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The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) presents many challenges for employers and payroll professionals. During this tumultuous time, news and information are even more vital. To help you stay informed, we are regularly updating our Payroll Alert website with the latest news and information related to COVID-19, in addition to our regular releases. We are also continuing to operate our Payroll Hotline Service. To get answers to your payroll questions, contact the hotline at 416-609-0152 (local) or 1-800-661-6828 (toll free) or by e-mail at Carswell.PayrollHotline@thomsonreuters.com.

 

COVID-19Alert: What Employers Need to Know

Below is a roundup of important payroll-related news relating to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19):

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on May 25, 2020 that the federal government was in talks with the provinces about providing workers across Canada with 10 days of paid sick leave.

    “Nobody should have to choose between taking a day off work due to illness or being able to pay their bills,” said Trudeau. 

    “That's why the government will continue discussions with the provinces, without delay, on ensuring that as we enter the recovery phase of the pandemic, every worker in Canada who needs it has access to 10 days of paid sick leave a year. And we'll also consider other mechanisms for the longer term to support workers with sick leave,” he said.

    The federal NDP and British Columbia Premier John Horgan have been urging the federal government to ensure that workers throughout the country have access to paid sick leave.

    It is not yet known how a paid sick leave plan would be implemented across the country and whether governments or employers, or a combination of both would pay for it.

    We will continue to monitor this story and will report on further developments in upcoming releases.

  • The federal government announced on May 15, 2020 that it has extended its Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to August 29, 2020 to provide employers with an extra 12 weeks of support during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    The CEWS provides qualifying businesses that keep employees on payroll during the COVID-19 emergency with a wage subsidy of 75% of an employee’s remuneration, up to $847 per week. The subsidy initially applied from March 15, 2020 to June 6, 2020; however, in mid-May Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the government would extend it through August.

    In addition, Morneau announced that the government had broadened eligibility for the CEWS to include the following groups:

    • partnerships that are up to 50% owned by non-eligible members;
    • Indigenous government-owned corporations carrying on a business, as well as partnerships where the partners are Indigenous governments and eligible employers;  
    • registered Canadian amateur athletic associations;
    • registered journalism organizations; and
    • non-public colleges and schools, including institutions that offer specialized services (e.g., arts schools, driving schools, language schools, flight schools, etc).

    Already-eligible employers include individuals; taxable corporations; partnerships consisting of eligible employers; non-profit organizations; and registered charities. Public-sector organizations (e.g., universities, hospitals, schools, municipalities, Crown corporations) are not eligible for the subsidy.

    In addition, Morneau said the government would consult with business and labour organizations on potential changes to the CEWS, including whether to adjust the 30% revenue decline threshold. Currently, to qualify for the subsidy, employers must have experienced a drop in their gross revenues of at least 15% in March 2020, and 30% in April 2020 or May 2020 compared to the same month in 2019 or to an average of their revenue earned in January 2020 and February 2020.

    Morneau also said the government would put forward legislative amendments to the CEWS that would:

    • provide flexibility for employers of existing employees who were not regularly employed in early 2020 (e.g., seasonal employees);
    • ensure that the CEWS applies appropriately to corporations that amalgamate; and
    • better align the treatment of trusts and corporations for determining CEWS eligibility.

    For more information on the CEWS and other COVID-19-related measures that the federal government has implemented, see the story “Canada’s Parliament Enacts COVID-19 Financial Support Measures.”

  • On April 21, 2020, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) launched an online calculator for the federal government’s new Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) for employers.

    The CEWS provides eligible employers with a 75% wage subsidy of up to $847 per employee per week for up to 12 weeks. The program is designed to help employers facing challenges as a result of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to keep and rehire workers. For more information on the CEWS, see the story “Canada’s Parliament Enacts COVID-19 Financial Support Measures.”

    The CRA said the calculator explains how the subsidy is calculated and helps employers to estimate how much their wage subsidy might be. The calculator is part of a new CEWS web page that explains who is eligible for the subsidy, how to calculate the amount of the subsidy, and how to apply for it. 

    Employers can begin applying for the subsidy as of April 27, 2020, with the CRA planning to begin making payments for approved applications on May 5, 2020.

    For more information on the calculator and the application process, see https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/subsidy/emergency-wage-subsidy.html.

  • Canada’s Parliament has passed legislation to provide financial support for businesses and individuals affected by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The measures were contained in Bill C-13, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, which received royal assent on March 25, 2020, and Bill C-14, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, No. 2, which received royal assent on April 11, 2020. The passage of the bills enables the government to implement a number of COVID-19-relatedfinancial support measures, including the following initiatives:

    Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS): The government will provide qualifying businesses with a wage subsidy of 75% on eligible remuneration paid to employees between March 15, 2020 to June 6, 2020. The subsidy is in addition to a temporary wage subsidy for small businesses (see below). The CEWS includes the following provisions:

    • The subsidy amount per employee is the greater of:
      • 75% of the amount of remuneration paid, up to a maximum benefit of $847 per week, and
      • the amount of remuneration paid, up to a maximum benefit of $847 per week, or 75% of the employee’s pre-crisis weekly remuneration, whichever is less.
    • Pre-crisis remuneration for an employee is based on the employee’s average weekly remuneration paid between January 1, 2020 and March 15, 2020, excluding any seven-day periods in which the employee did not receive remuneration.
    • Employers may also claim the subsidy for salaries and wages paid to new employees.
    • There is no overall limit on the subsidy amount that an eligible employer could claim.
    • Eligible remuneration includes salary, wages, some taxable benefits, and other remuneration for which employers are generally required to withhold and remit income tax deductions. It does not include retiring allowances or benefits such as stock options or the personal use of an employer-provided vehicle.
    • The subsidy is available to eligible employers of all sizes whose gross revenues fell by at least 15% in March 2020, and 30% in April or May 2020 compared to the same month in 2019 or to an average of their revenue earned in January 2020 and February 2020. Employers applying for the subsidy must attest to the revenue decline.
    • Eligible employers include individuals, taxable corporations, and partnerships consisting of eligible employers, as well as non-profit organizations and registered charities. Public-sector organizations (e.g., universities, hospitals, schools, municipalities, Crown corporations) are not eligible.
    • For an employer to claim the wage subsidy for an employee, the employee must be employed in Canada. The subsidy does not apply for employees who were without remuneration for 14 or more consecutive days in a claim period.
    • There are three periods for claiming the subsidy (although the legislation allows for the government to add more if needed):
      • March 15, 2020 to April 11, 2020, with a reference period of March 2020 compared to March 2019 or to an average of January and February 2020 for the revenue decline.
      • April 12, 2020 to May 9, 2020, with a reference period of April 2020 compared to April 2019 or to an average of January and February 2020.
      • May 10, 2020 to June 6, 2020, with a reference period of May 2020 compared to May 2019 or to an average of January and February 2020.
      • Employers eligible for the first period are automatically eligible for the second period. Employers eligible for the second period are automatically eligible for the third period.
    • The government expects employers to do their best to top-up their employees’ pay so that it is at pre-crisis levels.
    • Employers apply for the subsidy through the Canada Revenue Agency’s My Business Account portal, as well as through a web-based application.
    • Employers must to keep records showing their revenue decline and remuneration paid to employees.
    • Employers who receive the subsidy, but are not eligible for it will have to repay it. Penalties, including fines and imprisonment, will apply in cases of fraud. 
    • Employers not eligible for the CEWS may apply for the 10% wage subsidy for small businesses (see below).
    • The amount of the CEWS will be reduced for employers who are receiving both CEWS and the 10% temporary wage subsidy for small businesses (see below). It will also be reduced for employers whose employees are taking part in an EI work-sharing program.

    Refund of Certain Employer Contributions and Premiums: Employers eligible for the CEWS may also claim a refund of certain employer contributions to the Canada/Quebec Pension Plan, Employment Insurance, and the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan. The refund covers 100% of employer-paid contributions for each week throughout which employees were on leave with pay and the employer was eligible to claim the CEWS for them. Employees are considered on leave with pay throughout a week if their employer paid them for that week, but they did not do any work for the employer. Employers cannot claim the refund for employees who were on leave with pay for only part of a week.

    Employers who want to claim the refund must continue to collect and remit employer and employee contributions in the usual manner. They apply for the refund when submitting an application for the CEWS. The refund is not subject to the weekly maximum benefit of $847 per employee that an employer may claim for the CEWS. There is no overall limit on the amount of the refund that an employer may claim.

    Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers: The government will provide eligible small businesses with a temporary wage subsidy for three months. The subsidy includes the following provisions:

    • The subsidy is equal to 10% of remuneration paid to employees during a three-month period between March 18, 2020 and June 19, 2020, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.
    • Employers access the subsidy by reducing their remittances of income tax (federal and provincial/territorial) withheld from employees’ remuneration. The subsidy does not apply to Canada Pension Plan contributions or Employment Insurance premiums.
    • The CRA will allow employers to reduce future remittances after June 20, 2020 to claim the subsidy if the amount of income tax deductions in a specific pay period are not enough to offset the amount of the subsidy.
    • Eligible employers who opt not to reduce their income tax deduction remittances can claim the temporary wage subsidy later by requesting that the CRA pay it at the end of the year or transfer it to next year’s remittances.
    • Employers are eligible for the subsidy if they meet all of the following conditions:
      • they employ at least one employee in Canada;
      • they are a non-profit organization, a registered charity, an individual (other than a trust), a partnership, or a Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC) (CCPCs would only be eligible if their taxable capital employed in Canada for the preceding taxation year, calculated on an associated group basis, was less than $15 million);
      • the employer has an existing business number and payroll program account with the CRA on March 18, 2020; and
    • Employers must keep records related to the subsidy, including the number of employees paid between March 18, 2020 and June 19, 2020, the total amount of remuneration paid during that period, and the amount of income tax (federal and provincial/territorial) deducted from remuneration during that period.

    Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB): A new Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide $2,000 a month for up to four months (a maximum of 16 weeks) for workers who lose their income because of COVID-19. It replaces previously announced measures to create an Employment Care Benefit and an Emergency Support Benefit. The CERB includes the following provisions:

    • It applies to workers in a number of situations, including:
      • workers who must stop working due to COVID19 and do not have access to paid leave at work or other income support;
      • workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19;
      • working parents who have to stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or who need more care because of school and daycare closures; and
      • workers who are still employed, but who are not being paid because their employer does not have enough work for them and has asked them not to come to work.
    • The government will pay the benefit every four weeks and it will be available from March 15, 2020 and October 3, 2020.
    • To qualify, the individual must be at least 15 years old, a resident in Canada, and have had a total income of at least $5,000 last year.
    • Also to qualify, workers must have stopped working for at least 14 consecutive days due to COVID-19 in the four-week period for which they are applying for the benefit. Individuals who voluntarily quit their job will not be eligible for the benefit.
    • On April 15, 2020, the government announced changes to the eligibility rules to:
      • allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB;
      • allow seasonal workers to apply for the benefit if they have exhausted their EI regular benefits and cannot do their regular seasonal work because of COVID-19; and
      • allow workers to apply for the CERB if they have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19.

    The government has previously announced other measures to help individuals and businesses deal with challenges presented by COVID-19, including:

    • doubling the length of time that employers and workers are eligible to use a federal EI work-sharing program from 38 weeks to 76 weeks;
    • waiving a mandatory one-week waiting period for EI benefits for workers claiming sickness benefits because they are in quarantine or have been directed to self-isolate;
    • waiving a requirement for individuals who are sick, quarantined or who must stay home to care for children to provide a medical certificate to apply for the EI benefits; and
    • extending tax filing and payment due dates.
  • The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced in March a number of measures to assist individuals and businesses in the wake of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The following measures are among those announced:

    • the deadline for individuals (other than trusts) to file tax returns is extended to June 1, 2020;
    • the deadline for paying 2019 income tax balances and instalments under Part 1 of the federal Income Tax Act is extended to September 1, 2020, with no interest or penalties accumulating. Payroll remittances are not affected and regular due dates apply.
    • the agency will not require employers to comply with or remit amounts for existing Requirements to Pay on outstanding tax debts;
    • the CRA has, for the most part, suspended its audit activities;
    • it has extended the deadline for filing NR4 information returns from March 31, 2020 to May 1, 2020;
    • it has suspended objections related to tax matters filed by individuals and businesses (except for those related to individual’s entitlement to benefits and credits) and will not take any collection action;
    • it has suspended Canada Pension Plan/Employment Insurance appeals unless they relate to cases where EI benefits are pending; and
    • it has deferred Goods and Services/Harmonized Sales Tax remittances to June 30, 2020.

    For information on the measures can be found on the CRA’s website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/campaigns/covid-19-update.html

  • Canada’s Parliament has passed legislation to create job-protected leaves for quarantine and Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) for federally regulated employees.

    The measures were included in Bill C-13, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, which was tabled, passed, and received royal assent on March 25, 2020. The following labour standards amendments were among the provisions included in the bill:

    • Leave Related to COVID-19: The amendments create a new temporary leave of up to 16 weeks for employees who are unable or unavailable to work for reasons related to COVID-19.
      • The government may, through regulations under the Canada Labour Code, change the number of weeks of leave.
      • To take the leave, employees must, as soon as possible, give their employer written notice of the reason for the leave and how long they expect it to last.
      • Employers  may require employees to provide a written statement verifying why they are taking the leave. 
      • During the period of leave, employers are required to continue pension, health, and disability benefits, provided that employees continue to pay any contributions that they would normally pay. Seniority continues to accrue.
      • Employees may postpone or interrupt their vacation due to the leave. 
      • Employees may extend or interrupt their parental leave due to a leave for COVID-19.
      • Employees may interrupt leaves for compassionate care, critical illness, and the death or disappearance of a child due to a leave for COVID-19.
      • The leave will be repealed on October 1, 2020.
    • Leave for Quarantine: Beginning October 1, 2020, employees will be allowed to take a medical leave of up to 16 weeks if they are in quarantine. 
    • Suspension of medical certificates for some leaves: Until September 30, 2020, employees do not need a medical certificate to take a compassionate care leave, leave for a critical illness, or a medical leave. They are also not required to provide their employer with any documentation to take a leave related to critical illness until September 30, 2020.
  • The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has updated its website to provide more information on a new temporary wage subsidy for small businesses.

    The federal government announced the subsidy in mid-March as a way to help businesses affected by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The subsidy would be equal to 10% of remuneration paid to employees during a three-month period, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. Employers would access the subsidy by reducing their remittances of income tax withheld from employees’ remuneration. Employers eligible for the wage subsidy would include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, as well as non-profit organizations and charities.

    The CRA has clarified that the subsidy would apply on remuneration paid between March 18, 2020 and June 20, 2020. The subsidy would be for federal, provincial, territorial income tax deductions. It would not apply to Canada Pension Plan contributions or Employment Insurance premiums.

    The CRA said it would allow employers to reduce future remittances after June 20, 2020 to claim the subsidy if the amount of income tax deductions in a specific pay period were not enough to offset the amount of the subsidy.

    Eligible employers who opted not to reduce their income tax deduction remittances would be able to claim the temporary wage subsidy later by requesting that the CRA pay it at the end of year or transfer it to next year’s remittances.

    Employers who claimed the subsidy would have to keep records on it, including the number of employees paid between March 18, 2020 and June 20, 2020, the total amount of remuneration paid during that period, and the amount of income tax (federal and provincial/territorial) deducted from remuneration during that period.

    The CRA also clarified that employers would only be eligible for the subsidy if they met the following conditions:

    • the employer is a non-profit organization, registered charity, or a Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC) (CCPCs would only be eligible if their taxable capital employed in Canada for the preceding taxation year, calculated on an associated group basis, was less than $15 million);
    • the employer has an existing business number and payroll program account with the CRA on March 18, 2020; and
    • the employer pays salary, wages, bonuses, or other remuneration to an employee.

    The CRA said it soon would provide more information on how employers would have to report the subsidy.

    Employers cannot claim the subsidy if they did not pay salary, wages, bonuses, or other remuneration to employees between March 18, 2020, and June 20, 2020.

    For more information on the subsidy, see https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/campaigns/covid-19-update/frequently-asked-questions-wage-subsidy-small-businesses.html

    We will continue to follow this story and will report on further developments in upcoming releases.

  • The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced on March 23, 2020 that, effective immediately, it is temporarily suspending requirements to pay (RTPs).

    The agency sends RTPs to employers if an employee’s salary or wages are to be garnished because of an outstanding tax debt.

    To help individuals and businesses cope with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the CRA announced that, effective immediately, it would no longer send RTPs to employers.

    It also said that until further notice, employers would not be required to make remittances on RTPs currently in place. In addition, the CRA requested that employers not take any action on RTPs they receive the week of March 23, 2020 while the agency puts these measures into effect.

  • The federal government announced in mid-March a number of financial support measures for individuals and businesses affected by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The following provisions were among those included in the announcement:

    • The government would provide eligible small businesses with a temporary wage subsidy for three months. The subsidy would be equal to 10% of remuneration paid to employees during the three-month period, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. Employers would access the subsidy by reducing their remittances of income tax withheld from employees’ remuneration. Employers eligible for the wage subsidy would include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, as well as non-profit organizations and charities. 
    • The government would create a new Employment Care Benefit that would provide up to 15 weeks of benefits to certain workers (including those who are self-employed) who cannot work and who do not have paid sick leave or similar workplace accommodations. The new benefits would apply to workers who cannot work because they are quarantined or sick with COVID-19, or are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19 and they do not qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. The Employment Care Benefit would also apply to parents who need to look after their children due to school closures and who are not able to earn employment income, regardless of whether they qualify for EI benefits. The benefit payment, which the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) would administer, would provide up to $900 on a bi-weekly basis. Eligible individuals would have to apply for the benefit through the CRA. 
    • The government proposes to create a new $5-billion Emergency Support Benefit to help workers who lose their jobs or whose work hours are reduced due to COVID-19 and who are not eligible for EI. The CRA would administer the benefit. 
    • The CRA will extend the deadline for individuals (other than trusts) to file tax returns to June 1, 2020. 
    • The CRA will allow all taxpayers (including individuals and businesses) to defer, until after August 31, 2020, paying any income tax amounts (including balances due and instalments under Part 1 of the federal Income Tax Act) that become owing between March 18, 2020 and August 31, 2020. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. 
    • The CRA will not contact any small or mid-size businesses to initiate any post-assessment GST/HST or income tax audits for a four-week period (announced March 18, 2020). The agency will also temporarily suspend audit interaction with taxpayers and representatives for most businesses. 

    These measures are in addition to steps the government announced earlier to assist workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. They included waiving a mandatory one-week waiting period for EI benefits for workers claiming sickness benefits because they are in quarantine or have been directed to self-isolate, and doubling the length of time that employers and workers are eligible to use a federal work-sharing program from 38 weeks to 76 weeks. 

    We will continue to monitor this story and will report on further developments in upcoming releases.

  • In March, the federal government announced employment-related measures to help employers and employees deal with COVID-19.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a mandatory one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits would be waived for workers claiming sickness benefits because they are in quarantine or have been directed to isolate themselves.

    He also said the government would double the length of time that employers and workers are eligible to use a federal work-sharing program from 38 weeks to 76 weeks. In addition, he said the government plans to take steps to enable employers and workers to access the program as soon as possible.

    The work-sharing program is designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when an employer’s normal level of business activity is reduced due to factors beyond its control. Under the program, eligible employees temporarily work fewer hours a week while receiving EI benefits.

    More information on the work-sharing program is available at https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/work-sharing.html.

  • Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) is advising employers to contact it as soon as possible if they have implemented work arrangements to deal with Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that have affected MEP garnishee employees.

    Employers can contact the MEP by e-mail at albertamep@gov.ab.ca. In the e-mail subject line, enter MEP EMPLOYER.

    Employers may also call the MEP’s employer line at 780-422-5555 (or toll-free in Alberta by entering 310-0000 before the phone number) and follow the voice prompts. The phone line is open 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. (MDT) to 4:00 p.m. (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) and 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Wednesday).

  • The Alberta government has clarified that its new job-protected leave for Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an unpaid leave.

    When the government first announced the leave in mid-March, it said it would be a paid leave; however, amendments to the Employment Standards Regulation to include the leave state that the leave is unpaid. No reason was given for the change.

    The amended regulation includes the following requirements for the leave:

    • Employees may take 14 consecutive days of unpaid leave if they are under quarantine due to COVID-19.
    • Quarantine includes self-isolation and self-quarantine, as recommended or directed by the province’s chief medical health officer.
    • Employees are exempt from a requirement that their employer employ them for at least 90 days before taking the leave.
    • Employees taking the leave are also exempt from requirements to provide their employer with a medical certificate, give written notice of the leave, or any notice of when they plan to return to work.
    • While the period of leave is 14 consecutive days, the government may extend it, if the chief medical health officer says that is necessary to suppress COVID-19 in individuals who may have it, protect those who do not have it, and prevent its spread.
    • The leave does not affect an employee’s right to take up to 16 weeks of unpaid long-term illness and injury leave each calendar year.
    • The right to the leave is retroactive to March 5, 2020.

    The government advised that employers and employees could consider using other leaves if employees had to self-isolate. It said employees could request using their vacation pay or banked overtime for the time off, although it added that employers would not be required to agree to this, noting that employment standards rules only require employers to provide vacation pay, vacation leave, or pay banked overtime within a year of employees earning it.

    The government also said employers could ask employees to voluntarily take vacation leave and/or use their vacation pay or banked overtime; however, they cannot force them to do so.

  • The Alberta government announced in mid-March financial measures to help employers pay their workers’ compensation premiums.

    Premier Jason Kenney said the action would help employers cope with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    He announced that the province’s Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) would defer premiums for private-sector employers until early 2021. If employers have already paid their WCB premiums for 2020, they will be eligible for a rebate or a credit.

    To help small and medium businesses, Kenney also said the government would cover 50% of their WCB premiums when they are due.

    We will continue to monitor this story and will report on further developments in upcoming releases.

  • The Alberta government announced in mid-March that it would amend the province’s Employment Standards Code to allow employees who are required to self-isolate or who are caring for a loved one with COVID-19 to take 14 days of paid job-protected leave to cover the self-isolation period that Alberta’s chief medical officer of health has recommended.

    The government said there would be no requirement for employees to have a medical note for the leave or for them to have worked for their employer for at least 90 days to qualify for it.

    We will continue to monitor this story and will report on further developments in upcoming releases.

  • Health Insurance BC (HIBC) has temporarily discontinued producing and distributing employee record cards for the province’s Medical Services Plan (MSP) to help protect employees’ personal information during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    It did not specify a date for when it would resume producing and distributing the cards. In a statement on its website, HIBC said it would continue to provide confirmation of any changes to an employer’s MSP Group Plan membership through a monthly Group Account Change Summary letter. Employers who require a listing of all of their MSP Group Plan members can receive one by sending a written request to HIBC. 

    HIBC advised that employers can continue to submit new group changes and cancellations using existing paper forms, available on its website at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/health-forms/msp/forms-for-group-plan-administrators.  It also said  employers could use its MSP Direct online service to update and monitor their plan membership.

    HIBC also advised employers to ensure that they provide it with an up-to-date address for MSP Group Plan correspondence if they have alternative or remote working arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • On May 4, 2020, the British Columbia government announced that it had extended the maximum period for a temporary layoff to 16 weeks for layoffs directly related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Normally under the Employment Standards Act, a temporary layoff becomes a permanent layoff if it lasts longer than 13 weeks in a 20-week period. When a layoff becomes permanent, employers are required to give employees written notice of the termination and/or pay wages in lieu of notice based on the employee’s length of service.

    For layoffs caused in total or in part by the province’s COVID-19 emergency, employers can extend a temporary layoff of non-unionized employees to 16 weeks in a 20-week period without it becoming a termination. A “COVID-19 emergency” refers to a notice provided by the provincial health officer of March 17, 2020 and to the province’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 18, 2020 and any extension of the declaration.

    The provincial government said it made the change to give employers and employees more flexibility and to align the province’s layoff rules with a new federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides $2,000 a month for up to 16 weeks for workers who have lost their income because of COVID-19.

    Other temporary layoffs are not affected by the change.

    The government said the extension to 16 weeks would not be permanent and would be repealed when no longer needed.

  • WorkSafeBC announced on March 26, 2020 that it would postpone reporting and premium payment deadlines for the first quarter of 2020 for employers in an effort to help them cope with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Employers who report and pay premiums quarterly have until June 30, 2020, instead of April 30,  to pay their first quarter premiums, with no penalties. Employers who wish to pay before then may do so using WorkSafeBC’s online services.

    Employers who report and pay premiums annually are not required to report their 2020 payroll or pay their 2020 premiums until March 2021.

    WorkSafeBC is also allowing individuals with personal optional protection coverage to defer paying their premiums until June 30, 2020, instead of April 20, without risking their coverage being cancelled or their clearance status being negatively affected. 

  • The British Columbia government has implemented two new job-protected leaves for workers covered under the province’s Employment Standards Act.

    The measures were included in Bill 16, the Employment Standards Amendment Act (No. 2), 2020, which was tabled, passed and received royal assent on March 23, 2020. The government amended the Employment Standards Act in an effort to help workers affected by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Among the amendments in the bill are the following provisions:

    Illness or Injury Leave: A new Illness or Injury leave allows eligible employees to take up to three days off work, without pay, each employment year for a personal illness or injury. 

    • To be eligible for the leave, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 90 consecutive days. 
    • If an employer requests it, employees taking the leave must, as soon as practicable, give their employer sufficient proof that they are entitled to the leave.

    Covid-19-related Leave: A new leave related to COVID-19 allows eligible employees to take an unpaid leave from work. The leave includes the following provisions:

    • Employees are entitled to the leave for the following reasons:
      • they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are following the instructions or an order from a medical health officer or the advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse;
      • they are in quarantine or self-isolation under an order from the provincial health officer, under the federal Quarantine Act, or under guidelines from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control or the Public Health Agency of Canada;
      • their employer has directed them not to work due to concern about spreading the virus;
      • they are providing care to an eligible person, including care related to the closure of a school or a daycare or a similar facility;
      • they are outside British Columbia and cannot return because of travel or border restrictions; or
      • they are covered under a situation set out in regulations under the Employment Standards Act relating to the leave.
    • There is no maximum period of leave. It applies for as long as the circumstances listed above apply.
    • An eligible person includes:
      • a minor child who is under the employee’s day-to-day care and control under an agreement or court order or because the employee is the child’s parent or guardian;
      • a person who is 19 years of age or older and who is not able, because of illness, disability or another reason, to obtain the necessities of life or withdraw from the charge of their parent or former guardian, and who is under the day-to-day care and control of the employee, who is the person’s parent or former guardian; and
      • a person prescribed in regulations under the Employment Standards Act.
    • Employers may ask employees to provide “reasonably sufficient proof” that they are entitled to the leave; however, they are prohibited from requesting that the employee provide a note from a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, or a registered nurse. Employees must provide the proof as soon as it is practicable to do so.
    • The leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020.
    • Transitional provisions require employers to re-employ workers they terminated between January 27, 2020 and March 23, 2020 because they took time off work for one of the reasons listed earlier for which employees may take COVID-19 leave. They must reinstate the employee in the same job or in a comparable one. If employees are re-employed, their absence following the termination will be considered a leave related to COVID-19. The reinstatement requirement does not apply if the situation that applied to the employee when they took the leave was one that was prescribed in regulations after the amendments came into force. 

    The Ministry of Labour said the new illness/injury leave is a permanent addition to the Employment Standards Act, while the leave related to COVID-19 is a temporary measure that will be repealed when it is no longer needed.

  • The British Columbia government announced on March 23, 2020 that, effective immediately, it would allow businesses to defer their Employer Health Tax (EHT) payments until September 30, 2020.

    Premier John Horgan said the measure would help employers facing challenges connected with Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    He also announced that the government was extending tax filing and payment deadlines for the provincial sales tax and other B.C. taxes.

  • The Manitoba government announced on May 29, 2020 that it had extended the due for Health and Post Secondary Education Tax Levy remittances to mid July for small and mid-size businesses to help them deal with financial challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Employers with monthly remittances of no more than $10,000 a month that would normally be due April 15, May 15, and June 15 now have until July 15, 2020 to remit them. Previously, the government extended the due date for the April and May remittances to mid June; however, Finance Minister Scott Fielding said a further extension was needed as businesses continue to face economic challenges.

    With the extension, the government will not levy late-filing penalties and interest against businesses eligible for extension that were unable to file and remit their annual return by March 16, 2020, as long as they submit it by July 15, 2020. Interest will continue to apply on all outstanding amounts prior to the March remittances deadlines.

    Fielding also announced a similar measure for retail sales tax remittances.

  • The Manitoba Workers Compensation Board (WCB) has announced that it will not charge employers interest and/or penalties on unpaid assessments until October 2020.

    The measure is one of a number of initiatives that the WCB has undertaken to help businesses facing challenges because of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In March, the board extended the deadline for paying and reporting employer assessment premiums until the end of May 2020. It also announced that it would allow employers to submit revised 2020 payroll estimates if there is a significant change in their payroll compared to what they reported and that it would adjust their premiums accordingly.

    “Given the uncertainty of how long the pandemic will last, making a premium payment on time could still be difficult. The WCB will continue to monitor the situation and timeframes will change accordingly,” said the WCB in a statement.

  • The Manitoba Workers Compensation Board (WCB) announced on April 21, 2020 that it would return approximately $37 million in surplus funds to eligible employers to help them deal with financial challenges posed by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The board said it would provide the refund to employers in May in the form of a credit to the WCB accounts of eligible employers. The credit would be based on 20% of an employer’s 2019 premium. To be eligible for the credit, employers must have fulfilled their payroll reporting responsibilities for 2019 and paid a WCB premium in 2019. The WCB said employers could still report their 2019 payroll to receive the surplus distribution.

    The surplus refund is in addition to other measures that the WCB has previously announced to help employers, including deferring premium payments until the end of May, not charging interest and/or penalties for non-payment until October, and extending the deadline for payroll reporting deadline to the end of May.

  • The Manitoba government has implemented a temporary job-protected leave for employees who cannot work due to circumstances related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The new Public Health Emergency Leave was included in Bill 55, The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act, which received royal assent on April 15, 2020. The leave applies to employees who are covered by the province’s Employment Standards Code. It includes the following provisions:

    • Employees may take time off work, without pay, if they cannot work for the following reasons:
      • they are in quarantine, isolation, or self-isolation because of guidance or directives that public health authorities have issued related to COVID-19;
      • they are under medical examination, supervision, or treatment related to COVID-19;
      • they must comply with an order made under The Emergency Measures Act or The Public Health Act as a result of COVID-19;
      • they are providing care or support to a family member as a result of COVID-19, including care or support needed because of school and daycare closures;
      • their employer has told them not to work due to concerns about their exposure to others; or
      • they are directly affected by travel restrictions and cannot reasonably be expected to travel to their workplace.
    • There is no minimum period that employees must work for their employer to be eligible for the leave.
    • There is no maximum period of leave. It applies for as long as the circumstances listed above apply.
    • The provisions apply retroactively to March 1, 2020.
    • The leave will be in effect until a date that will be set out in regulations under the Code once the pandemic is over.
    • Employees who plan to take the leave must give their employer as much notice as is reasonably practicable in the circumstances.
    • Employers can require employees to give them enough detail to show that they qualify for the leave, but they are prohibited from requesting that employees provide a physician’s certificate or a medical certificate for the leave.
    • During the COVID-19 outbreak (from March 1, 2020), employers are also prohibited from requesting that employees provide a physician’s certificate or a medical certificate for maternity leave, compassionate care leave, organ donation leave, critical illness leave, and long-term leave for a serious injury or illness.
    • Employers must keep all information related to the leave confidential unless disclosure is required by law, the employee has given consent for the disclosure, or the employer discloses the information to others in the workplace who need the information to carry out their job duties.
    • The employee’s employment is considered continuous during the leave. When the leave is over, employers must reinstate employees in their job or in a comparable one with at least the same wages and benefits.
    • Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees who take the leave or from disciplining them or terminating their employment because they took the leave. 
  • The Manitoba government has temporarily changed the rules for temporary layoffs, giving employers more time to recall laid-off employees. The measure is in response to challenges that employers and employees are facing with Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Normally, the province’s Employment Standards Regulation considers a temporary layoff to be no more than eight weeks in a 16-week period. If employees remain laid off after the eight weeks, the temporary layoff becomes a termination, with wages in lieu of notice requirements.

    In late March, the government amended the regulations to exclude layoff periods that fall between March 1, 2020 and the date that the province ends its state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic from the weeks used to determine if a layoff exceeds eight weeks in a 16-week period.

    “We recognize these unique circumstances may require a longer layoff period than regulation allows, so these amendments would stop the clock until the state of emergency is lifted and keep employers in a position to quickly recall laid-off employees and ramp up business again,” said Finance Minister Scott Fielding in announcing the change.

  • The Manitoba Workers Compensation Board (WCB) announced in late March that it would extend the deadline for paying and reporting employer assessment premiums until the end of May 2020 to help employers facing challenges because of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Besides extending due dates, the WCB said it would waive late payment penalties until further notice. It will also allow employers to submit revised 2020 payroll estimates if there is a significant change in their payroll compared to what they reported and it will adjust their premiums accordingly.

    The WCB advises employers who want to revise their payroll to send the board an e-mail (assessmentservices@wcb.mb.ca) with their account number and their changed payroll.

    “Given the uncertainty of how long the pandemic will last, making a premium payment after May 2020 could still be difficult. The WCB will continue to monitor the situation and timeframes will change accordingly. Rest assured that if your business requires additional time to make a payment, we will work with you to discuss alternate payment options or deferring future pre-authorized payments,” said the WCB in a statement.

  • The Manitoba government announced on March 22, 2020 that it would give employers up to two extra months to remit their Health and Post Secondary Education Tax Levy remittances.

    Finance Minister Scott Fielding said the extension would help businesses affected by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Under the measure, small and mid-size employers with monthly remittances of no more than $10,000 that would normally be due on April 15 and May 15 will now be due on June 15, 2020.

    In addition, the government will not levy late-filing penalties and interest against businesses eligible for extension that were unable to file and remit their annual return by March 16, 2020, as long as they submit it by June 15, 2020. Interest will continue to apply on all outstanding amounts prior to the March remittances deadlines.

    Fielding also announced a similar measure for retail sales tax remittances.

  • On April 28, 2020, the New Brunswick government implemented regulations under the Employment Standards Act that allow for a new job-protected leave for COVID-19.

    The government created the leave to help employees affected by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Beginning March 12, 2020, eligible employees are entitled to take time off work, without pay, for COVID-19 Emergency Leave if:

    • they are under individual medical investigation, supervision, or treatment related to COVID-19;
    • they are off work in relation to an order under the Public Health Act pertaining to COVID-19;
    • they are in quarantine or isolation or are subject to a control measure (which may include self-isolation) related to COVID-19 that a medical officer of health, a medical practitioner, a nurse practitioner, a nurse, Tele-Care, the provincial or federal government or a local government issued or provided to the public or to one or more individuals;
    • their employer directed them not to work out of concern that they might expose others in the workplace to COVID-19;
    • they are providing care or support to an individual with whom they are in a close family relationship because of a matter related to COVID-19 that concerns that individual, including school or early learning and childcare facility closures; or
    • they are directly affected by travel restrictions related to COVID-19 and cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to the province.

    Employees who plan to take the leave must notify their employer as soon as possible. The notice must include the reason for the leave (with reference to one or more of the bullets listed above), the date they plan to begin the leave, and how long they expect to be off work.

    Employees who began their leave between March 12, 2020 and April 27, 2020 (the day before the regulations came into force) are required to notify their employer in writing as soon as possible of the reason for the leave and how long they expect to be off.

    Employers are prohibited from requesting that employees provide any certificate or other proof from a medical practitioner, a nurse practitioner, a nurse, or any other person to verify that they cannot work due to COVID-19.

    There is no prescribed maximum length for the leave. It ends on a date on which the employer and the employee agree, the date on which the reason for taking the leave no longer exists, or on the date that regulations allowing for the leave are repealed, whichever comes first.

    Employees may extend the leave if they notify their employer that the reason they took the leave still applies or that another reason (with reference to one or more of the bullets listed above) now exists.

    Employees are allowed to interrupt or delay their annual vacation in order to take the leave.

    As with other leaves under the Employment Standards Act, employees’ seniority continues to accrue during the leave and their employment is considered continuous. When the leave is over, employees must be reinstated in the same position or in a similar one, without loss of seniority, and at least the same wages and benefits.

    Employers may not dismiss, suspend, lay off, or otherwise terminate the employment of an employee who takes the leave for reasons related solely to the leave.

    Employers are required to keep all documents related to the leave confidential and are prohibited from disclosing the information to anyone unless the employee gives written consent, the disclosure is authorized or required by law, or the disclosure is made to an officer, an employee, or an agent who needs the information to do their job.

    The new regulations follow recent amendments to the Act that authorized the government to create an emergency leave if it is necessary where there is a state of emergency, a public welfare emergency, a public order emergency, an international emergency or a war emergency; an order is issued under the federal Quarantine Act; or there is a notifiable public health disease, a notifiable public health event, or any other threat to public health. 

  • New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs announced on March 26, 2020 that his government would table legislative and regulatory amendments to provide a job-protected leave for employees who must take time off work due to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The proposed unpaid leave would allow workers to take up to 15 weeks off work if they have COVID-19 or are caring for someone with it.

    We will continue to monitor this story and will report on further developments in upcoming releases.

  • New Brunswick’s workers’ compensation body, WorkSafeNB, announced on March 20, 2020 that it would defer employer assessment premiums for March, April, and May without interest charges to help business cope with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The temporary measure applies to employers who pay their workers’ compensation premiums monthly.

    We will continue to follow this story and will report on further developments in upcoming releases.

  • Newfoundland and Labrador’s workers’ compensation body has extended employer assessment due dates for 2020 payrolls from June 30, 2020 until September 2020 to help employers cope with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    WorkplaceNL said in a May 21, 2020 statement that the deferral would automatically apply to all payment plans and post-dated cheques. During the deferral period, it is also waiving interest charges and penalties. WorkplaceNL also advised employers to revise their 2020 payroll estimates, if necessary, during the deferral period.

    WorkplaceNL also announced that it has extended its interest-free payment plan past 2020 to allow employers to pay by installments from September 2020 to March 31, 2021. Employers who need other payment arrangements are advised to contact WorkplaceNL.

    We have updated 22.5.2, Employer Assessments, to include a note about the deferral.

  • The Newfoundland and Labrador government announced on April 29, 2020, that it would provide compensation to private-sector employers who continued to pay employees who had to self-isolate for 14-days due to travel restrictions related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The compensation applies whether the employees travelled for personal or business reasons.

    Under the program, eligible employers could receive up to $500 per week for each affected employee. The provincial Finance Department said amounts paid to employers new federal wage subsidy programs would reduce the amount of provincial compensation. Combined provincial and federal funding could allow employers to receive a maximum of $1,000 per week for each employee.

    (The federal government is providing compensation to employers through two wage subsidy programs. The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy provides employers affected by COVID-19 with a wage subsidy of up to 75% of the amount of wages paid, to a maximum of $847 per week per employee. The Temporary Wage Subsidy provides eligible employers with a reduction in payroll remittances of 10% of eligible salaries, up to a maximum of $1,375 per eligible employee and $25,000 per employer for a three-month period.)

    The provincial compensation will include reimbursement for statutory deductions paid for the period being claimed. Other expenses that employers or employees incurred to prepare for COVID-19, such as travel costs, will not be reimbursed.

    To qualify for the provincial compensation, the Finance Department said employers must meet the following criteria:

    • They should apply for federal funding.
    • Reimbursement is only for employees who are residents of Newfoundland and Labrador for pay between the period when they were scheduled to return to work and the end of their 14-day isolation period.
    • For international travel, employees must have departed no later than March 14, 2020 and must have returned to Newfoundland and Labrador on or after March 14, 2020. For interprovincial travel, employees must have departed no later than March 20, 2020 and returned to the province on or after March 20.
    • Employers with employees who work part-time or do shift work, but who were not scheduled to work during the isolation period due to the timing of when the schedule was set, can apply for compensation based on the average weekly hours the employees worked in the preceding month. Proof of the prior compensation is required.

    The Finance Department also provided the following information on situations where employers would not be eligible for the provincial compensation:

    • The employee was/is able to work from home while in isolation. Employers will not be compensated for employees working during their period of self-isolation.
    • The employee is/was scheduled to use vacation or leave days during the self-isolation period. Employees must use this leave or any other special leave with pay that is available before applying for the program.
    • Compensation is only provided for individuals who have travelled and were self-isolating, not for others in the household.
    • Any individual who falls ill or is diagnosed with COVID-19 after the 14-day self-isolation period will be required to follow their regular sick leave arrangement with their employer, or apply for the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) program.
    • If an individual reported to work prior to the requirement to self-isolate (i.e. on or before March 14, 2020 or March 20, 2020), and subsequently started exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms within 14 days of the travel, their salary is not eligible for the program.

    When applying, employers must provide supporting documentation (the government will accept copies of the documentation) for each employee, including:

    • payroll registers or pay stubs/remittances substantiating the employee’s gross pay, employer and employee deductions, and net pay for both the period being claimed, as well as the prior period;
    • shift schedules, timecard system, and leave request records validating the employee’s work schedule and leave taken for period being claimed; and
    • travel itineraries, boarding passes, or stamped passports to confirm travel outside of the province during the travel coverage period.

    If an employee has multiple employers, the provincial reimbursement is limited to one 14-day period per employer. The maximum payable to multiple employers with the same employee is $500 per week in provincial funding.

    Employers must submit their applications to the provincial Finance Department within three months of the date the employee returned from international or interprovincial travel to Newfoundland and Labrador. If the department approves the application, it will make the payment by direct deposit.

    In a news release, the government advised that employers should be aware that funding under the program could be considered government assistance for purposes of corporate income tax and other programs.

    Eligibility for the program will end when the province’s chief medical officer of health ends Newfoundland and Labrador’s mandatory self-isolation order.

    For more information on the program, see https://www.gov.nl.ca/fin/employer-compensation-for-workers-in-self-isolation-due-to-covid-19-travel-restrictions/

  • The Newfoundland and Labrador government announced on April 7, 2020 that it would extend the deadline for filing and remitting tax amounts for a number of business taxes to June 23, 2020 to help organizations dealing with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax is one of the taxes covered by the extension.

    With the exception of tax returns required from interjurisdictional carriers, the government said all tax returns covered under its Revenue Administration Act that would otherwise be due between March 20, 2020 and May 31, 2020, are now due June 23, 2020. Monthly filers may also extend the filing and remittance of tax amounts for the February, March and April 2020 reporting periods to June 23, 2020.

    The government said that businesses may continue to file during the extension period if they choose to do so. Those who do should submit their tax returns via email to taxreturn@gov.nl.ca or fax to 709-729-2856. To set up electronic funds transfer, wire payment, or e-file payment options, email taxadmin@gov.nl.ca or call 709-729-6297 (toll free 1-877-729-6376). Businesses may also submit returns via mail or by using a drop-off box in the East Block of the Confederation Building in St. John’s.

    The government said that businesses unable to make a payment when due, file a return on time, or otherwise comply with their tax obligations can request that the Finance Department waive or reduce penalty and interest charges. To do so, businesses should send a written request to taxadmin@gov.nl.ca. In the request, they should provide proof of how COVID-19 prevented them from complying with the tax requirements. In the subject line of the e-mail, enter “Remission Request (COVID-19).” 

  • The Newfoundland and Labrador government has created a new job-protected leave for employees covered under the Labour Standards Act.

    The measure was included in Bill 33, the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Act, which was tabled, passed and received royal assent on March 26, 2020, with the provisions affecting labour standards applying retroactively to March 14, 2020.

    The government said it introduced the legislation in an effort to support individuals and businesses coping with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The new Communicable Disease and Emergency Leave allows employees to take time off work, without pay, if they cannot work for the following reasons:

    • they are under individual medical investigation, supervision, or treatment for a designated communicable disease;
    • they are following an order under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act related to a designated communicable disease;
    • they are in isolation or quarantine or are subject to a control measure, including self-isolation, and the quarantine, isolation, or control measure stems from information or directions related to a designated communicable disease from the province’s chief medical health officer or the provincial government;
    • their employer has directed them not to work out of concern that they may expose other individuals in the workplace to a designated communicable disease;
    • they are providing care or support to a family member for a reason related to a designated communicable disease that concerns that family member, including a school or child care service closure;
    • they are directly affected by travel restrictions related to a designated communicable disease and, under the circumstances, cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to the province; and
    • other reasons set out in regulations under the Labour Standards Act.

    Family members include the following individuals:

    • the employee’s spouse;
    • a parent, step-parent, or foster parent of the employee or the employee’s spouse;
    • a child, step-child, or foster child of the employee or the employee’s spouse;
    • a child who is under legal guardianship of the employee or the employee’s spouse;
    • the employee’s brother, step-brother, sister, or step-sister;
    • a grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild, or step-grandchild of the employee or the employee’s spouse;
    • the employee’s brother-in-law, step-brother-in-law, sister-in-law, or step-sister-in-law;
    • a son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the employee or the employee’s spouse; and
    • any individual prescribed in the regulations as a family member for the leave.

    Employers may require employees to provide reasonable evidence, at a time that is reasonable, that they are entitled to the leave; however, they are prohibited from requiring that employees provide a certificate from a medical practitioner or a nurse practitioner.

    Employees may take the leave beginning on the date set out in regulations under the Labour Standards Act. They may remain on leave for as long as they are not carrying out their job duties for the reasons listed earlier and the communicable disease remains designated under the regulations.

    Employers are prohibited from dismissing an employee or giving the employee notice of termination because the employee intends to the take the leave, applies to take it, or takes it. If an employer terminates an employee’s employment, it will be up to the employer to show that the dismissal was not related to the leave.

    Once the leave is over, employers must reinstate employees on terms and conditions that are no less beneficial than those that were in place before the leave.

    The period of time that the employee is on the leave does not count for the purposes of calculating the employee’s length of service for vacation entitlement, notice of termination or other rights under the Labour Standards Act unless the employer and the employee agree otherwise. Once the employee returns to work, the period worked after the leave will be considered continuous with the period the employee worked before taking the leave.

    Regulations under the Labour Standards Act may exempt certain employees from the leave.

  • On April 1, 2020, the territory’s Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) suspended late payment interest charges and extended the deadline for employer assessment payments to August 1, 2020.

    The WSCC said it made the changes to help employers who cannot pay their assessment payments because of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The commission had previously extended the deadline for paying assessments from April 1, 2020 to May 1, 2020.

    With the change, the WSCC said currently registered employers can move to two equal instalments paid in August 2020 and October 2020. It also advised employers who have made staffing changes as a result of COVID-19 to submit a revised payroll estimate for 2020 as soon as possible.

    Despite the extension, the WSCC said employers who do not need an extension should continue with their planned payment schedule.

    The financial relief measures do not apply to the Northwest Territories government. It remains on a schedule of four instalment payments.

  • The Northwest Territories government announced on March 31, 2020 that it would waive interest charges on all late Payroll Tax returns between March 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020 to help employers facing financial challenges due to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

  • Nova Scotia’s Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) has further deferred employer premium payments until October 2020 to help employers cope with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    In March, the board announced that it would defer the payments until July 2020.

    As part of the most recent deferral, the WCB said it would not charge penalties or interest on outstanding amounts until October 2020.

    The board also announced in late May that the costs of workplace injury claims for front-line workers who contract COVID-19 would not affect their employer’s industry rate or experience rating. Instead, the WCB said the costs would be spread over the board’s entire employer base.

  • Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced in mid-March that employers cannot require a doctor’s note from employees who must be off work.

    The measure was one of a number of health-related steps that the government took to try to prevent the spread of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    McNeil did not say how long the measure would be in effect.

  • The province’s Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) announced in mid-March that it would allow employers to defer paying their WCB premiums until July 2020 to help employers cope with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The WCB said it would not charge penalties or interest on outstanding amounts until further notice.

  • On April 1, 2020, the territory’s Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) suspended late payment interest charges and extended the deadline for employer assessment payments to August 1, 2020.

    The WSCC said it made the changes to help employers who cannot pay their assessment payments because of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The commission had previously extended the deadline for paying assessments from April 1, 2020 to May 1, 2020.

    With the change, the WSCC said currently registered employers can move to two equal instalments paid in August 2020 and October 2020. It also advised employers who have made staffing changes as a result of COVID-19 to submit a revised payroll estimate for 2020 as soon as possible.

    Despite the extension, the WSCC said employers who do not need an extension should continue with their planned payment schedule.

    The financial relief measures do not apply to the Nunavut government. It remains on a schedule of four instalment payments.

  • The Nunavut government has recommended that employers in the territory waive requirements for employees to provide sick notes if they are off work.

    In mid-March, amidst an outbreak of COVID-19 across Canada, the territorial government said that health units in Nunavut would no longer issue sick notes. The government has waived the sick-note requirement for its employees

  • On May 29, 2020, the Ontario government enacted a new regulation that will automatically put non-unionized employees on an infectious disease emergency leave if their employer reduces or eliminates their work hours due to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Labour, Training and Skills Development Minister Monte McNaughton said the measure would ensure that employers are not forced to terminate the employment of workers after mandated temporary layoff periods end.

    Under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, a temporary layoff is a period not exceeding 13 weeks in any 20 consecutive week period.

    It can also be a period of more than 13 weeks in any 20-consecutive-week period, provided that the layoff is less than 35 weeks in any period of 52 consecutive weeks and the employer continues to pay the employee and/or makes payments to the employee’s benefit plan.

    It can also be a period of more than 13 weeks in any 20-consecutive -week period where the layoff is less than 35 weeks in any period of 52 consecutive weeks and the employee receives Supplemental Unemployment Benefit plan payments or is entitled to, but does not because they are employed elsewhere during the layoff, or where the employer recalls the employee within a time fixed by the director of Employment Standards or within a timeframe set out in an agreement with a non-unionized employee.

    Temporary layoffs that exceed those parameters become a termination, with employer required to pay termination pay/pay in lieu of notice calculated from the beginning of the temporary layoff.

    Under the new regulation, employees whose work hours have been temporarily reduced or eliminated because of COVID-19 during the COVID-19 period will not be considered to have been laid off, but instead to be on an infectious disease emergency leave during the time that they do not work because their hours are reduced or eliminated. The COVID-19 period applies from March 1, 2020 to six weeks after the provincial government ends the declared emergency for COVID-19.

    The government created infectious disease emergency leave in March (making it retroactive to January 25, 2020) to provide a job-protected leave for employees who cannot work for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The leave lasts for as long as the employee is not working for the specified reasons and the infectious disease remains designated as an emergency. Employers are not required to pay employees during the leave.

    Under the new regulation, employees whose work hours are reduced or eliminated because of COVID-19 during the emergency period are not covered under provisions in the Act dealing with temporary layoffs and severance. An exception applies for severance if the employee’s employment is terminated because the employer permanently closed. The exemption does not apply to terminations where an employer laid off an employee for a period longer than the period of a temporary lay-off or to severance where an employer laid off the employee for 35 weeks or more in any period of 52 consecutive weeks and this occurred before May 29, 2020.

    The new rule covering reductions in hours and/or wages and infectious disease emergency leave does not apply to employees who are represented by a trade union.

    The new regulation also stipulates that employees will not be deemed to be on leave if their employment was terminated because they were dismissed, lost their job because their employer permanently closed, or resigned after receiving termination notice on or after March 1, 2020, or if they were constructively dismissed and resigned afterwards or were laid off for more than 35 weeks in a 52-week period before May 29, 2020.

    In addition, if an employer had already given an employee written notice of termination, the employee will not be considered to be on infectious disease leave unless the employer and the employee agree to withdraw the termination notice.

    The new regulation also includes the following provisions:

    • It provides rules for determining if an employee’s hours or wages have been reduced:
      •  Under the regulation, work hours are considered reduced if an employee who works a regular work week works fewer hours in the work week than they worked in the last regular work week before March 1, 2020. If employees were on vacation, suspended, not able to work, not available for work, or not provided with work because of a strike or a lock-out for any of part of the last work week before March 1, 2020, employers must use the last regular work week before that date when those conditions did not apply in their calculation.
      • For employees who do not work a regular work week, hours are reduced if they work fewer hours in the work week than the average number of hours they worked per week in the 12 consecutive work weeks before March 1, 2020. If the employees were on vacation, suspended, not able to work, not available for work, or not provided with work because of a strike or a lock-out for any of part of a work week in the 12-week period, employers must exclude that work week from their calculation.
      • For employees not employed during the entire work week before March 1, 2020, hours are reduced if they work fewer hours in the work week than they worked in the work week in which they had the greatest number of hours.
      • Similar rules apply for determining if an employee’s wages are reduced.
    • It clarifies that if an employer temporarily reduces or eliminates employees’ hours of work or temporarily lowers their wages because of COVID-19, the actions do not constitute constructive dismissal if the employer carried them out during the COVID-19 period. An exception applies to constructive dismissals before May 29, 2020 where the employee resigned within a reasonable period after the employer reduces or eliminates their hours or lowers their wages.
    • Despite the fact that the Act requires employers to continue contributing to employee benefit plans while employees are on a leave of absence, the new regulations exempt employers from this obligation during the COVID-19 period for employees deemed to be on an infectious disease emergency leave because their work hours were reduced or eliminated due to COVD-19, provided that the employer was not, as of May 29, 2020, contributing to the plan for them.
    • The new regulations also exempt employees on a deemed infectious disease emergency leave because of reduced/eliminated hours stemming from COVID-19 from the Act’s requirement that employees on any leave continue to take part in employment benefit plans unless they notify the employer in writing that they have opted out. This exemption applies if the employees stopped taking part in their employer’s benefits plan as of May 29, 2020.
  • The Ontario government announced on March 25, 2020 that it would temporarily raise the threshold for the province’s Employer Health Tax (EHT) from $490,000 to $1 million for 2020 to help employers facing challenges from Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The change means that, retroactive to January 1, 2020, the first $1 million of total annual Ontario payroll is exempt from the EHT. On January 1, 2021, the government will revert to the previous $490,000 threshold. The tax rates for the EHT remain unchanged in 2020.

    The threshold increase does not apply to private-sector employers and associated groups of employers with an annual Ontario payroll in excess of $5 million, since they are already not eligible for a payroll exemption.

    Registered charities with two or more qualifying charity campuses can claim the $1 million exemption for each qualifying charity campus for 2020.

    Employers who pay the EHT in instalments will not have to begin paying the tax in 2020 until their annual payroll exceeds $1 million. Employers (excluding associated employers) who end up not owing any EHT in 2020 because of the exemption increase will not have to file an EHT return for the year.

    Employers who overpay their EHT during the year because of the change in the exemption threshold are allowed to claim a refund or decrease an instalment payment before December 2020 to adjust for the overpayment. Overpayments can also be carried forward to the next year. If employers do not request a refund, the ministry will automatically carry forward the overpayment.

    The ministry has also announced that it will provide five months of interest and penalty relief for businesses on any returns they file late and on any incomplete or late tax payments for a number of provincially administered taxes, including the Employer Health Tax. 

  • In its Economic and Fiscal Update on March 25, 2020, the Ontario government announced the following measures to help businesses affected by the challenges of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19):

    • The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will allow employers to defer payments for six months. Schedule 1 employers with premiums owed to the WSIB may defer reporting and payments until August 31, 2020. The deferral also applies to Schedule 2 businesses that pay the WSIB for the cost related to their workplace injury and illness claims. The WSIB will also not charge interest or penalties on outstanding premium payments during the six-month deferral period.
    • The government will provide five months of interest and penalty relief for businesses on any returns they file late and on any incomplete or late tax payments for a number of provincially administered taxes, including the Employer Health Tax.

    For more information on the proposed measures, go to https://budget.ontario.ca/2020/marchupdate/action-plan.html.

  • Ontario’s Legislative Assembly passed legislation in mid-March to create a new job-protected leave under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 to help employees dealing with the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

    The amendments were included in Bill 186, the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020, which was tabled on March 19, 2020 and received royal assent the same day. The changes apply retroactively to January 25, 2020.

    The following measures are among those included in the bill:

    • A new infectious disease emergency leave is created as part of the Act`s emergency leave provisions. It requires employers to ensure job-protected leave for workers who cannot work for the following reasons:
      • the employee is under medical investigation, supervision, or treatment for a designated infectious disease (in this case COVID-19);
      • the employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act that relates to a designated infectious disease (in this case COVID-19);
      • the employee is in isolation, or quarantine in accordance with public health information or direction related to a designated infectious disease (in this case COVID-19);
      • the employer directs the employee not to work to prevent spread of a designated infectious disease (in this case COVID-19) in the workplace;
      • the employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to a designated infectious disease (in this case COVID-19), such as a school or day-care closure;
      • the employees is not able to return to Ontario because of travel restrictions related to a designated infectious disease (in this case COVID-19); and
      • for other reasons that may be prescribed in regulations under the Employment Standards Act, 2000.
    • There is no requirement for employers to pay employees for the time off.
    • The amendments allow employees to take infectious disease emergency leave to care for the following family members:
      • the employee's spouse;
      • a parent, step-parent, or foster parent of the employee or the employee's spouse;
      • a child, step-child, or foster child of the employee or the employee's spouse;
      • a child who is under legal guardianship of the employee or the employee's spouse;  
      • a brother, step-brother, sister or step-sister of the employee;
      • a grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or the employee's spouse;  
      • a brother-in-law, step-brother-in-law, sister-in-law or step-sister-in-law of the employee;
      • a son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the employee or the employee's spouse;
      • an uncle or aunt of the employee or the employee's spouse;
      • a nephew or niece of the employee or the employee's spouse;
      • the spouse of the employee's grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece;
      • a person who considers the employee to be like a family member, provided the prescribed conditions, if any, are met; and
      • any individual prescribed in regulations under the Act as a family member for infectious disease emergency leave.
    • The period of leave will last for as long as the employee is not working for the reasons listed earlier and the infectious disease is designated as an emergency.
    • Employees taking the leave are not required to provide a sick note; however, employers may require employees to provide reasonable evidence of the need for the leave (e.g., cancelled flight), at a time that is reasonable in the circumstances.

    Premier Doug Ford said the measures will remain in place until “this disease is defeated.”

  • Premier Doug Ford announced in mid-March that the Ontario government would table legislation to protect the jobs of employees who have to take an unpaid leave related to COVID-19.

    He said amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 would include measures requiring employers to ensure job-protected leave for workers for the following reasons:

    • the employee is under medical investigation, supervision, or treatment for COVID-19;
    • the employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act;
    • the employee is in isolation or quarantine;
    • the employee is acting in accordance with public health information or direction;
    • the employer directs the employee not to work; and
    • the employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19, such as a school or day-care closure.

    The amendments would not include a requirement for employers to pay employees for the time off.

    In addition, Ford said the legislation would remove a requirement for employees to provide a sick note for a leave related to COVID-19.

    Ford said the measures would be retroactive to January 25, 2020 and would apply until “this disease is defeated.”

    We will continue to follow this story and will report on further developments in upcoming releases.

  • The Prince Edward Island government has tabled legislation that would allow employees to take time off work, without pay, for emergency leave.

    The measure was included in Bill 38, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act (No. 3), which passed first reading on May 26, 2020. If the legislation passes all three readings and receives royal assent, it will take effect retroactively on March 16, 2020.

    The proposed Emergency Leave would allow employees to take time off work if they could not perform their duties because of an emergency. An emergency would include an emergency declared under the province’s Emergency Measures Act or Public Health Act or under the federal Emergencies Act, a direction or an order from a public health officer or the chief public health officer, a quarantine order under the federal Quarantine Act, or in circumstances specified in regulations under the Employment Standards Act.

    Employees would also be entitled to take the leave if the emergency directly applied to a family member and it resulted in the family member needing the employee’s care or assistance, the employee was the only person reasonably able to provide the care or assistance, and providing the care or assistance prevented the employee from performing his or her job duties. A family member would refer to a member of the employee’s immediate or extended family.

    The leave would last for as long as the emergency continued and prevented the employee from performing his or her job duties. This would include situations where

    • the employees were in isolation or quarantine or were subject to a control measure, including self-isolation, and the quarantine, isolation, or control measure stemmed from information or directions provided by the chief public health officer in relation to a prescribed communicable disease;
    • the employees’ employer directed them not to work out of concern that they could expose other individuals in the workplace to the prescribed communicable disease; or
    • the employees were out of the province and were directly affected by travel restrictions related to the prescribed communicable disease and, under the circumstances, could not reasonably be expected to travel back to the province.

    The leave would end on the day the emergency ended or it no longer stopped the employee from carrying out his or her job duties.

    Employees planning to take the leave would be required to give their employer as much notice as would be reasonably possible. If they had to take the leave before providing notice, they would have to advise their employer as soon as possible after beginning the leave.

    Employers would be allowed to require employees to provide reasonable evidence, at a time that would be reasonable, that they were entitled to the leave; however, employers would be prohibited from requiring that employees provide a certificate from a medical practitioner or a nurse practitioner.

    Once the leave is over, employers would be required to reinstate employees in the position that they held before taking the leave or, if the position no longer existed, in a comparable position with not less than the same wages and benefits that they would have received had they not taken the leave.

  • The Prince Edward Island Workers Compensation Board (WCB) has extended the due dates for employer assessments for 2020 payrolls to September 30, 2020 to help employers cope with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    During the extension period, the WCB said that it would not charge penalties or interest on the assessments.

    It is the second extension that the board has announced. In March, the WCB said it would defer all assessment due dates until the end of June.

    The board also advised employers to send in any revisions to their 2020 payroll estimates before August 15, 2020 to ensure that the WCB can incorporate the changes into the employers’ September statement of assessment amounts due.

  • The Prince Edward Island government announced on March 24, 2020 new financial measures to help workers and businesses coping with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The following initiatives were among those announced:

    • Gift Cards: The government has partnered with Sobeys Inc. to provide $100 gift cards to employees living and working in the province who have been laid off as a direct result of COVID-19. The cards are to be distributed by employers after they complete an application form. To be eligible, the employer must have issued lay-off notices to one or more employees due to COVID-19 between March 13, 2020 and March 31, 2020, and the laid off employees must have a salary of no more than $25 per hour.
    • Emergency Relief—Worker Assistance Program: The government will provide financial support to employers to help their workers who have had their work hours reduced because of COVID-19. Eligible employers include registered private-sector businesses whose employees have had their hours reduced by at least eight hours a week during the period March 16, 2020 to March 29, 2020. Eligible employers will receive up to $250 a week for each affected employee. The government encourages employers to complete one application for the two-week period. The program will pay employers half of the amount once the application is approved, with the final instalment being paid once the employer provides payroll verification. Workers who are laid off during this period are not eligible.

    To apply for the programs, go to https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/topic/for-business.

  • The body that oversees labour standards in Quebec advised in late May that employers who have to lay off employees for more than six months because of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) might be exempt from written notice or pay in lieu of notice termination requirements.

    The Act respecting labour standards does not require employers to provide written notice or pay in lieu of notice for terminations that result from a “force majeure,” which is an unforeseeable event that makes it impossible to carry on normal business activities.

    The Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) said the health emergency in the province due to COVID-19 may qualify as a force majeure, especially if employers had to lay off employees without notice because of the government’s declaration of a public health emergency on March 13, 2020.

    Under the Act respecting labour standards, layoffs of up to six months are considered temporary layoffs and no notice is required. However, layoffs that exceed six months become a termination, with employers required to provide notice/pay in lieu of notice unless one of the Act’s exemptions for notice applies. Terminations caused by force majeure are one of the exemptions.

    The CNESST also said the force majeure exemption for COVID-19 might apply to employees who were already temporarily laid off before March 13, 2020 if their employer extended their layoff beyond six months because of the government’s emergency order.

    The CNESST advised, though, that if other factors could have caused the layoffs, employers might be asked to prove that the COVID-19 emergency was the reason for them.

  • The Quebec Finance Ministry announced on May 29, 2020 that it would continue to provide a credit for employer Health Services Fund (HSF) contributions for employees on forced leaves related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) until August 29, 2020.

    The ministry first announced the credit in late April to complement a federal government initiative to refund employers’ Canada/Quebec Pension Plan contributions and Employment Insurance and the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan premiums on wages paid to employees for whom they are claiming the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). (The CEWS provides employers affected by COVID-19 with a wage subsidy of up to 75% of the amount of wages paid, to a maximum of $847 per week per employee.)

    The HSF credit initially applied for the period of March 15, 2020 to June 6, 2020, which matched the parameters for the CEWS. However, in mid May, the federal government said it would extend the CEWS to August 29, 2020. Quebec announced the HSF extension shortly afterwards.

    The Quebec Finance Ministry also announced that it would expand the credit to apply to more businesses, as the federal government has done for the CEWS.

    For more information on the CEWS and the HSF credit, see the stories “Federal Government Extends CEWS to Aug. 29 and Broadens Eligibility” and “Quebec to Refund HSF Contributions for Employers Eligible for CEWS.”

  • On April 30, 2020, the Quebec Finance Ministry announced that it would grant employers a credit on their contributions to the Health Services Fund (HSF) for employees on forced leaves related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The ministry said the measure would complement a recently announced federal government initiative to refund employers’ Canada/Quebec Pension Plan contributions and Employment Insurance and the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan premiums on wages paid to employees for whom they are claiming the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). (The CEWS provides employers affected by COVID-19 with a wage subsidy of up to 75% of the amount of wages paid, to a maximum of $847 per week per employee.)

    The HSF credit is available to employers who are eligible for the CEWS and who maintain an establishment in Quebec. It applies for the period of March 15, 2020 to June 6, 2020, which matches the parameters for the CEWS. The amount of the credit is equal to the total amount of HSF contributions that an eligible employer pays in relation to wages paid, allocated, or granted to eligible employees during qualifying periods. 

    Like the CEWS, there are three qualifying periods for claiming the HSF credit: March 15, 2020 to April 11, 2020, April 12, 2020 to May 9, 2020, and May 10, 2020 to June 6, 2020.

    Employers cannot claim the credit for employees who did not receive any remuneration from them for at least 14 consecutive days during the qualifying period for which they are applying for the credit.

    To formally claim the credit, employers will have to apply for it when they submit their Summary of Source Deductions and Employer Contributions (RLZ-1.S-V) for 2020 to Revenu Québec.

    In the meantime, beginning May 1, 2020, the Quebec government is allowing employers to reduce their current HSF periodic remittances to Revenu Québec to account for the amount of the credit. Once it reviews and approves an employer’s application, it will pay the employer the credit less any amounts that the employer reduced its HSF remittances. If an employer reduces its remittances by more than the credit amount, it will have to pay the balance owing and penalties and interest may apply.

    For more information on the credit, see http://www.finances.gouv.qc.ca/documents/Bulletins/en/BULEN_2020-7-a-b.pdf.

    For more information on the CEWS, see https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/subsidy/emergency-wage-subsidy.html.

  • The Quebec government has launched a $100-million program to help businesses retain workers as they grapple with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The initiative, called Programme actions concertées pour le maintien en employ (PACME), will help businesses cover the costs of training activities and implement measures such as telework. The government said the program would reimburse businesses for 100% of eligible expenses up to $100,000 and 50% of eligible expenses between $100,000 and $500,000.

    Eligible expenses include items such as wages for workers in training, professional fees for consultants or trainers, and costs for equipment and supplies to deliver training.

    Employers are eligible for reimbursement regardless of whether they have received federal wage subsidies related to COVID-19, although the amount reimbursed for employees’ wages will be affected by the amount of federal funding.

    Eligible training activities include basic employee training, digital skills training, or ongoing training related to the employer’s business, among other initiatives.

    The program will run from April 6, 2020 to September 30, 2020 or until the $100-million runs out.

    More information on PACME is available on the government’s website at https://www.quebec.ca/index.php?id=5973

  • The Quebec government announced on April 3, 2020 a new incentive program to help ensure that essential workers keep working during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    The program will pay a weekly benefit of $100 to low-income workers in jobs that the government has deemed to be essential. The Finance Ministry said the measure would ensure that the workers receive a wage that is higher than what they would receive under the  federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

    The provincial incentive, which is retroactive to March 15, 2020, will provide a taxable monthly lump-sum payment of $400, or $1,600 for a maximum of 16 weeks. The payment would be in addition to the employee’s regular wages.

    To be eligible for it, employees must be Quebec residents, at least 15 years old, work full-time or part-time in essential services jobs, earn a gross salary of no more than $550 a week, have annual employment earnings of at least $5,000, and a total annual income of no more than $28,600 for 2020.

    In addition, to be eligible for the benefit, the workers must not have received amounts under the federal CERB or a temporary aid for workers program for the same week. Employees are eligible even if their employer is receiving aid under the federal government’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program.

    Employers may begin to apply for the benefit online through Revenu Québec on May 19, 2020, with the government beginning payments on May 27, 2020.

    For more information on the program, including a list of essential services, see https://www.revenuquebec.ca/en/press-room/news/details/167331/2020-04-03/.

  • The Quebec government announced on March 28, 2020 that it would allow eligible workers to interrupt or defer their parental or paternity leave if they want to return to work to help their employer respond to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Jean Boulet, minister of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity, said the measure was aimed at health care workers.

    He said the government would extend the period for receiving Quebec Parental Insurance Plan benefits from 52 weeks to 78 weeks for eligible workers who interrupt or defer their leave to assist their employer.

  • The Quebec government announced in mid-March a series of measures to help workers and businesses cope with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The measures include the following steps:

    • The government is providing financial compensation to Quebec workers who are in isolation due to COVID-19 if their employer does not pay for sick days, they do not have private insurance, and they are not covered by other government programs, such as Employment Insurance. The payment amount will be $573 a week per person, for up to 14 days of isolation, with the possibility of extending the payment to a maximum of 28 days if the state of a person’s health requires it. Individuals are eligible for the payment if they are at least 18 years old and have been ordered to self-isolate by the federal or provincial government or a related authority because they have the virus or the symptoms of it, have been in contact with an infected person, or have returned from a trip outside of Canada.   
    • Revenu Québec will delay the deadline for filing 2019 personal income tax returns from April 30, 2020 to June 1, 2020. The deadline for applying balances due related to 2019 tax returns will be postponed from April 30, 2020 to August 31, 2020. In addition, a June 15, 2020 due date for tax instalment payments will be moved to August 31, 2020.

    The government also asked employers to be flexible with their employees’ schedules and encourage working from home, where possible, to limit the number of people taking public transit during rush hour.

    We will continue to monitor this story and will report on further developments in upcoming releases.

  • The Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) announced on March 20, 2020 that it would extend the due dates for annual payroll reporting and premium payments. 

    The CNESST said the measures were intended to help employers cope with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The deadline for submitting the Déclaration des salaries, which had been due before March 15, 2020, has been extended to June 1, 2020.

    In addition, the due date for employers to pay their CNESST premium on their statement of account has been extended to August 31, 2020. The CNESST said it would not levy penalties or interest during this time.

  • New regulations in Saskatchewan exempt employers and employees from The Saskatchewan Employment Act’s notice and pay-in-lieu-of-notice requirements for layoffs that occur during a public emergency period.

    The Employment Standards (Public Emergencies) Amendment Regulations, 2020 (No. 2), registered on May 14, 2020, define a public emergency period as a period in which an order from the province’s chief medical health officer is in effect or an emergency declaration is in force.  

    During a public emergency, the regulations state that employees are not entitled to the protections of sections 2-60 and 2-61 for layoffs. They require employers to provide notice of layoff or termination of employment to employees who have more than 13 consecutive weeks of service.

    Once the public emergency ends, the new regulations allow the exemption to continue for a further two weeks. At the end of the two-week period, employers must schedule the laid-off employees to work. If an employer does not do this, the employees’ employment is considered to be terminated and the employer must provide the employees with pay in lieu of notice calculated from the original date of the layoff. If employees scheduled to return to work choose not do so, they are considered to have resigned.

    The regulations also provide an exemption for group termination notices during a public emergency. Normally, the Act requires employers who plan to terminate the employment of 10 or more employees within a four-week period to provide notice of the termination to the employees affected, their union (if applicable), and the minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety. Under the new regulations, employers are exempt from providing the required notice to the employees and to their union during a public emergency period; however, they must still give the minister the required notice as soon as reasonably possible after the termination. 

  • The Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) announced on March 30, 2020 that it would waive penalty and interest charges for late premium payments from April 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020 to help employers facing challenges because of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The board also advised employers who have laid off workers to revise their 2020 assessable payroll estimate so that the WCB can recalculate the amount of premiums they owe. Employers with concerns about paying their premiums should contact the board.

    The WCB also announced other measures it has taken, including:

    • forgiving interest and penalties on 2020 premiums applied in March;
    • suspending payroll audits until further notice, with the exception of situations where an employer may be eligible for a refund; and
    • making clearance letters for contractors available for employers who meet specific criteria even if the contractor’s WCB account has not been paid, meaning that employers would not be liable for any outstanding premiums that the contractor owes the WCB.
  • Effective March 19, 2020, employers in Saskatchewan are not required to provide notice or pay in lieu of notice for layoffs of 12 weeks or less in a 16-week period that occur during a public emergency period.

    The provincial government announced the new rules after revising The Employment Standards Regulations to help businesses cope with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The amended regulations define a public emergency period as a period in which an order from the province’s chief medical health officer is in effect or an emergency declaration is in force.

    If an employer lays off employees for one or more periods that, in total, exceed 12 weeks in a 16-week period, the layoff becomes a termination and the employees are entitled to pay in lieu of notice, calculated from the date on which the employer laid off the employees.

  • Recent amendments to the Saskatchewan’s Employment Standards Regulations provide more information on the province’s new public health emergency leave.

    The province’s legislature passed legislation to create the new leave is mid-March. Public health emergency leave allows employees to take an unpaid leave of absence if their employer, a duly qualified medical practitioner, the provincial government, or the province’s chief medical health officer directs them to isolate themselves during a public health emergency.

    They may also take the leave if they need to provide care and support to a child family member affected by a government order or an order from the chief medical health officer.

    Amendments to the regulations clarify that the leave also applies to employees who need to provide care and support to adult family members who are affected by a direction or an order from the provincial government or an order from the province’s chief medical health officer.

    The amendments also stipulate that if an employer does not agree with the opinion of a medical profession or the provincial government (including the chief medical health officer) that an employee is entitled to public health emergency leave, the opinion of the medical professional or provincial government will override that of the employer.

    In addition, the amended regulations clarify that the new public health emergency leave does not apply to employees whose employer has notified them in writing that they are necessary to provide critical public health and safety services.

  • Saskatchewan’s legislature passed legislation in mid-March that gives employees access to job-protected leaves during a public health emergency.

    Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan said amendments to the Saskatchewan Employment Act would help employees during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

    The amendments were included in Bill 207, The Saskatchewan Employment (Public Health Emergencies) Amendment Act, 2020, which was tabled in the provincial legislature on March 17, 2020 and received royal assent the same day. The amendments are effective as of March 6, 2020.

    The amendments create a new unpaid public health emergency leave. It applies in situations where the province’s chief medical health officer declares that a harmful disease is present in Saskatchewan or that a public health emergency determined by the World Health Organization applies in the province and chief medical health officer issues an order requiring individuals to take measures to prevent or reduce the spread of disease, including self-isolation.

    The public health emergency leave includes the following provisions:

    • Employees are entitled to the leave if their employer, a duly qualified medical practitioner, the provincial government, or the province’s chief medical health officer directs them to isolate themselves.
    • Employees are also entitled to the leave if they need to provide care and support to a child family member affected by a government order or an order from the chief medical health officer.
    • The period of leave is for the length of time that the order is in force.
    • For the leave, employees do not have to meet a 13-week employment eligibility requirement that normally applies for leaves of absence. They also do not have to provide a medical note or certificate or give their employer four weeks’ advance notice of the leave, as they must with other leaves.
    • Employers are required to pay employees their regular wages and benefits if they authorize them to work from home while the chief medical health officer’s order is in effect, the employees comply with the measures in the order, and they comply with any additional requirements that the government sets.

    The amendments also make it easier for employees to take job-protected time off work if they are absent due to an illness or injury resulting from a public health emergency. Employees do not have to meet the 13-week employment eligibility requirement or provide a medical note or certificate before taking illness or injury leave if it is due to a public health emergency.

    The Saskatchewan Employment Act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 days off each calendar year for an illness or injury that is not serious, and up to 12 weeks off in a period of 52 weeks for a serious illness or injury.

  • The Yukon government announced on June 3, 2020 that it was extending the period during which a job-protected leave related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) would be in effect.

    When the government originally implemented the leave, it said it would apply until June 23, 2020; however, on June 3, 2020, the government enacted a new regulation that allows the leave to remain in force until 14 days after the territory ends its state of emergency for COVID-19.

    The leave allows employees to take up to 14 days off work, without pay, if they need the time off because they are subject to a health protection measure or must care for their child or an eligible person who is subject to a health protection measure. 

  • The Yukon government has created a new job-protected leave related to COVID-19 for workers covered under the territory’s Employment Standards Act. 

    The new leave, designed to help workers affected by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), was implemented on March 26, 2020 through regulations under the Act.

    It allows employees to take up to 14 days off work, without pay, if they need the time off because they are subject to a health protection measure or must care for their child or an eligible person who is subject to a health protection measure. 

    Employees who take the leave must give their employer as much notice as is practicable in the circumstances, but they are not required to give their employer a medical certificate to take the leave.

    Employees are only entitled to one leave for COVID-19 and they must take it in one continuous period.

    The leave is scheduled to be repealed June 24, 2020.

  • In late March, the Yukon government announced more details on its paid sick leave rebate for employers and employees affected by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The rebate program reimburses employers who pay their employees to take sick days or to self-isolate because of COVID-19. It covers up to 10 days of wages per employee (excluding benefits, payroll taxes and payroll deductions), to a maximum of $378.13 per day per employee. It only applies after the employee has used all existing regular paid sick leave. The rebate is in effect from March 11, 2020 to September 11, 2020.

    To be eligible for the rebate, employers must meet the follow conditions:

    • employers and their employees must be based in Yukon;
    • Yukon-based businesses must meet three of the following criteria: have an office with a physical address in Yukon; be is subject to the Yukon Income Tax Act; be registered under the Business Corporations Act or the Partnership and Business Name Act, where applicable; and have a valid municipal business licence where applicable;
    • employers must pay employees to take time off for sick leave and or self-isolation due to COVID-19;
    • employers must provide copies of their most recent pay stubs for all employees for which they are applying, including the dates and proof of wages paid for sick leave/self-isolation.

    The Yukon government will not allow employers to split the rebate into multiple uses; instead it will require them to only access it once per employee.

    For more information about the program, contact the Yukon government at:

    Email: ecdev@gov.yk.ca
    Phone: 867-456-3803
    Phone toll free: 1-800-661-0408, extension 3803

  • Yukon Premier Sandy Silver announced in mid-March a $4-million support package to help businesses and workers affected by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    He said the government would use the money in a variety of ways, including for the following purposes:

    • It would provide compensation for workers who need to take sick leave, but who do not have paid sick leave options. The funding would cover up to 10 working days of sick leave related to COVID-19. Silver said this would assist workers who need to undergo a 14-day isolation period.
    • It would reimburse Yukon employers who provide additional paid sick leave to their employees for COVID-19-related illnesses.
    • The government would defer Worker’s Compensation Health and Safety Board premium payments for employers to the end of the calendar year (or a preferred date), and would reimburse employers who paid their premiums up front. It would also waive penalties and interest (with the board’s approval).

    Silver also announced that the government would set up a Business Advisory Council to help it monitor the effects of COVID-19 and suggest solutions.

    We will continue to monitor this story and will report on further developments in upcoming releases.

 

 

Carswell Payroll Source Alert – May 2020 Issue

  • The prescribed rate for taxable benefits to employees and shareholders from interest-free and low-interest loans is 2% from April 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020. The rate is unchanged from the previous quarter. The interest rate for unpaid source deductions, overdue taxes and insufficient instalments is 6% for the second quarter.

  • Just a reminder... Monday, May 18, 2020, is a statutory holiday under employment/labour standards law in the following Canadian jurisdictions: Alberta; British Columbia; Manitoba; Northwest Territories; Nunavut; Ontario; Quebec; Saskatchewan; Yukon; and under the Canada Labour Code for federally regulated employers and employees. In New Brunswick, the day is a holiday under the Days of Rest Act. In most jurisdictions, the holiday is called Victoria Day. In Quebec, it is called National Patriots’ Day. For information on how to compensate employees for statutory holidays, please refer to the applicable jurisdiction in chapter 19, Statutory Holidays.

  • Just a reminder... Wednesday, July 1, 2020 is Canada Day. It is a statutory holiday under employment/labour standards laws in all Canadian jurisdictions. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the holiday is commemorated as Memorial Day. For information on entitlement to the holiday and how to compensate employees for it, please refer to the applicable jurisdiction in chapter 19, Statutory Holidays.

  • Just a reminder...The provincial government has proposed a new top personal income tax rate of 20.5% on annual taxable income over $220,000.00 that would apply as of January 1, 2020.

    The government announced the new tax rate in this year’s provincial budget. It tabled Bill 4, the Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2020, to authorize the new rate on February 18, 2020; however, as of late April, the bill had not yet passed, with the legislature adjourned due to concerns over Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Once the legislation is passed and receives royal assent, it is expected that the Canada Revenue Agency will implement the rate change on July 1, 2020. For payroll deductions purposes, the rate is expected to be pro-rated at 24.20% from July 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

    Currently, the top rate is 16.8% on annual taxable income of $157,748.01 and over. Once the proposed change is implemented, the 16.8% rate would apply to annual taxable income between $150,000.01 and $220,000.00.

    We will continue to monitor this story and will report on further developments in upcoming releases.

  • Just a reminder...Effective June 1, 2020, the provincial government will raise the general minimum wage rate from $13.85 an hour to $14.60.

    The increase is part of the government’s plan to gradually raise B.C.’s minimum wage between 2018 and 2021 until it reaches $15.20 an hour on June 1, 2021.

    The government will also increase other minimum wage rates on June 1, 2020:

    • Liquor Servers: $13.95/hour (currently $12.70/hour)
    • Live-in camp leaders: $116.86/day or part day (currently $110.87/day or part day)
    • Resident caretakers: apartment building with 9 to 60 suites: $876.35/month plus $35.12 per suite (currently $831.45/month plus $33.32 for each suite)
    • Resident caretakers: apartment building with more than 60 suites: $2,985.04/month (currently $2,832.11/month)

    The government has previously announced that it would eliminate the liquor server rate by June 1, 2021, when liquor servers will be entitled to receive the general minimum wage rate.

  • Just a reminder… Sunday, June 21, 2020, National Aboriginal Day, is a statutory holiday in the Northwest Territories and Yukon. For information on entitlement to the holiday and how to compensate employees for it, please see 19.7, Northwest Territories, and 19.14, Yukon.

  • The Nova Scotia Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) now requires employers to use its online MyAccount tool to access clearance letters and check their clearance status.

    In April, the board announced that it had switched from mailing clearance letters to using a digital process for employers to check clearance status. Clearance status shows whether a company’s WCB account is in good standing, which means it has WCB coverage, has met its payroll reporting obligations, and does not owe any outstanding amounts to the board.

    The WCB said the last clearance letters it mailed to employers with accounts in good standing was for the second quarter of 2020 (April 1 – June 30).

    Employers who do not yet use MyAccount must register to access it. They can do this by calling the WCB at 1-800-870-3331 to obtain a registration code. Employers will need to have their Canada Revenue Agency Business Number to obtain the code. With the code, employers can go to my-account.ns.ca to sign up.

    For more information on the new clearance process, go to https://www.wcb.ns.ca/Clearance.aspx.

  • Just a reminder… Effective May 1, 2020, the province’s general minimum wage rate rose from $12.50 an hour to $13.10.

    Other minimum wage rates in Quebec also went up on May 1:

    • Employees who receive tips: $10.45/hour (previously $10.05)
    • Raspberry pickers: $3.89/kilogram (previously $3.71)

    Strawberry pickers: $1.04/kilogram (previously $0.99)             

  • Just a reminder… Wednesday, June 24, 2020 is the National Holiday in Quebec. It is a statutory holiday under the National Holiday Act. For more information on entitlement to the holiday and how to compensate employees for it, please see 19.12, Quebec.

  • Question: We have had to close our business due to COVID-19. All of our employees have been laid off. Do we have to issue a Record of employment (ROE), and, if so, what reason code should we use in block 16 of the ROE?

    Answer:  Yes, you would need to issue an ROE as there is an interruption of earnings. In block 16, enter code A, shortage of work.