • If the variance is granted, you will be emailed a copy of the variance decision
  • If the variance is denied, a formal decision is sent by email and registered mail to both the employer and affected employees
  • The Employment Standards Branch may approve applications for a shorter period than requested by the employer.

Q:  We want to apply for a variance to extend the temporary layoff period for our employees who have been laid off due to COVID-19, but are not completely sure when we will be able to recall them.  

An official recall date will depend entirely on our business volumes returning, which may not be until next Spring. What do we provide as a recall date on the application?

A:  If you are uncertain as to a definite recall date because of variables affecting BC’s Restart Plan and reopening the economy, the Employment Standards website suggests that employers should determine a date that most closely aligns with their reasonable business plans to partially or fully resume operations.

Variances are not automatically granted; the Employment Standards Branch will review applications and advise of their decision:

  • If the variance is granted, you will be emailed a copy of the variance decision
  • If the variance is denied, a formal decision is sent by email and registered mail to both the employer and affected employees

The Employment Standards Branch may approve applications for a shorter period than requested by the employer.