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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-19 Alert: What Employers Need to Know

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

  • The federal government is proposing to allow employees to use their 2019 automobile usage to determine if they are eligible for a reduced standby charge for the 2020 and 2021 tax years if they have an employer-provided automobile.

    In a news release, the Department of Finance said the proposal was in response to business lockdowns, reduced business activity, and other changes brought about by the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic that may have reduced employees’ business or personal mileage compared to a regular year.

    “If employees have used the automobile substantially less for business purposes during the pandemic, they may no longer qualify for the reduced standby charge for tax purposes, even though their personal driving use might be similar or less than (it was in 2019).”

    The standby charge is one of the components of the taxable benefit that an employee derives from having an employer-provided automobile. It is normally calculated at 2% per month of the original cost of the automobile to the employer or two-thirds of the lease payment. However, if an employee drives the vehicle mainly for business purposes, the employer may reduce the standby charge by using a formula that takes the employee’s personal kilometres into account if the personal-use kilometres are not more than 1,667 per 30-day period or 20,004 kilometres per year. 

    For 2020 and 2021, the Finance Department proposes to allow employees to use their 2019 automobile usage to determine if they used the employer-provided automobile primarily for business purposes and qualify for the reduced standby charge. The calculation of the reduced standby charge would be made using the employee’s personal kilometres driven in the applicable year (e.g., 2020 personal kilometres for the 2020 tax year calculation). The proposed change would only apply if employees had an automobile provided by the same employer in 2020 or 2021 as they did in 2019.

    The Finance Department said the proposed change would also apply to an optional calculation used to determine the operating expense benefit, which is another component of the automobile taxable benefit. The optional calculation allows employees who use an employer-provided automobile primarily for business purposes to elect to have the operating expense benefit calculated as 50% of the standby charge instead of using a government-prescribed per-kilometre flat rate.

    Normally, employees who wish to use the optional calculation must notify their employer before the end of the tax year that they want to use it. However, the Finance Department proposes to waive the notification requirement for 2020 and 2021 for employees eligible for the optional calculation based on their 2019 automobile usage. Instead, an employee’s operating cost benefit would be the lesser of either the amount determined using the prescribed per-kilometre rate or the amount determined using the optional calculation. Employers would have to use the prescribed per-kilometre rate for employees did not use the automobile primarily for business purposes.

    For information on the 2021 prescribed rates for automobile taxable benefits, please see the story “2021 Automobile Rates Announced” in our January 2021 Payroll Alert.

    Despite the changes to the automobile taxable benefit calculations, the Finance Department said the existing GST/HST remitting rules related to the benefit would continue to apply. For more information on the GST/HST, please see 4.2, GST/HST and Employee Benefits.

    The Quebec Department of Finance has announced similar proposals.

  • On December 15, 2020, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced that it would temporarily adjust some of its taxable benefit rules for commuting and home office costs due to the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic

    From March 15, 2020 to December 31, 2020, the CRA said the following rules apply:

    Commuting costs (including parking) for employees continuing to work at their place of employment: No taxable benefit will arise if an employer pays for, reimburses, or provides a reasonable allowance for extra commuting costs that employees incur, beyond their usual costs, during the COVID-19 pandemic. This will also apply to the use of employer-provided motor vehicles, provided that the employee did not normally use an employer-provided motor vehicle to commute to work before the pandemic.

    Commuting costs (including parking) for employees working from home because their regular place of employment is closed: No taxable benefit will arise if an employer pays for, reimburses, or provides a reasonable allowance for normal or additional commuting costs that an employee incurs to travel to their place of employment for any purpose that enables them to work from home (e.g., going into work to pick up equipment). This will also apply to use of an employer-provided motor vehicle for the travel.

    For commuting costs, employers must keep records to show that the allowances are reasonable in relation to the commuting costs. Employees must also keep records on their use of employer-provided motor vehicles, including total kilometers driven when travelling between home and their regular place of work.

    Parking: If an employee’s regular workplace is closed because of the pandemic, the CRA will not consider an employer-provided spot at the place of work to be a taxable benefit.

    Home office equipment: No taxable benefit will arise if an employer pays for or reimburses employees up to $500 for computer and home office equipment so that they can work from home. Employees must provide receipts to their employer. The policy also applies to accountable advances, but not to allowances. The $500 limit applies to each employee, not to each piece of equipment. If the amount the employer pays or reimburses exceeds $500, the excess amount will be a taxable benefit.

    The CRA reiterated that its existing taxable benefit policies for employer-provided or –paid cell phone and Internet services continue to apply. They allow for no taxable benefit to be assessed on the portion of employer-provided or paid cell phone service and/or Internet service that an employee uses for employment purposes.

  • The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) says it has simplified the process employees can use to claim a deduction for home expenses if they worked from home in 2020 because of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    The federal government announced in its November 30, 2020 Fall Economic Statement that the CRA would allow employees with modest expenses during the pandemic to deduct a maximum of $400 for home office expenses without having to obtain a signed form T2200, Declaration of Conditions of Employment, from their employer.

    In mid-December, the CRA provided more details on the new process, specifying that employees must meet all of the following conditions to be eligible for a deduction:

    • they worked from home in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic or their employer required them to work from home;
    • they worked more than 50% of the time from home for at least four consecutive weeks in 2020;
    • the expenses being claimed were used directly in the employee’s work during the period that they worked from home; and
    • employees who wish to claim more than $400 must complete a more detailed claim and have their employer complete and sign form T2200 or a new shortened version of it called T2200S.

    The simplified process allows employees to claim $2/day for each day that they worked from home in 2020 due to the pandemic, to a maximum of $400 (200 working days). Working days include both full-time hours and part-time hours, but do not include days off, vacation days, sick leave days, or other leaves or absences.

    Employees using the simplified process do not have to follow the usual rules for claiming home office expenses, such as calculating the size of their work space, keeping supporting documents, or obtaining a signed T2200 from their employer.

    Employees with claims over $400 can use the existing method for claiming the deduction, including obtaining a signed T2200 or T2200S from their employer. In addition, the CRA says it will accept an electronic signature on the forms T2200 or T2200S for 2020.

    The new simplified process applies for the 2020 tax year only.

    For more information, see https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/news/2020/12/simplifying-the-process-for-claiming-a-deduction-for-home-office-expenses-for-employees-working-from-home-due-to-covid-19.html.

  • The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will allow employees who worked from home in 2020 because of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic to claim up to $400 in home office expenses without having to obtain a signed form from their employer.

    Normally, employees who wish to claim a deduction for using space in their home for work have to meet certain conditions and have their employer complete and sign a T2200, Declaration of Conditions of Employment.

    To help reduce the administrative burden on employers, the federal government announced in its November 30, 2020 Fall Economic Statement that the CRA would allow employees with modest expenses to deduct a maximum of $400 for home office expenses, based on the amount of time they worked from home. Employees would not need to keep track of detailed expenses and the CRA would not generally require a signed T2200 from their employer.

    The CRA said it would provide more details in coming weeks.

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

  • The federal government recently amended its income tax regulations to set a maximum weekly amount that employers may claim for furloughed employees under the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) for claim periods nine and 10.

    The periods cover October 25, 2020 to November 21, 2020 and November 22, 2020 to December 19, 2020.

    The CEWS provides qualifying employers with a wage subsidy to encourage them to keep employees on payroll during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    Under the amendments to the Income Tax Regulations, employers applying for the CEWS in claim periods nine and 10 for employees temporarily on paid leave may claim the higher of the following amounts:

    • $500, and
    • 55% of an eligible employee’s baseline remuneration for the applicable week in the claim period and $573, whichever is less.

    For claim periods between July 5, 2020 and October 24, 2020, employers could claim a maximum weekly subsidy of $847 for each furloughed employee. However, the government announced in October that it would align the CEWS for furloughed employees with Employment Insurance (EI) benefits and a Canada Recovery Benefit for workers in need of income support who are not eligible for EI.

    For periods prior to July 5, 2020, employers could not include in their CEWS calculations any employees who were not paid for 14 or more consecutive days in a period.

    The changes do not affect the amount that employers may claim under the CEWS for employees who are not on furlough during a claim period.

    For more information on the CEWS, refer to the CRA’s website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/subsidy/emergency-wage-subsidy.html.

  • The federal government has further extended the length of time that federally regulated employers may recall laid-off non-unionized employees before the layoffs become permanent.

    Amendments to the Canada Labour Standards Regulations implemented on November 9, 2020 temporarily extend temporary layoff rules by nine months or until March 31, 2021 for non-unionized workers.

    Employment and Social Development Canada said it made the change to help employers and employees maintain employment relationships and to give employers more time to recall workers laid off during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    Normally, a temporary layoff for non-unionized workers is a period of up to three months if employees are not given a recall date. Temporary layoffs can also be for more than three months if the employer notifies the workers before the layoff that it will recall them on a fixed date or within a fixed time that is no more than six months later and it does so. Temporary layoffs become terminations of employment, with severance and termination pay implications, if employees are not recalled to work by the time the temporary layoff period expires.

    With the amendments, the three-month layoff period is extended by nine months for workers laid off before March 31, 2020, where the layoff ends on or after November 9, 2020. For those laid off between March 31, 2020 and December 31, 2020, the amendments extend the temporary layoff period to March 31, 2021.

    For temporary layoffs with notice that includes a fixed recall date or period, the temporary layoff period is extended by nine months or until March 31, 2021, whichever comes first, for workers laid off before March 31, 2020 where the fixed date or fixed period for recall falls or ends on or after November 9, 2020. For those laid off between March 31, 2020 and December 31, 2020, the temporary layoff period is extended to March 31, 2021 if the fixed date or period for recall falls or ends before March 31, 2020 or a later date specified in a written notice that meets the requirements for a temporary layoff exceeding three months.

    The amendments build on changes announced last June that temporarily extended the three-month temporary layoff rules for non-unionized workers by up to six months.

    The change in temporary layoff rules applies to workers laid off up to and including December 31, 2020. Layoffs that occur after that date will be subject to the normal rules for temporary layoffs.

    The extension does not affect workers whose employment was already terminated before November 9, 2020 or to employees who are covered by a collective agreement that contains recall rights.

  • Canada’s Parliament has passed legislation that extends a wage subsidy program for employers negatively affected by the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic to next June.

    Under amendments included in Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy), which received royal assent on November 19, 2020, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) will remain in place until June 30, 2021.

    The CEWS provides qualifying employers with a wage subsidy to encourage them to keep employees on payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic. The subsidy consists of a base amount for all eligible employers and a top-up amounts for employers most affected by the pandemic.

    The amendments also make the changes to the CEWS:

    • The base subsidy rate will remain at 40% until December 19, 2020 for employers whose revenue drops by 50% or more during a claim period. For employers whose revenue declines by less than 50% during a claim period, the base subsidy will remain 0.8 x the revenue decline until December 19, 2020. The top-up subsidy amount will remain at 25% during that time. 
    • The revenue-decline test used for the top-up subsidy is harmonized with the one used for the base subsidy, retroactive to September 27, 2020. Instead of using a three-month revenue-decline test, employers may now use a change in their monthly revenues, year-over-year, for either the current or previous calendar month.
    • For the top-up subsidy, an alternative calculation that allows employers to compare their revenue with the average in January or February 2020 has also been harmonized with the one used to calculate the base subsidy.
    • A “safe harbour” rule applies from September 27, 2020 to December 19, 2020 that provides for a top-up subsidy rate that is not less than what an eligible employer would have received using the previous three-month revenue-decline test.
    • Other amendments give employers more flexibility to claim the CEWS for employees returning to work from a maternity, parental, caregiver, or long-term sick leave.

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

  • Recent amendments to the Canada Labour Standards Regulations temporarily remove the right of federally regulated employers to require employees to provide a health care practitioner’s certificate for medical leaves that last three or more days.

    The new requirements, which were published in the October 28, 2020 Canada Gazette Part II, apply from October 14, 2020 to September 25, 2021. They replace a previous temporary prohibition on health care certificates related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that expired on October 1, 2020.

    Employees who take the leave must return to the original position.  If it’s not available the employer must provide a position that is comparable to the one previously held by the employee.

    Although employers cannot ask for a health care certificate for medical leave until next September, they can  require employees to provide a written declaration stating that they were unable to work during the period that they were absent for the medical leave. Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) said the restriction on health care certificates for medical leave is necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “Allowing employers to require medical certificates…would require employees in the federally regulated private sector to risk exposing themselves or others to COVID-19 in order to access the leave they need to recover from their illness or injury. It would also increase the number of non-urgent medical visits by employees to medical offices for the sole purpose of seeking medical certificates, adding an unnecessary burden on the health care system,” ESDC said in a statement included with the amended regulations.

  • On September 25, 2020, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that the federal government would extend the current benefit structure for furloughed employees under its Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program to October 24, 2020.

    The CEWS provides funding to help cover employee wages for eligible employers whose revenues have dropped because of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. When the government initially created the program, it excluded employers from claiming the subsidy for a claim period for wages paid to furloughed employees who had 14 or more days without work in the claim period.

    In July, when the government redesigned the CEWS program to change its benefit structure, it removed the restriction, allowing  employers to claim the subsidy for furloughed employees. However, it also announced that its newly revamped benefit structure (providing a base amount and a top-up amount) would not apply to furloughed workers. Instead, eligible employers would be able to claim the CEWS for those workers using the previous flat-rate benefit structure of up to $847 per week per employee. At the time, the government said this would apply for claim periods between July 5, 2020 and August 29, 2020. However, on August 21, 2020, the government extended the use of the flat-rate benefit structure for furloughed workers to September 26, 2020. On September 25, 2020, Freeland announced a further extension to October 24, 2020.

    She said the government would continue to review the CEWS program before announcing any further extensions or changes affecting furloughed employees.

  • Canada’s Parliament has passed legislation that creates three new temporary benefits to support workers who are not able to work for reasons related Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), including paid sick leave.

    The legislation also amends provisions allowing for COVID-19 leave in the Canada Labour Code, which covers federally regulated workplaces.

    The changes were included in Bill C-4, the COVID-19 Response Measures Act, which received royal assent on October 2, 2020.

    The legislation gives the government the authority to provide the following three types of benefits to eligible individuals from September 27, 2020 to September 25, 2021, replacing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB):

    • A new Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) provides $500 per week for up to two weeks for eligible workers who cannot work for at least 50% of the time that they otherwise would for the following reasons: they contracted or might have contracted COVID-19; they have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments, or have contracted other sicknesses that would make them more susceptible to COVID-19; or because a medical practitioner, a nurse practitioner, a person in authority, the government, or a public health authority advised that they isolate because of COVID-19. The benefit does apply to workers whose employer gives them paid leave for the time off or those who are paid for the time off under a sickness benefit plan.
    • A new Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) provides $500 a week for up to 26 weeks per household for eligible individuals who cannot work at least 50% of the time that they normally would because of caregiving responsibilities related to COVID-19 for a child under 12 years of age or another family member who requires supervised care. This includes having to care for the child or family member because their school, day program, or other facility is closed, or is open only at certain times or only for certain persons because of COVID-19. It also includes having to care for the child or other family member because they cannot attend school, their day program, or other facility because they have or might have COVID-19, are required to isolate, or risk having serious health complications if they contract COVID-19. In addition, it includes having to care for the child or other family member because the person who usually looks after the child or the care services that are normally provided to the family member at their home are not available because of COVID-19.
    • A new Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) provides $500 a week for up to 26 weeks for self-employed workers and others who are not eligible for Employment Insurance who have not returned to work or whose average weekly employment income (or self-employment income) has been reduced by at least 50% due to COVID-19.
    • The government may, through regulations, set a different maximum number of weeks for each of the benefits.

    The legislation amends the Canada Labour Code to change the parameters for COVID-19 leave to enable federally regulated workers to have access to the new temporary benefits if they need them. Among the amendments are the following changes:

    • Leave for COVID-19 will remain in the Code until September 25, 2021. It was slated to be repealed on October 1, 2020.
    • The previous 28-week leave has been replaced by two leaves of different maximum lengths, depending on the reason employees are taking the leave.  
    • Employees are allowed to take a COVID-19 leave for up to two weeks if they cannot work because they contracted or might have contracted COVID-19; they have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments, or have contracted other sicknesses that a medical practitioner, a nurse practitioner, a person in authority, a government or a public health authority believes would make them more susceptible to COVID-19;  or they are advised to self-isolate by their employer, a medical practitioner, a nurse practitioner, person in authority, or a government or public health authority.
    • Employees are also allowed to take a COVID-19 leave for up to 26 weeks if they cannot work because, for reasons related to COVID-19, they have to look after a child under the age of 12 or another family member who requires supervised care. This includes situations where the child or family member cannot attend school, a day program, or another facility because they have or might have COVID-19, are required to isolate, or risk having serious health complications if the contract COVID-19. It also includes circumstances where, due to COVID-19, the school, day program, or facility is closed or is only open at certain times or to certain people. In addition, it includes having to care for the child or other family member because the person who usually looks after the child or the care services that are normally provided to the family member at their home are not available because of COVID-19.
    • Employees may take the leave in one or more periods, although employers can require that each period be not less than one day.
    • Two or employees in the same household may share the 26-week leave, but the total amount of leave is limited to 26 weeks. Only one of the employees may take the leave for any particular period.
    • The government may, through regulations, set a different maximum number of weeks for the leave.
    • Previous amendments that were slated to replace COVID-19 leave with a 16-week medical leave for quarantine on October 1, 2020 will instead take effect September 26, 2021.
    • Until September 25, 2021, the government can, if it deems it necessary to reduce the strain on the health care system or burden on employees, prohibit employers from requiring certain health-related certificates from employees. Certificates affected include those needed for taking unpaid breaks for medical reasons; job reassignment or modification or leave for pregnant or nursing employees; leaves for maternity, compassionate care, critical illness, and medical reasons; and the need to interrupt a maternity or parental leave because the employee’s child is hospitalized.

    For more information on the bill, see https://www.parl.ca/LegisInfo/BillDetails.aspx?Language=E&billId=10867435.

  • The federal government says it will extend until next summer its Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program to help employers cope with financial challenges caused by the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    The government made the announcement in its Speech from the Throne on September 23, 2020, to open the second session of the 43rd Parliament.

    The government created the CEWS last spring. It provides eligible employers with a wage subsidy if they experience a drop in revenue related to COVID-19. The program initially applied from March 15, 2020 to June 6, 2020. The government later expanded the subsidy and extended it to August 29, 2020 and then November 21, 2020, with the option of keeping it running until December 19, 2020. With the Throne Speech announcement, the CEWS would run right through to next summer.

    The speech also included the following proposals:

    • The government plans to finalize a proposal to place a cap on certain employee stock options eligible for a stock option deduction under the federal Income Tax Act. The government originally proposed a $200,000 cap in its 2019 budget, with a planned implementation date of January 1, 2020. However, late last year, the Finance Department postponed the change, saying it was still reviewing feedback on it. 
    • Individuals receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) would be moved to a revamped Employment Insurance (EI) program, with a transitional Canada Recovery Benefit introduced for those who would not traditionally qualify for EI, such as the self-employed.
      “This pandemic has shown that Canada needs an EI system for the 21st century, including for the self-employed and those in the gig economy,” said the Throne Speech.
    • The government proposes to update its information technology systems to modernize the way it delivers services. It did not indicate whether this would include changes to the Record of Employment system to create real-time payroll information sharing with Service Canada, which a Parliamentary panel recommended three years ago.
    • The government plans to launch a campaign to create over one million jobs to bring the country’s employment levels back to where they were before the pandemic. It said the extension of the CEWS would help with this. 
    • The government proposes to take steps to help create a Canada-wide childcare system and a national, universal pharmacare program.

    The Throne Speech did not indicate whether the government still planned to release a budget for this year. It did state that the government would release an updated COVID-19 Economic Response Plan this fall.

    We will continue to monitor the proposals in the Throne Speech and report on any further developments in upcoming releases.

    For more information on the CEWS, please see III.3, Remitting Statutory Deductions, in the manual, as well as the federal government’s website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/subsidy/emergency-wage-subsidy.html.

  • The federal government has temporarily extended the eligibility period for its Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP) in response to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The WEPP provides payment of outstanding eligible wages to employees whose employer goes bankrupt or into receivership. Eligible wages include salaries, commissions, vacation, termination pay, and severance pay. With the exception of termination pay and severance pay, normally the WEPP requires that the employee must have earned the wages in the six months before the bankruptcy or receivership to be eligible for payment under the program.

    However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government announced on September 14, 2020 that for bankruptcies or receiverships that occurred between March 13, 2020 and September 12, 2020, the eligibility period would begin on September 13, 2019, and end on the date of the bankruptcy or receivership.

    For bankruptcies or receiverships that occur between September 13, 2020 and December 30, 2020, the eligibility period is the 12-month period before the bankruptcy or receivership happens.

    If the date of the bankruptcy or receivership occurs before March 13, 2020, or after December 30, 2020, the government said the regular six-month period would apply.

    For more information on the WEPP, see https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/wage-earner-protection/employee/eligibility.html#h2.01-h3.01.

  • The federal government has extended an unpaid leave for COVID-19 for federally regulated workers from 24 weeks to 28 weeks, effective September 4, 2020.

    The change affects federally regulated private-sector employers and employees covered by the Canada Labour Code.

    The government said it made the change to align the maximum length of the leave with the number of weeks for which eligible workers can receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) if they stop working for reasons related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The government announced on August 20, 2020 that it would increase the maximum CERB eligibility period from 24 weeks to 28 weeks.

    Provisions related to COVID-19 leave in the Code and its regulations are scheduled to remain in place until October 1, 2020 when it is expected that they will be replaced by a provision allowing for a medical leave of up to 16 weeks if an employee is in quarantine.

  • The Canada Revenue Agency has raised the amount that it uses to determine if an employer-paid overtime meal, an overtime meal allowance, or the meal portion of a travel allowance are reasonable and, therefore, not taxable, from $17 to $23.

    Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier announced on September 3, 2020 that the change was effective immediately and would apply retroactively to January 1, 2020.

    “Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers across Canada have been working tirelessly to ensure Canadians are kept safe and still have access to the goods and services they need. Increasing the amount for meal claims and meal benefits or allowances ensures that all employees, including our essential workers, can access meals that meet today’s inflation, as they continue to provide services that support Canadians through this pandemic,” said a CRA news release.

    Overtime meals, overtime meal allowances, and travel allowances are not taxable and do not have to be reported on an employee’s T4 if they are reasonable. Overtime meals and overtime meal allowances must also meet other conditions to be non-taxable, including the employee must work at least two hours of overtime either right before or right after the employee's scheduled work hours, and the overtime must be infrequent or occasional.

    The increased threshold also applies to the flat rate that transport employees and other individuals use to  claim meal expenses.

    “The $17 value in these policies was last updated in 2009. These increases provide more flexibility and now accurately represent the average cost of a meal today, ensuring Canadian taxpayers can benefit fully of their meal benefit, allowance or claim,” said the CRA news release.

    Lebouthillier  said the CRA would update its Employer’s Guide – Taxable Benefits and Allowances (T4130) to incorporate the change and provide more information on it.

  • The federal government has announced that it plans to freeze Employment Insurance (EI) premium rates at 2020 levels for two years to help support employers and workers through the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    As a result, the employee EI premium rate for employees outside of Quebec will remain $1.58 per $100 of insurable earnings in 2021, while the employer rate will continue to be $2.21 unless the employer has a government-approved reduced rate. The federal government has not yet announced the EI premium rate for employees in Quebec. The rate there differs because of the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan.

    The federal government has also yet to announce the 2021 maximum insurable earnings.

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

  • The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is implementing new T4 reporting requirements for 2020 related to the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    The CRA said the requirements, which apply to all employers, would help it to verify federal government payments for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), and the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB).

    For 2020 tax year reporting, employers will be required to use the following codes when reporting employment income and retroactive payments made in certain periods in 2020:

    • Code 57: Employment income—March 15, 2020 to May 9, 2020
    • Code 58: Employment income—May 10, 2020 to July 4, 2020
    • Code 59: Employment Income—July 5, 2020 to August 29, 2020
    • Code 60: Employment income—August 30, 2020 to September 26, 2020

    The CRA said the codes are necessary because eligibility criteria for the CEWS, the CERB, and the CESB are based on employment income for a defined period. Employers will still be required to report employment income in box (14) and under code 71 (Indian (exempt income)—Employment). 

  • The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced on July 27, 2020 that it would extend payment due dates for current year individual, corporate, and trust income tax returns from September 1, 2020, to September 30, 2020 to help individuals and businesses affected by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The CRA also said it would waive interest on existing tax debts related to individual, corporate, and trust income tax returns from April 1, 2020, to September 30, 2020 and from April 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020, for goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) returns.

    The extensions announced do not affect employer’s payroll remittances. Regular due dates continue to apply.

  • The federal government has restructured an emergency wage subsidy that it provides to eligible employers affected by the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    The changes move the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) from a flat-rate subsidy of 75% of employee wages to a two-pronged program consisting of a base subsidy for all eligible employers whose revenues have declined because of COVID-19 and a top-up amount for those who have been hardest hit. The changes apply retroactively to July 5, 2020.

    Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the redesign would extend the CEWS to more employers and better target the support it provides. Legislation to enact the changes—Bill C-20, An Act respecting further COVID-19 measures—received royal assent and came into force on July 27, 2020.

    The government initially created the CEWS in March 2020 to provide qualifying businesses with a 75% wage subsidy on eligible remuneration paid to employees, to a maximum benefit of $847 per week per employee. The program initially applied from March 15, 2020 to June 6, 2020, but the government later extended it to August 29, 2020.

    The government said the redesigned CEWS would run until at least November 21, 2020, with the possibility of extending it to December 19, 2020.

    The new two-part CEWS applies to remuneration that employers pay to active employees. A separate CEWS rate structure applies for furloughed employees.

    Base Subsidy for Active Employees:

    The base subsidy applies to remuneration of up to $1,129 per week that an employer pays to an active employee during a claim period that begins on July 5, 2020 or a later date.  The rate used to calculate the amount of the base subsidy depends on how much an employer’s monthly revenues decline in the claim period.

    Under the previous rules, employers were not eligible for the CEWS unless their revenue dropped by at least 30% in the claim period. With the new requirements, employers whose revenue falls by less than 30% are eligible for the base subsidy.

    If an employer’s revenues drop by at least 50%, the base subsidy rate is calculated at 60%, providing a maximum weekly benefit of up to $677 per employee. If revenues decline by less than 50%, the base rate is determined by multiplying the percentage that the revenue declined by 1.2. For example, if revenues decline by 20%, the base rate is 24% (1.2 x 20%).

    Beginning with the claim period that begins on August 30, 2020, the government will gradually reduce the maximum base rate :

    • For claim periods covering July 5, 2020 to August 29, 2020 (claim periods 5 and 6), the base rate is 60% for employers whose monthly revenues decline by at least 50, providing a maximum weekly benefit of $677 per employee. For employers whose revenue decline is less than 50%, the base rate is determined by multiplying the percentage that the revenue declined by 1.2.
    • For the claim period running from August 30, 2020 to September 26, 2020 (claim period 7), the base rate will drop to 50% for employers whose monthly revenues decline by at least 50%, providing a maximum weekly benefit of $565 per employee. For employers whose revenue decline is less than 50%, the factor used to determine the rate will be reduced from 1.2 to 1.0.
    • For the period September 27, 2020 to October 24, 2020 (claim period 8), the base rate will be reduced to 40% for employers whose monthly revenues decline by at least 50%, providing a maximum weekly benefit of $452 per employee. For employers whose revenue decline is less than 50%, the factor used to determine the rate will be reduced to 0.8.
    • For the period October 25, 2020 to November 21, 2020 (claim period 9), the rate will be reduced to 20% for employers whose monthly revenues decline by at least 50%, providing a maximum weekly benefit of $226 per employee. For employers whose revenue decline is less than 50%, the factor used to determine the rate will be reduced to 0.4.

    The government did not provide parameters for the program beyond November 21, 2020.

    Despite the change in structure, the government said that for the claim periods covering July 5, 2020 to August 29, 2020, employers who would have been better off under the CEWS structure that applied up to July 5 would be eligible for a 75% wage subsidy if their revenue declined by 30% or more.

    Top Up Subsidy for Active Employees:

    The top-up subsidy provides up to an extra 25% for employers who have been the most seriously affected by COVID-19. The top-up CEWS rate applies to remuneration of up to $1,129 per week.

    The amount of the top up will generally be based on the average amount that an employer’s revenue declines in a three-month period compared to the same three-month period in the previous year. Alternatively, employers may compare the average monthly revenue drop in the previous three months to their average monthly revenue in January 2020 and February 2020.

    Employers who had a three-month average revenue decline of more than 50% would receive a top up CEWS rate equal to 1.25 times the average revenue decrease over 50%, to a maximum rate of 25%. For example,

    • If three-month average revenue declined by 55%, the top-up rate would be 6.25%.
    • If three-month average revenue declined by 60%, the top-up rate would be 12.5%.
    • If three-month average revenue declined by 65%, the top-up rate would be 18.75%.
    • If three-month average revenue declined by 70% or more, the top-up rate would be 25%.
    • Employers whose three-month average revenue declined by 50% or less would not receive a top up.

    CEWS for Furloughed Employees:

    Beginning August 30, 2020 (claim period 7), the government will adjust the CEWS for furloughed employees to align it with benefits provided through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and/or Employment Insurance (EI). The government will continue to refund employer portion of Canada/Quebec Pension Plan contributions, EI premiums and Quebec Parental Insurance Plan premiums for furloughed employees.

    Up until that time, the CEWS calculation for furloughed employees will remain at 75% of the amount of remuneration paid, to a maximum benefit of $847 per employee per week (for arm’s length employees), and 75% of the employee’s pre-crisis weekly remuneration up to a maximum benefit of $847 per week or the amount of remuneration paid, whichever is less.

    The government also announced that as of July 5, 2020, the CEWS for furloughed employees would be available to eligible employers who qualify for either the base rate or the top-up for active employees in the relevant period.

    Also effective July 5, 2020, the eligibility criteria for the CEWS no longer excludes employees who are not paid for 14 or more consecutive days in a claim period.

    The amendments in Bill C-20 also made technical changes to the CEWS, including providing continuity rules to address circumstances where an employer buys all or substantially all of another entity’s business assets.

    For more information on the changes, see https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/07/adapting-the-canada-emergency-wage-subsidy-to-protect-jobs-and-promote-growth.html.

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

  • Canada’s federal and provincial/territorial governments have agreed to set up a program that will provide workers with up to 10 days of paid sick leave related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on July 17, 2020, that the governments had signed on to a Safe Restart Agreement that will see the federal government provide more than $19 billion to help provinces and territories restart their economies while taking steps to prepare for possible future waves of COVID-19.

    As part of the agreement, the federal government will set up a temporary income support program with up to 10 days of paid sick leave for workers who do not already have at least 10 days of paid time off for sickness.

    Provincial and territorial governments will be required to amend their employment/labour standards laws and/or regulations to allow for at least 10 days of job-protected sick leave if not already mandated.

  • The federal government is proposing temporary rule changes for deferred salary leave plans (DSLPs) and registered pension plans (RPPs) to assist employers and employees affected by the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    On July 2, 2020, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced amendments to the federal Income Tax Act Regulations that he said would aid employers in managing and maintaining their benefit obligations and help to ensure that employees’ DSLPs were not disqualified because the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from taking a deferred leave.

    DSLPs allow employees, with their employer’s written agreement, to defer receiving a portion of their salary in order to fund a future leave of absence. The amounts deferred are treated as income in the year that an employee receives them.

    Federal Income Tax Act Regulations set out a number of registration rules and conditions that the plans must meet to be valid, including requirements that the employee take the leave within six years of beginning the salary deferral and that the leave last for a minimum of six months (or three months if the purpose of the leave is to study full-time at a designated educational institution). Plans that do not meet all of the requirements will be terminated and the employer will have to pay the employee the amounts deferred and include them in the employee’s income.

    Due to the COVID-19 emergency, the federal government said it was concerned that employees might not be able to fulfill the requirements. Some employees have been recalled to work before having been on leave for the minimum six-month period, while others may not be able to begin their leave as planned.

    To address these issues, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced proposed changes to the regulations that would temporarily add “stop-the-clock” rules to the conditions so that a plan would not have to be terminated if an employee suspended his or her leave to return to work or delayed taking a planned deferred leave. The stop-the-clock rules would apply from March 15, 2020 to April 30, 2021.

    The changes would mean that if an employee on a deferred salary leave returned to work on or after March 15, 2020 and went back on leave before May 1, 2021, the two periods of leave would be considered one consecutive leave. Under the salary deferral rules, the employer would have until the end of 2021 to fully pay the deferred amounts if the employee returned to the leave in 2021. If the employee resumed the leave in 2021 (up to April 30), the employer would have to fully pay the deferred salary by the end of 2022.

    For employees who had not yet started their leave, the amended regulations would allow them to postpone the start date by up to an additional 14 months if their deferral period would first exceed six years between March 15, 2020 and April 30, 2021.

    For RPPs, the government proposes several amendments, including the following changes:

    • Retroactive contributions to an employee’s money purchase plan account would be allowed for 2020 and would be added to the employee’s pension adjustment for 2020, regardless of whether the employee had reduced service or pay, provided that:
      • the employee makes the contribution (or makes a written commitment to make the contribution) after 2020 and before May 2021;
      • the employer makes a contribution after 2020 and before May 2021 (or, if later, it matches contributions that the employee committed to making); and
      • the contribution fully or partially replaces one that would have otherwise been required for 2020.
    • “This change would effectively permit retroactive contributions to a money purchase account to replace contributions that were not made in 2020 and ensure that retroactive contributions plus regular contributions in 2021 do not exceed the maximum contribution limit (the pension adjustment limit) for 2021,” the federal government said in background documents.
    • The definition of “eligible period of reduced pay” under rules that allow RPPs to recognize full pensionable service (within certain limits) when an employee works reduced hours would be revised for 2020. One change would remove a requirement that employees be employed for at least 36 months to qualify for the provision. Another change would eliminate a requirement that a pay reduction must generally correspond to a reduction in work hours.
    • The amendments would relax restrictions on borrowing money for RPPs.

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

  • The federal government has temporarily extended the length of time that federally regulated employers may recall laid-off non-unionized employees before the layoffs become a termination of employment.

    The government amended its Canada Labour Standards Regulations on June 22, 2020 to implement the measure, which would extend temporary layoffs by up to six months for non-unionized workers. Labour Minister Filomena Tassi said the extension would help employers and employees maintain employment relationships and give employers more time to recall workers laid off during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    Normally, a temporary layoff for non-unionized workers is a period of up to three months if employees are not given a recall date. Temporary layoffs can also be for more than three months if the employer notifies the workers before the layoff that it will recall them on a fixed date or within a fixed time that is no more than six months later and it does so. Temporary layoffs become terminations of employment, with severance and termination pay implications, if employees are not recalled to work by the time the temporary layoff period expires.

    With the changes announced in June, the three-month layoff period is extended by six months for workers laid off before March 31, 2020. For those laid off between March 31, 2020 and September 30, 2020, the temporary layoff period is extended to December 30, 2020.

    For temporary layoffs with notice that includes a fixed recall date or period, the government is extending the layoff period by six months or until December 30, 2020, whichever comes first, for workers laid off before March 31, 2020. For those laid off between March 31, 2020 and September 30, 2020, the temporary layoff period is extended to December 30, 2020 if the fixed date or period in the notice occurs before December 30, 2020. If the specified recall date or period is on or after December 30, 2020, employers will have until that date to recall their employees.

    The change in temporary layoff rules applies to workers laid off up to and including September 30, 2020. Layoffs that occur after that date will be subject to the normal rules for temporary layoffs.

    The extension does not affect workers whose employment was already terminated before June 22, 2020 or to employees who are covered by a collective agreement that contains recall rights.

  • 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.

  • New Brunswick’s workers’ compensation body announced on June 8, 2020 that employer monthly premium payments would resume in late June.

    In March, WorkSafeNB deferred the payment of assessment premiums, without interest charges, for three months to help employers deal with the financial challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    In addition to resuming monthly payments, WorkSafeNB said it would begin collecting the deferred premiums in June. The workers’ compensation body will collect the deferred premiums in three equal amounts in June, July, and August.

    Employers who pay their premiums annually who still have a balance owing are also required to resume payment.

    If employers have questions or concerns about the premium payments, WorkSafeNB advises that they contact the organization by phone at 1-800-999-9775 (ext. 4) or by email at assessment.cotisations@ws-ts.nb.ca.

  • 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.

  • The Newfoundland and Labrador government has temporarily extended the maximum period for a temporary layoff from 13 weeks in a period of 20 consecutive weeks to 26 weeks in a period of 33 consecutive weeks.

    Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Minister Christopher Mitchelmore said the change would give employers more time to recall employees and maintain employment relationships during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    “This temporary extension provides both with more time before a temporary layoff becomes a permanent termination, ensuring they are not forced to prematurely end the employer-employee relationship,” said Mitchelmore in a statement released June 12, 2020.

    The extension, which is retroactive to March 18, 2020, applies until September 18, 2020.

    The government has also temporarily extended the period for employees to register complaints about labour standards violations to the Director of Labour Standards from six months to 12 months. The extension applies from March 18, 2020 to September 18, 2020.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The province’s legislature has passed legislation that allows 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 received royal assent on June 18, 2020. The new leave provisions apply retroactively to March 16, 2020.

    They allow employees to take the leave if they cannot perform their duties because of an emergency. An emergency includes 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 are also entitled to the leave if the emergency directly applies to a family member and results in the family member needing the employee’s care or assistance, and the employee is the only person reasonably able to provide the care or assistance, and providing the care or assistance prevents the employee from working.

    The leave lasts for as long as the emergency continues and prevents the employee from performing his or her job duties. This include situations where

    ·         the employee is in isolation or quarantine or is subject to a control measure, including self-isolation, and the quarantine, isolation, or control measure stems from information or directions provided by the chief public health officer in relation to a prescribed communicable disease;

    ·         the employee’s employer directed the employee not to work out of concern that the employee could expose other individuals in the workplace to the prescribed communicable disease; or

    ·         the employee is out of the province and is directly affected by travel restrictions related to the prescribed communicable disease and, under the circumstances, cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to the province.

    The leave ends on the day the emergency ends or it no longer stops the employee from carrying out his or her job duties.

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

    Employers may require employees to provide reasonable evidence, at a time that is reasonable, that they are entitled to the leave; however, employers cannot ask employees to provide a certificate from a medical practitioner or a nurse practitioner.

    Once the leave is over, employers must reinstate employees in the position that they held before taking the leave or, if the position no longer exists, 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 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 British Columbia government has announced a new refundable tax credit to encourage employers to create new jobs for British Columbia workers or raise the pay of existing low- and middle-income employees.

    The government announced the B.C. Increased Employment Incentive in mid-September before calling a provincial election for October 24, 2020.

    The tax credit would be available to all private-sector employers in British Columbia, as well as most charities and non-profits, who increase their payroll by creating new jobs or raising pay levels for low- and middle-income employees from the third quarter of 2020 to the fourth quarter of 2020. Public-sector employers are not eligible for the tax credit.

    The tax credit would be calculated as 15% of the amount that an employer’s qualifying B.C. remuneration exceeded its base B.C. remuneration. Qualifying remuneration would include all B.C. remuneration paid to eligible employees for the period October 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020, to a weekly maximum of $1,129.33 per employee. Base payroll would be the total B.C. remuneration paid to eligible employees for the period July 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020, to a weekly maximum of $1,129.33 per employee. Partial weeks would be prorated.

    For employees to be eligible, they would have to report for work at one of their employer’s permanent establishments in the province or be paid from one of them, and they would have to principally carry out their duties in the province.

    Eligible employers would be able to start applying for the credit in March 2021 through the government’s eTaxBC system.

    If an eligible employer is required to pay the province’s Employer Health Tax (EHT), the government would first apply the tax credit to any outstanding EHT. Any amount of the tax credit remaining would be paid to the employer as a refund.

    The government advises employers to file their 2020 EHT returns before or at the same time that they apply for the B.C. Increased Employment Incentive to avoid delays in receiving a refund.

    Employer participation in the federal government’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy would not reduce the amount of the new tax credit.

    For more information on the tax credit, see https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/employer-health-tax/employer-health-tax-overview/increased-employment-incentive.

  • The British Columbia government has deferred instalment payment due dates for the 2020 calendar year for its Employer Health Tax (EHT) to help employers cope with financial challenges related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The instalments will now be due as follows:

    • December 31, 2020 – first instalment;
    • January 31, 2021 – second instalment;
    • February 28, 2021 – third instalment; and
    • March 31, 2021 – final instalment.

    Employers are required to pay the EHT in quarterly instalments if their EHT in the previous calendar year exceeded $2,925. The instalments are normally due June 15, September 15 and December 15 of the current calendar year, and March 31 of the following year. 

  • WorkSafeBC has postponed premium payment deadlines for the first and second quarters of 2020 for employers who pay quarterly.

    The workers’ compensation body said it delayed the due dates to help employers cope with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Employers who report and pay premiums quarterly have until October 20, 2020, to pay their first and second quarter premiums, with no penalties or interest. That is also the date that third-quarter premiums are due. While employers have until October to make the payment, they were required to report their payrolls for the first two quarters to WorkSafeBC by July 20, 2020.

    WorkSafeBC initially gave employers until June 30, 2020 to pay their first quarter premiums, with no penalties or interest. The premiums would normally be due by April 30.

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

  • The British Columbia government has set up a new online tool that it says will make it easier for employers to apply for a variance to extend temporary layoffs due to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    In June, the government extended the maximum period for temporary layoffs of non-unionized employees from 16 weeks to 24 weeks for layoffs directly related to COVID-19. The extension will expire on August 30, 2020; however, employers may apply, with their workers, to extend the layoff beyond that date through the new variance application process.

    In a July 20, 2020 news release, the government said its new online application would simplify and streamline the variance process by eliminating the need for hardcopy documents and signatures normally required for variances.

    Under the new process, employers would first have to survey their workers and obtain more than 50% support for a temporary layoff to continue. In contacting the employees, the employer should explain what a variance is and how the process works.

    Once an employer has documented proof that it has over 50% support, it can submit an online application to the province’s Employment Standards Branch. The Employment Standards Branch has a form that employers can use to document employee support. It also provides information on the variance process for both employers and workers on its website at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/employment-business/employment-standards-advice/employment-standards/hours/variances.

    After Employment Standards processes an employer’s application, it will notify the employer of its decision. If it approves the variance, Employment Standards will e-mail the employer a copy of its approval. If it rejects the application, it will send its decision by registered mail to both the employer and the affected employees.

    Employers who receive approval must follow all of the conditions listed in the variance and post a copy of the variance at the workplace. Employment Standards also recommends that employers e-mail a copy of the variance to the affected employees.

    Employers have until August 25, 2020 to submit their application, but the government encourages employers to apply as soon as possible. If an employer’s application is not submitted in time to be processed by August 30, 2020 when the extension expires, the temporary layoff could become a termination, with termination pay requirements.

  • To help employers cope with challenges presented by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), WorkSafeBC is waiving employer’s premiums on wages paid to furloughed workers if the employers are receiving the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

    CEWS is a federal government program that provides eligible businesses with a subsidy of 75% of employee wages, up to a maximum of $847 per week, if they keep employees on payroll during the COVID-19 emergency.

    The WorkSafeBC waiver applies as of March 15, 2020 (the date CEWS began) and continues for as long as the CEWS program is in effect. To be eligible for the waiver, employers must keep records that list employees who have been furloughed because of COVID-19.

  • On June 25, 2020, the British Columbia government extended the maximum period for a temporary layoff of non-unionized employees to 24 weeks, up until the end of August, for layoffs directly related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Normally under the Employment Standards Act, a temporary layoff becomes a permanent layoff, with notice of termination/wages in lieu of notice implications, if it lasts longer than 13 weeks in a 20-week period. However, on May 4, 2020, the government extended the temporary layoff period to 16 weeks in a 20-week period for layoffs of non-unionized workers caused in total or in part by the province’s COVID-19 emergency.

    The latest extension expands the maximum period for COVID-19-related temporary layoffs to 24 weeks in any period, ending on or before August 30, 2020, of 28 consecutive weeks. Labour Minister Harry Bains said the new extension would give employers and employees more flexibility and align the province’s layoff rules with recent changes to the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides $2,000 a month for up to 24 weeks for workers who have lost their income because of COVID-19.

    The temporary layoff extension does not apply to layoffs that begin on or after June 1, 2020.

    Bains also reminded employers and employees that a variance provision in the province’s Employment Standards Act allows them to apply for a further extension if their circumstances require it. Under section 72 of the Act, employers and employees may jointly apply in writing to the Employment Standards Branch for a variance of certain provisions in the Act, including the maximum period for a temporary layoff.

    A letter requesting a variance must refer to the provision in the Act for which the employers and workers want a variance, what the variance is that they are requesting, how long the variance would last, and the reasons for it. The letter must also include the employer’s name, address and telephone number, and the names and home phone numbers of each employee who signs the letter. For more information, see https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/employment-business/employment-standards-advice/employment-standards/hours/variances

  • 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 Ontario government has extended to July 3, 2021 employment standards provisions that prevent temporary layoffs related to the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic from becoming terminations for non-unionized workers.

    On May 29, 2020, the government enacted a new regulation that temporarily changed the rules for layoffs and constructive dismissals related to COVID-19 that occurred during the province’s COVID-19 period. Under the rules, during the COVID-19 period, non-unionized employees are automatically deemed to be on an infectious disease emergency leave if their employer reduces or eliminates their work hours due to COVID-19. In addition, non-unionized workers are not considered to be laid off if their employer temporarily reduces or eliminates their work hours or wages for reasons related to COVID-19 and non-unionized employees are not considered to be constructively dismissed if their employer temporarily reduces or eliminates their work hours or wages due to COVID-19.

    The COVID-19 period for employment standards began on March 1, 2020. It was originally supposed to last until six weeks after the government ended its declared emergency for COVID-19, which occurred on July 24, 2020. However, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton announced in early September that the government would extend the period to January 2, 2021. In mid-December, he said it would be further extended to July 3, 2021 to help protect employees and employers.

    “Business owners continue to face challenging times during this pandemic, with many struggling to keep their doors open. Having to come up with termination and severance pay at this time could drive many of them under,” said McNaughton. “We want to ensure employees have jobs to return to when the economy rebounds from the COVID-19 economic crisis.”

    Under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000, a temporary layoff that exceeds 13 weeks in a 20-week period normally becomes a termination of employment. These regular rules for temporary layoffs and constructive dismissals are expected to resume on July 4, 2021.

    New Ont. Regulation Allows for Alternative Termination Pay Arrangements in Certain Industries

    The Ontario government has created a new regulation that allows employers in the hospitality, tourism, and convention and trade show industries to negotiate alternative arrangements with unions for putting termination and severance pay into trust for laid-off workers.

    Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and  Culture Industries Lisa MacLeod said the measure would help employers and workers in those industries that have been hard hit by the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    Normally, employers with laid off unionized workers must put all potential termination and severance pay in a trust after 35 weeks while the employees wait to be recalled to work. However, MacLeod said the new regulation (#764/20) would allow employers and unions to instead agree to use the money, or a portion of it, to keep the business open.

    The new regulation does not apply to employees who are not represented by a trade union.

    For more information, please refer to the Ministry of Labour’s website at https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/index.php.

  • The Ontario government is proposing to keep the payroll exemption for its Employer Health Tax (EHT) at $1 million next year.

    Earlier this year, the government temporarily raised the threshold from $490,000 to $1 million as part of its efforts to assist employers facing financial difficulties due to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). It had initially said the threshold would return to $490,000 in 2021; however, in its November 5, 2020 budget, the government announced that the $1 million threshold would remain in place through to the end of 2028.

    In the budget, the government also announced that it would delay the date that the EHT exemption is adjusted for inflation. Normally, the adjustment occurs every five years, with the next one scheduled for 2024. Instead, the budget proposes that the adjustment not occur until January 1, 2029.

    In addition, the government proposes to increase a payroll threshold used to determine whether employers subject to the EHT must pay it in monthly installments. Beginning January 1, 2021, the threshold would rise from $600,000 to $1.2 million. Employers whose annual Ontario payroll is below the threshold would pay the EHT when they file their annual returns.

    Legislation to implement the changes is currently before the province’s legislature. 

  • Employers who deferred paying their Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premiums earlier this year because of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic must begin repaying the amounts in January.

    The WSIB recently announced that employers who took part in the board’s deferral program will have to repay the deferred premiums between January 1, 2021 and June 30, 2021. Employers will be allowed to pay the amount owing in one payment or in multiple installments. The board said it would not charge interest or penalties on the outstanding amounts until after June 30, 2021. It advised employers who need more time to repay the deferred premiums to contact the WSIB.

    The deferral program allowed employers to postpone premium payments from March 2020 to the end of August 2020 to help them cope with financial challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The WSIB will also not charge interest or penalties on outstanding premium payments during the six-month deferral period. All schedule 1 employers have to report the deferred premiums to the board by October 31, 2020. 

    The WSIB also clarified that employers receiving the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program who use it to pay employees who are on leave and not working are not required to report the subsidy amount that they receive for those employees. The board has created a worksheet that employers can use to organize the exempt amounts. The worksheet is available on board’s website at https://www.wsib.ca/sites/default/files/2020-10/10417a-wsibxcews-english.pdf.

  • The Ontario government has extended its interest and penalty relief period for Employer Health Tax (EHT) returns and remittances to October 1, 2020.

    The relief measure is aimed at helping businesses cope with financial challenges caused by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The government announced in its March 25, 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update that it would provide five months of interest and penalty relief for businesses that filed their returns and remitted incomplete or late tax payments for the EHT. The five-month period applied between April 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020.

    The relief measures also apply to other provincial taxes, including retail sales tax on insurance contracts and benefit plans.

    With the extension to October 1, 2020, the government said regular filing and payment activities and regular penalties and interest would resume on October 2, 2020.

  • The Ontario government has extended to January 2, 2021, employment standards provisions that prevent temporary layoffs related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) from becoming terminations for non-unionized workers.

    On May 29, 2020, the government enacted a new regulation that temporarily changed the rules for layoffs and constructive dismissals related to COVID-19 that occurred during the province’s COVID-19 period.

    Under the rules, during the COVID-19 period, non-unionized employees are automatically deemed to be on an infectious disease emergency leave if their employer reduces or eliminates their work hours due to COVID-19.

    In addition, non-unionzed workers are not considered to be laid off if their employer temporarily reduces or eliminates their work hours or wages for reasons related to COVID-19 and non-unionized employees are not considered to be constructively dismissed if their employer temporarily reduces or eliminates their work hours or wages due to COVID-19.

    The COVID-19 period for employment standards began on March 1, 2020. It was supposed to last until six weeks after the government ended its declared emergency for COVID-19, which occurred on July 24, 2020. However, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton announced on September 3, 2020 that the government would extend the period to January 2, 2021 to help protect employees and employers.

    He noted that under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000, a temporary layoff that exceeds 13 weeks in a 20-week period becomes a termination of employment, which he said could trigger costly payouts for employers.

    “As our government continues to take the necessary steps to safely reopen the economy, we need to protect the businesses and employees impacted by COVID-19," said McNaughton. “The cost of termination and severance pay can make it impossible for a business to survive and reopen. That's why we acted to make sure businesses survive and workers have jobs to come back to.”

    Regular rules for temporary layoffs and constructive dismissals will resume on January 3, 2021.

  • 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.

  • Workers’ compensation premiums that Alberta’s Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) deferred last year because of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are payable as of January 1, 2021; however, the WCB is giving employers until March 1, 2021 to pay them.

    Last March, the board announced premium relief measures to help employers cope with financial challenges presented by COVID-19, including deferring 2020 premiums for all private-sector employers until 2021. 

  • On September 24, 2020, the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) released a factsheet clarifying when amounts paid to employers under the federal government’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) must be included in insurable earnings for workers’ compensation premiums.

    The CEWS assists eligible employers whose revenues have declined due to the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    The factsheet states that if an employer is using the CEWS to help cover wages paid to employees who are working, the employer must include the CEWS payments in its insurable earnings. However, if an employer receiving the CEWS uses it to help pay the wages of employees who are furloughed or who are not working, it can exclude the CEWS payments from its insurable earnings. Employers must keep records to identify which employees were furloughed and track when they were off work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The board also stated that when employers complete their 2020 annual return, they should include the amount of the CEWS subsidy paid to employees who were working in 2020.

  • The Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) has announced cost relief measures related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that it says will relieve approximately $10 million in claim costs from employers’ experience records.

    The WCB said it implements cost relief by moving costs from an individual employer’s experience record to the employer’s industry rate group level in situations where there are pre-existing conditions or extraordinary costs that are not in the employer’s control.

    It said the cost relief is in response to employer requests to reduce the financial impact of COVID-19 claims and costs related to the province-wide COVID-19 lockdown from mid-March to mid-June. In some situations, the lockdown prevented workers from returning to work because of delays in treatment. There were also cases where employers could not offer modified work because of the lockdown.

    The WCB said the following conditions related to COVID-19 are eligible for cost relief:

    • cost relief for COVID-19 claims;
    • cost relief for claims where the employer could not offer modified work for no-time-loss claims due to the provincial shutdown;
    • cost relief for claims where the worker was fit to resume work during the shutdown and where the employer could not offer modified work because of the shutdown (the employer must have offered modified work within two weeks of the shutdown ending); and
    • cost relief for delays in hospital admission and surgeries because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    In addition, the board announced that it would record claims as no-time-loss when modified work is no longer available. It said that while this administrative change would not relieve any actual costs, it would change the status of the claim on the employer’s experience, which could affect premiums.

    Employers do not have to apply for the cost relief; the WCB will implement it automatically. Claims that did not have delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic are not eligible for cost relief.

    The board said it was working on making the required system changes to implement the cost relief by the end of the year, but that the earliest that cost relief would impact experience rating would be 2022 (employers in the WCB’s Partnerships in Injury Reduction program would be affected in 2021).

    For more information on the cost relief measures, see https://www.wcb.ab.ca/assets/pdfs/employers/COVID19_cost_relief.pdf.

  • Effective June 18, 2020, the Alberta government extended the maximum period for a temporary layoff to 180 days if the layoff is related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    Normally, under the province’s Employment Standards Code, a temporary layoff is a maximum of 90 days in a 120-day period (prior to recent amendments, it was 60 days in a 120-day period). Layoffs that exceed that timeframe become a termination.

    The extension for COVID-19-related layoffs was included in Bill 24, the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Statutes Amendment Act, 2020, which received royal assent on June 26, 2020. The legislation specified that the temporary layoff amendments would take effect when the bill passed first reading, which was June 18, 2020.

    The extension for COVID-19-related temporary layoffs applies to employees who were already laid off on June 18, 2020 and to those who are laid off on or after that date.

  • As of August 15, 2020, employees who need to take family responsibility leave for specific issues related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may take off more than the five days permitted under the province’s Employment Standards Code.

    The Code normally allows employees who have worked for their employer for at least 90 days to take up to five days off each year, without pay, for personal health issues or for family responsibilities. However, the provincial government recently amended its Employment Standards (COVID-19 Leave) Regulation to allow employees to take a longer leave if they need the time off to care for a family member under quarantine because of COVID-19 or a child who cannot go to school or child care as a result of recommendations or directions of the province’s chief medical health officer related to COVID-19. Employees may take the leave for the period of time that they need to be off to meet these family responsibilities. The amendment allowing for the longer leave will remain in effect until August 14, 2021.

    Employees who plan to take the leave must give their employer as much notice as is reasonable and practicable in the situation. If their employer requests it, employees must provide the employer with reasonable proof that they are entitled to the leave. However, employees are not required to provide a medical certificate as evidence of the need for the leave. 

  • 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.

  • The Manitoba legislature has passed legislation that broadens the reasons for which employees may take a Public Health Emergency Leave for COVID-19.

    The changes were included in Bill 44, The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act, which received royal assent on October 28, 2020.

    The amendments extend entitlement to the leave to employees who are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 because they have an underlying medical condition, are undergoing medical treatment, or have contracted another illness, based on the opinion of a health officer or a health professional or information or directions issued by the provincial or federal government.

    Premier Brian Pallister said the government was extending eligibility for the leave to better align it with recent federal changes that allow eligible individuals to receive a new Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) if they cannot work because they are sick or need to self-isolate due to COVID-19 or they have an underlying health condition that makes them more susceptible to COVID-19.

    Entitlement to the leave is retroactive to September 27, 2020, the date that the CRSB came into effect.

    The legislation also repeals transitional provisions put in place earlier this year that implemented a blanket prohibition on employer requests for a physician’s certificate or a medical certificate for maternity leave, compassionate care leave, organ donation leave, critical illness leave, long-term leave for a serious injury or illness, and public health emergency leave.

    Instead, the amendments allow employers to request a physician’s certificate or a medical certificate for these leaves only if regulations under the Code permit it.

    For more information on the leave, please see 15.7.14, Public Health Emergency Leave.

  • The Manitoba government announced on September 14, 2020 that it would extend its Back to Work wage subsidy program a further two months and broaden the list of those who are eligible for it.

    The provincial government created the funding program earlier this year to encourage private-sector employers to re-employ employees who were let go because of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) or to hire new workers.

    The program reimburses eligible employers for 50% of total wages paid, up to a maximum of $5,000 per worker, for up to 20 newly hired employees. The program applies to workers re-employed or hired between July 16, 2020 and December 31, 2020, an extension of two months from the previous end date of October 31, 2020.

    The employees hired can be previous workers who were laid off due to COVID-19, as long as the employer did not rehire them before July 16, 2020. In addition, employees hired under the program cannot displace existing employees.

    In addition to extending the program, the government announced that employers could apply for the funding if they rehired students who were previously employed through the Manitoba Summer Student Recovery Jobs Program, Canada Summer Job Program, and Green Team Program, if the students had been laid off and then rehired on or after September 14, 2020.

    The government also confirmed that new start-up companies would be eligible for the program, as long as they have a business number.

    The program applies to all workers who are legally allowed to work in Canada, including permanent employees, students, contract workers and seasonal workers, whether they work full-time, part-time or on a casual basis. However, employers are not allowed to hire immediate family members for the positions for which they are applying for funding.

    The government will provide the funding in a lump sum after an employer provides proof that it paid the wages to the employees. Employers have until February 1, 2021 to provide the proof.

    The funding is available to businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and charities. Public-sector employers are excluded. To be eligible for the program, employers must have an active and valid Business Number, be registered and in good standing with the Companies Office (unless they are sole proprietors), have an e-mail address and a valid bank account.

    To receive the funding, employers must apply by December 1, 2020.

    Employers are required to keep complete and accurate payroll, employment, and accounting records, as well as financial documents and other records for each worker for whom they receive funding.

    For more information on the program, including eligibility criteria, see https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/restartmb/btwmp.html.

  • On August 26, 2020, the Manitoba government announced that it would double the number of employees eligible for the province’s Back to Work wage subsidy program from 10 to 20.

    The provincial government created the funding program earlier in the summer to encourage private-sector employers to re-employ employees who were let go because of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) or to hire new workers.

    The program reimburses eligible employers for 50% of total wages paid between July 16, 2020 and October 31, 2020, up to a maximum of $5,000 per worker, for up to 20 newly hired employees. The employees hired can be previous workers who were laid off due to COVID-19, as long as the employer did not rehire them before July 16, 2020. In addition, employees hired under the program cannot displace existing employees.

    The program applies to all workers who are legally allowed to work in Canada, including permanent employees, students, contract workers and seasonal workers, whether they work full-time, part-time or on a casual basis. However, employers are not allowed to hire immediate family members for the positions for which they are applying for funding.

    The government will provide the funding in a lump sum after an employer provides proof that it paid the wages to the employees. Employers will have until January 4, 2021 to provide the proof.

    The funding is available to businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and charities. To be eligible for it, employers must have an active and valid Business Number, be registered and in good standing with the Companies Office (unless they are sole proprietors), have an e-mail address and a valid bank account.

    The program will not provide funding for any positions that were already being subsidized by another government program (e.g., Canada Summer Jobs Program, Green Team, Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Manitoba Back to Work this Summer Program and Manitoba Summer Student Recovery Jobs Program), with the exception of the federal government’s 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers. Employers who received funding under the province’s Back to Work this Summer and Summer Student Recovery Jobs programs may apply under the Back to Work program for 20 additional or rehired employees.

    Public-sector employers are not eligible for the programs. Employers are also not eligible for it if they were in arrears for taxes owing to the Manitoba government on March 20, 2020 and have not yet paid the outstanding amounts (excluding businesses that have deferred taxes under the government’s COVID-19 deferral of tax remittances). For a list of other exclusions, see https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/restartmb/btwmp.html.

    To receive the funding, employers must apply by October 1, 2020.

    Employers are required to keep complete and accurate payroll, employment, and accounting records, as well as financial documents and other records for each worker for whom they receive funding.

    For more information on the program and how to apply for it, see https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/restartmb/btwmp.html.

  • The Manitoba government announced on June 24, 2020 that it had extended the due date for Health and Post Secondary Education Tax Levy remittances to mid-October 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, June 15, July 15, August 17, and September 15 now have until October 15, 2020 to remit them. This is the third time that the government has extended the deadline because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    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 October 15, 2020. Interest will continue to apply on all outstanding amounts prior to the March remittances deadlines.

     

  • On July 15, 2020, the Manitoba government announced a new funding program to encourage private-sector employers to re-employ employees who were let go because of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) or to hire new workers.

    Premier Brian Pallister said the Manitoba Back to Work program would build on a similar initiative announced in June that provides funding for employers who hire workers or re-hire employees between June 18, 2020 and August 30, 2020. For more information on that program, see the story “Manitoba Government Implements Temporary Program to Reimburse Wages.”

    Under the new program announced in July, the government will reimburse employers up to $5,000 per worker for up to 10 newly hired employees, to a maximum of $50,000 per employer. The program will cover 50% of total wages, to the $5,000 maximum, between July 16, 2020 to October 31, 2020, for the new/re-hires.

    The program applies to all workers who are legally allowed to work in Canada, including permanent employees, students, contract workers and seasonal workers, whether they work full-time, part-time or on a casual basis. However, employers are not allowed to hire immediate family members for the positions for which they are applying for funding.

    The government will provide the funding in a lump sum after an employer provides proof that it paid the wages to the employees. Employers will have until January 4, 2021 to provide the proof.

    The funding is available to businesses, not-for-profit organizations and charities. To be eligible for it, employers must have an active and valid Business Number, be registered and in good standing with the Companies Office (unless they are sole proprietors), have an e-mail address and a valid bank account.

    The program will not provide funding for any positions that were already being subsidized by another government program (e.g., Canada Summer Jobs Program, Green Team, Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Manitoba Back to Work this Summer Program and Manitoba Summer Student Recovery Jobs Program), with the exception of the federal government’s 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers. Employers who received funding under the province’s Back to Work this Summer and Summer Student Recovery Jobs programs may apply under the new program for 10 new employees.

    Public-sector employers are not eligible for the programs. Employers are also not eligible for it if they were in arrears for taxes owing to the Manitoba government on March 20, 2020 and have not yet paid the outstanding amounts (excluding businesses that have deferred taxes under the government’s COVID-19 deferral of tax remittances). For a list of other exclusions, see https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/business/btwmp.html.

    To receive the funding, employers must apply by October 1, 2020.

    Employers are required to keep complete and accurate payroll, employment, and accounting records, as well as financial documents and other records for each worker for whom they receive funding.

    For more information on the program and how to apply for it, see https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/business/btwmp.html.

  • The provincial government has introduced a funding program to encourage private-sector employers to re-employ employees who were let go because of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) or to hire new workers.

    In mid-June, Premier Brian Pallister announced an initiative called Manitoba Back to Work This Summer, which allows employers to apply to the provincial government for funding for up to five employees that they hire or re-hire after June 18, 2020. The program will cover 50% of total wages paid from June 18, 2020 to August 30, 2020, to a maximum of $5,000 per employee and $25,000 per business.

    The program applies to all workers who are legally allowed to work in Canada, including permanent employees, students, contract workers and seasonal workers, whether they work full-time, part-time or on a casual basis. However, employers are not allowed to hire immediate family members for the positions for which they are applying for funding.

    The government will provide the funding in a lump sum after an employer provides proof that it paid the wages to the employees. The reimbursement only applies for wages paid and employees hired on or after June 18, 2020.

    To be eligible for the funding, employers must have an active and valid Business Number, be registered and in good standing with the Companies Office (unless they are sole proprietors), have an e-mail address and a valid bank account, and have not receiving funding under the Canada Youth Employment Program.

    Employers are not eligible for the program if they were in arrears for taxes owing to the Manitoba government on March 20, 2020 and have not yet paid the outstanding amounts (excluding businesses that have deferred taxes under the government’s COVID-19 deferral of tax remittances). Also excluded are charities, not-for-profit organizations, and public-sector employers. For a full list of exclusions, see https://manitoba.ca/covid19/business/btwtsp.html.

    Employers are required to keep complete and accurate payroll, employment, and accounting records, as well as financial documents and other records for each worker for whom they receive funding.

    For more information on the program and how to apply for it, see https://manitoba.ca/covid19/business/btwtsp.html

  • 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.

  • The Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) has extended employer relief measures related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) from June 30, 2020 until at least July 31, 2020.

    In late June, the board said it would continue to monitor the need for further extensions on a monthly basis. The WCB initially 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 COVID-19.

    The extension affects the following relief measures:

    • forgiving penalties applied in 2020, including those for late filing, under estimating and late registration (originally only penalties on 2020 premiums applied in March were to be removed);
    • waiving interest until July 31, 2020 (interest applies again as of August 8, 2020 unless the WCB announces further extensions);
    • 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.
  • 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 Quebec government has extended to March 13, 2021 a credit for employer contributions to the Health Services Fund (HSF) for employers who are eligible for the federal government’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

    The CEWS provides qualifying employers with a wage subsidy to encourage them to keep employees on payroll during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The HSF credit applies to employer HSF contributions for employees on paid leave during the same qualifying periods that apply for the CEWS.

    Last November, the federal government announced application and funding details for the CEWS for periods covering December 20, 2020 to March 13, 2021. Quebec’s extension of the HSF credit applies to those periods.

    The CEWS provides qualifying employers

    The federal government has previously announced that the CEWS will remain in place until June 30, 2021.

  • On December 16, 2020, Revenu Québec announced that it had simplified the process that employees can use to claim home office expenses that they incurred in 2020 because the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic forced them to work from home.

    The measure harmonizes Revenu Québec’s approach with that of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CRA recently announced that it had created a simplified process for employees to claim a federal deduction for home office expenses. For more information, see the story “CRA Provides Details on New Simplified Process for Claiming Home Office Expense Deduction” in the federal section of the COVID-19 Alert.

    Similar to the CRA’s approach, Revenu Québec will allow employees to claim $2/day, to a maximum of $400, for each day that they had to work from home in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. To make the claim, employees will not need to obtain a form TP-64.3-V, General Employment Conditions, from their employer, as is normally required to claim home office expenses. In addition, they will not have to keep supporting documents; however, they will need to complete form TP-59.S-V, Expenses Related to Working Remotely Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

    Employees who wish to claim more than $400 must use the regular detailed method to claim expenses, which involves obtaining a signed TP-64.3-V form from their employer. For 2020, Revenu Québec has created a simplified version of the form and will allow employers to use an electronic signature on it so that the form can be sent electronically.

    Beginning in January, Revenu Québec will offer a new online service in French that will help employers complete multiple forms at the same time if many of its employees are working from home.

    For more information, see https://www.revenuquebec.ca/en/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/faq-for-businesses/.

  • The Quebec government recently announced that it would extend its credit for employer contributions to the Health Services Fund (HSF) to harmonize it with federal changes to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

    In a Bulletin d’information published on November 12, 2020, the province’s Finance Ministry said it would match the federal changes, announced in early October, by extending the HSF credit to December 19, 2020. The credit applies to employer HSF contributions for employees on paid leave during the same qualifying periods that apply for the CEWS.

    At the time of writing, the Quebec government had not said whether it would further extend the HSF contribution credit to the end of June to match recent federal proposals to extend the CEWS to June 30, 2021.

  • Employers in Quebec should develop a clear policy on telework for their employees, Quebec’s labour minister said.

    Jean Boulet made the recommendation in late October after receiving a report on telework from a joint labour-employer committee called the Comité consultatif du travail et de la main-d’œuvre. Boulet asked the committee to review telework in light of the number of employees working from home during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The report noted that about 40% of Quebec’s workforce worked from home at the beginning of the pandemic.

    The committee’s report examined both the advantages and disadvantages of telework. It recommended that employers adopt a clear policy on telework that sets out terms and conditions for issues such as reimbursement for work-related expenses, right to disconnect from work, and employee job performance evaluations.

    The committee also reminded employers and workers that the current rules for work under labour standards, workers’ compensation, and health and safety continue to apply to employees working from home.

    For more information on the report, see https://www.travail.gouv.qc.ca/fileadmin/fichiers/Documents/cctm/Avis/Avis_CCTM_teletravail.pdf. At the time of writing, the report was only available in French.

  • The Quebec government issued a decree on September 9, 2020 that gives workers in the province the right to take up to 14 continuous days off work if they have to isolate themselves because of COVID-19 on a recommendation or an order from a public health authority and cannot work.

    Employers are prohibited from dismissing, suspending, or transferring employees who take the time off or from discriminating or taking reprisals against them or imposing any other type of sanction on them.

    The measure applies to all employees covered by the Act respecting labour standards, as well as employees not covered by the Act, including those governed by the Act respecting labour relations, vocational training and workforce management in the construction industry and senior management personnel.

    Employers are not required to pay employees to who take the time off.

     

  • Revenu Québec says it will not assess a taxable benefit for employer reimbursements of employee purchases of up to $500 for computer or office equipment needed to work from home due to the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    The exception applies to both full or partial reimbursements, as long as they do not exceed $500.

    “We consider that the employer gains the most from the purchase,” Revenu Québec said in a statement explaining its policy decision.

  • The Quebec Finance Ministry has extended a credit for employer Health Services Fund (HSF) contributions for employees on forced leaves related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to November 21, 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 Quebec Parental Insurance Plan premiums on wages paid to employees for whom they are claiming the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). The extension of the credit to November 21, 2020 follows a federal government announcement that it would extend the CEWS to that date.

    The Quebec Finance Ministry also announced that it would revise its definitions of “qualifying entity” and “specified employee” for the HSF contribution credit to incorporate changes to federal eligibility rules for the CEWS. In addition, the Finance Ministry said it would add new qualifying periods to match the new federal claim periods. For more information on the federal changes, see the story “Feds Make Changes to CEWS” in the federal section of this Report.

    For more information on the HSF credit, see https://www.revenuquebec.ca/en/press-room/tax-news/details/167532/2020-08-19/.

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

  • The Quebec government announced on July 27, 2020 that it would extend payment due dates for individual, corporate, and trust tax balances, instalments, and other amounts under various tax provisions from September 1, 2020, to September 30, 2020 to help individuals and businesses affected by Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The announcement follows a similar move by the Canada Revenue Agency. (See “CRA Extends Tax Payment Due Dates to Sept. 30” in the federal section for more information.)

    The extensions announced do not affect employer’s payroll remittances. Regular due dates continue to apply.

  • 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.

  • The Northwest Territories government has tabled amendments to its Employment Standards Act that would allow employees to take an unpaid leave if they were not able to carry out their job duties because of an emergency, such as the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    The amendments would also waive the time periods employers must meet for providing notice of a group termination to the territory’s Employment Standards Officer and any trade union representing employees under certain circumstances.

    The amendments were included in Bill 20, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, which was tabled in the territorial legislature on November 3, 2020. The bill includes the following proposals for emergency leave:

    • In an emergency, all employees covered by the Act would be entitled to take a leave without pay during any period when they were not able to perform their job duties because of the emergency.
    • An emergency would include emergencies declared under territorial or federal legislation, including a public health emergency. It would also include situations where the declared emergency affected a member of the employee’s family who needed care, child care, or assistance and the employee was the person most reasonably able to provide it, which prevented the employee from being able to work.
    • In the case of an emergency due to an epidemic or a pandemic of a reportable disease, employees would be entitled to the leave if they could not work for the following reasons:
      • they are under individual medical investigation, supervision, or treatment for the reportable disease;
      • they are in isolation or quarantine or are subject to a control measure, including self-isolation, based on directions or recommendations from a health care professional, a health officer, or the territorial or federal government;
      • their employer has directed them not to work out of concern that they may expose other individuals in the workplace to the disease;
      • they are providing care or child care to a family member because of a situation related to the reportable disease, including a school or day care closure; and
      • they are directly affected by travel restrictions related to the emergency and, under the circumstances, cannot reasonably be expected to travel to their workplace.
    • There would be no maximum period of leave, allowing employees to be off for as long as the emergency continued and prevented them from working.
    • Employees taking the leave would have to advise their employer in advance where possible. Employees would have to provide reasonable proof that they needed to take the leave if their employer requested it. During an epidemic or a pandemic of a reportable disease, employers would be prohibited from requiring employees to provide a medical certificate in order to take the leave.
    • Employers would be required to maintain confidentiality around the employee’s leave and not disclose information about it to anyone unless the employee consented to it, the disclosure was made to an individual who needed the information to do their job, or the disclosure was authorized or required by law.
    • Employers would be required to reinstate the employee in their job or in a comparable position after they returned from the leave.

    The bill would also waive an employer’s obligation to provide notice of a group termination within specific timeframes (depending on the number of employees affected) to the Employment Standards Officer or a union representing the employees if the terminations are required because of an unforeseen event or circumstance beyond the employer’s control, the employer has exercised due diligence to foresee and avoid the cause of the termination, and the cause of the termination prevents the employer from providing the required amount of notice. The employer would have to provide the notice as soon as possible.

    Unforeseen events and circumstances would include the destruction or breakdown of machinery or equipment, climatic or economic conditions, a state of emergency under territorial or federal law, including a public health emergency, and a direction or order from a public health official.

  • 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).

  • The Nunavut government recently tabled legislation that, if passed, would add a new Public Emergency Leave to the territory’s Labour Standards Act.

    The leave was included in Bill 49, An Act to Amend the Labour Standards Act, which the government tabled in the territorial legislature on September 21, 2020.

    The leave would allow employees to take an unpaid leave of absence related to a state of emergency under certain sections of Nunavut’s Emergency Measures Act and Public Health Act, as well as under the federal Emergencies Act, Public Health Act, and Quarantine Act.

    The government would provide more details on the leave, including how many days of leave employees would be entitled to take, in regulations under the Act.

    Employers would be prohibited from dismissing, suspending, laying off, demoting, or disciplining employees who take the leave or intend to take it or from taking the leave into consideration when deciding whether to promote or train an employee.

    The leave would come into effect once the bill received royal assent.

  • 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

  • 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 – January 2021 Issue

  • The federal Finance Department has announced the prescribed rates that apply for automobile-related taxable benefits and allowances for 2021.

    The general prescribed rate used to calculate the taxable benefit for an employee's personal use of an employer-provided automobile is 27 cents per kilometre. The rate for employees whose principal job is to sell or lease automobiles is 24 cents per kilometre. The rates are one cent lower than they were last year.

    The deduction limits for tax-exempt allowances employers pay to employees who use their personal vehicle for business purposes are 59 cents per kilometre for the first 5,000 kilometres and 53 cents per kilometre for each additional kilometre. For the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, the limit is 63 cents for the first 5,000 kilometres driven and 57 cents for each additional kilometre. The rates are unchanged from last year.

    The Finance Department is proposing to allow employees to use their 2019 automobile usage to determine if they are eligible for a reduced standby charge for the 2020 and 2021 tax years if they have an employer-provided automobile. For more information, see the story “Finance Department Proposes Temporary Rule Changes for Auto Benefit Calculations” in the federal section of our COVID-19 Alert.

  • The prescribed rate for taxable benefits to employees and shareholders from interest-free and low-interest loans is 1% from January 1, 2021 to March 31, 2021. The rate is unchanged from the previous quarter.

    The interest rate for unpaid source deductions, overdue taxes, and insufficient instalments is 5% for the first quarter.

  • The Canada Revenue Agency has announced the 2021 ceilings for housing benefits that employers provide to employees in prescribed zones without a developed rental market. The changes reflect an increase in the shelter portion of the consumer price index.

    For 2021, employers should use the following allowable ceiling amounts to determine the maximum value of housing benefits for employees in prescribed zones without a developed rental market:

    Ceiling Amounts
    For common shelter: $207/month ($203 in 2020)
    For an apartment or a duplex:  $558/month for rent only ($547 in 2020)
    $271/month for utilities only ($266 in 2020)
    $829/month for rent and utilities ($813 in 2020)
    For a house or a trailer $933/month for rent only ($916 in 2020)
    $413/month for utilities only ($405 in 2020)
    $1,346 /month for rent and utilities ($1,320 in 2020)

    For a listing of communities that qualify as prescribed zones, see https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/about-your-tax-return/tax-return/completing-a-tax-return/deductions-credits-expenses/line-255-northern-residents-deductions/line-255-places-located-prescribed-zones.html.

  • Effective January 1, 2021, a new part of the Canada Labour Code came into force that allows for administrative monetary penalties for federally regulated employers who fail to comply with labour standards or health and safety rules.

    The new requirements in Part IV of the Code also allow the federal government to publicly identify employers who contravene the Code.

    Under the new administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) system, the amount of the penalty will be based on the type of Code violation, the size of the business, and whether the employer has been issued any previous monetary penalties for similar or more serious violations.

    For labour standards, there are four categories of violations: contravening administrative provisions; contravening provisions related to calculating and paying wages; contravening provisions covering leaves or other requirements which could affect an employee’s financial security or health and safety; and contravening provisions related to the employment of minors.

    Violations of administrative provisions are the least severe, while contraventions relating to the employment of minors are the most severe for labour standards. Overall, the most serious violations relate to contraventions of health and safety rules that immediately threaten an employee’s life or are known to cause latent occupational diseases.

    To give employers time to adjust to the new system, Labour Minister Filomena Tassi said the government would not impose monetary penalties for administrative violations (e.g., record keeping and reporting requirements) until January 1, 2022.

    The new rules group employers into four categories for determining a baseline penalty amount for violations: individuals; micro businesses (i.e., those with fewer than five employees or less than $30,000 in annual gross revenues); small businesses (i.e., those with five to 99 employees or less than $5 million in annual gross revenues); and large businesses (i.e. businesses other than micro and small businesses) and government departments.

    Baseline penalties range from $200 for an individual who contravenes an administrative provision to $50,000 for a large business/government department that commits the most serious health and safety violations. A history of violations can result in the final amount being three times the baseline penalty.

    For more information on the new penalty system, see SOR/2020-260 in the December 23, 2020 Canada Gazette Part II, at http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2020/2020-12-23/pdf/g2-15426.pdf.

  • The federal government is proposing to exempt employers and employees in some federally regulated industries from certain hours of work requirements in the Canada Labour Code.

    In the December 19, 2020 Canada Gazette Part 1, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) said employers in industries with continuous 24/7 operations in the road transportation, postal and courier, marine, and grain sectors were having trouble complying with new hours of work labour standards provisions that came into effect on September 1, 2019. These include giving employees at least 96 hours’ written notice of their work schedules, 24 hours’ written notice of shift changes or new shifts, 30-minute unpaid breaks every period of five consecutive hours, and an eight-hour rest period between work periods or shifts.

    In addition, ESDC said some federally regulated industries have to comply with safety requirements and restrictions on hours of service that may conflict with the new hours of work provisions in the Code.

    To address these concerns, ESDC is proposing to exempt certain employee classes in those sectors from the requirements or to modify the rules for them. It said the changes would “create flexibility for employers to allow them to maintain continuous operations, thereby supporting supply chains in Canada and the Canadian economy.”

    ESDC also said it would develop more exemption and modification regulations for other federally regulated industries. It said the COVID-19 pandemic prevented it from completing consultations last year with stakeholders in sectors such as aviation, telecommunications, broadcasting, banking, and rail transportation. Until regulations are created, ESDC said employers and employees in these industries should continue to follow policy guidance provided by its Labour Program in IPG-101, Scope of Application, available at https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/laws-regulations/labour/interpretations-policies/scope-application.html.

    For more information on the proposals, including the specific employee classes that would be affected, see “Exemptions from and Modifications to Hours of Work Provisions Regulations” in the December 19, 2020 Canada Gazette Part 1, at http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2020/2020-12-19/pdf/g1-15451.pdf.

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

  • The following workers’ compensation bodies have announced their maximum assessable/insurable earnings for 2021:

    Alberta: $98,700 (2020: $98,700)  
    British Columbia: $100,000 (2020: $87,100)
    Manitoba: $127,000 (2020: $127,000)
    New Brunswick: $67,100 (2020: $66,200)
    Newfoundland and Labrador: $67,985 (2020: $66,980)
    Northwest Territories: $97,300 (2020: $94,500)
    Nova Scotia: $64,500 (2020: $62,000)
    Nunavut: $97,300 (2020: $94,500)
    Ontario: $102,800* (2020: $95,400)
    Prince Edward Island: $55,300 (2020: $55,300)
    Quebec: $83 500 (2020: $78,500)
    Saskatchewan: $91,100 (2020: $88,906)
    Yukon: $91,930 (2020: $90,750)

    *Note: The Ontario government has tabled legislation that would cap the maximum insurable earnings at $97,308 for 2021. At the time of writing, the legislation had not yet passed. For updates, please contact our Payroll Hotline Service at 416-609-0152 (local) or 1-800-661-6828 (toll free) or by e-mail at Carswell.PayrollHotline@thomsonreuters.com.

  • Beginning April 1, 2021, employers in Alberta will no longer be required to reinstate workers injured on the job or to continue contributing to their health benefits plans.

    The changes were included in Bill 47, the Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020, which received royal assent on December 9, 2020.

    Currently, employers in the province must offer to reinstate workers injured on the job on or after September 1, 2018 once they are medically and physically able to return to work if they have worked for their employer for at least 12 continuous months on the date of the injury.

    The amendments will replace the requirement with an employer duty to co-operate in the injured employee’s safe return to work. Injured workers will have a duty to co-operate in developing and taking part in their medical and vocational rehabilitation plans.

    Since September 1, 2018, employers with health benefits plans have also been required to continue contributing to the plans for up to one year for workers who are off work due to a workplace injury. The obligation applies if the employer paid contributions to the benefits plan when the injury occurred and if the employee continues to pay his or her share, if any, of the contributions. The requirement will end as of April 1, 2021, allowing employers to choose whether to continue contributing to the health benefits plans for injured workers.

  • Just a reminder…The British Columbia government has deferred instalment payment due dates for the 2020 calendar year for its Employer Health Tax (EHT) to help employers cope with financial challenges related to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The instalments are now due as follows:
    December 31, 2020 – first instalment;
    January 31, 2021 – second instalment;
    February 28, 2021 – third instalment; and
    March 31, 2021 – final instalment.

    Employers are required to pay the EHT in quarterly instalments if their EHT in the previous calendar year exceeded $2,925. The instalments are normally due June 15, September 15 and December 15 of the current calendar year, and March 31 of the following year. 

  • Beginning with the 2021 tax year, the Manitoba government requires employers subject to the Health and Post Secondary Education Tax Levy to submit tax returns and tax payments online through the Finance Department’s TAXcess system.

    Previously, employers could send their returns and payments to the Finance Department by mail or could pay the tax owing at their financial institution in Canada. Online filing and payment were optional.

    With the change to mandatory online reporting and payments, the department has announced that it will no longer accept paper returns.

    The new requirement applies beginning with the tax return and remittance for the month of January, due February 15, 2021. Employers may submit returns for previous periods online, but they are not required to do so.

    Employers subject to the levy must register for the TAXcess online system before filing their returns and paying taxes due. Employers who do not file returns and pay remittances through the online system may face penalties.

    For more information on TAXcess, see Manitoba.ca/TAXcess.

  • Just a reminder…Effective January 1, 2021, the Manitoba government raised the thresholds that apply to the province’s Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax Levy.

    The threshold for registering for the levy is now annual remuneration of $1.5 million, up from $1.25 million. The annual payroll thresholds for determining which tax rate employers pay for the levy have also increased. Beginning January 1, 2021, employers with an annual payroll between $1.5 million and $3 million must pay the tax at a rate of 4.3% of accumulated payroll exceeding $1.5 million. Previously, this rate applied to employers with an annual payroll between $1.25 million and $2.5 million.

    Employers with an annual payroll of more than $3 million must pay the tax at a rate of 2.15% of monthly payroll. Previously, the 2.15% rate applied to employers whose annual payroll is more than $2.5 million.

  • Just a reminder…The Ontario government is keeping the payroll exemption for its Employer Health Tax (EHT) at $1 million from 2020 to 2028.

    Last year, the government temporarily raised the threshold from $490,000 to $1 million as part of its efforts to assist employers facing financial difficulties due to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). It had initially said the threshold would return to $490,000 in 2021; however, in its November 5, 2020 budget, the government announced that the $1 million threshold would remain in place through to the end of 2028. The provincial legislature subsequently passed legislation to implement the change.

    The government has also delayed the date that the EHT exemption is adjusted for inflation. Normally, it occurs every five years, with the next adjustment scheduled for 2024; however, the government has postponed the next adjustment until January 1, 2029.

    In addition, the government has increased a payroll threshold used to determine whether employers subject to the EHT must pay it in monthly installments. Beginning January 1, 2021, the threshold rose from $600,000 to $1.2 million. Employers subject to the EHT whose annual Ontario payroll is below the threshold pay the EHT when they file their annual returns. 

  • Quebec’s general minimum wage rate will rise from $13.10 an hour to $13.50 on May 1, 2021, Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet recently announced.

    Other minimum wage rates in Quebec will also go up on May 1, 2021 to the following amounts:

    • Employees who receive tips: $10.80/hour (currently $10.45/hour)
    • Raspberry pickers: $4.01/kilogram (currently $3.89/kilogram)
    • Strawberry pickers: $1.07/kilogram (currently $1.04/kilogram)
  • The Quebec government has tabled legislation that would require more categories of employers to pay a contribution to finance the labour standards section of the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST).

    The proposal was included in Bill 59, Loi modernisant le régime de santé et de sécurité du travail, which was tabled in the National Assembly on October 27, 2020.

    The bill would remove many of the exemptions to the contribution requirement, including those for:

    • metropolitan communities;
    • municipalities;
    • public transit authorities mentioned in s.1 of the Act respecting public transit authorities;
    • school boards;
    • the Comité de gestion de la taxe scolaire de l’Île de Montréal;
    • educational institutions;
    • day care centres;
    • the Commission de la construction du Québec;
    • parity committees constituted under the Act respecting collective agreement decrees;
    • the Quebec government and its departments and the bodies and persons whose personnel must, by law, be appointed in accordance with the Public Service Act or the capital stock of which belongs entirely to the government;
    • any body established by an Act of the National Assembly or by a decision of the Government, the Conseil du trésor or a minister and whose operating appropriations are taken out of the consolidated revenue fund, appear in whole or in part in the expenditure budget submitted to the National Assembly or are wholly financed by way of a transfer from one of the government departments, including Revenu Québec; and
    • the Lieutenant-Governor, the National Assembly and any person appointed by the National Assembly to an office which is under the jurisdiction of the National Assembly.

    The bill would also amend the Loi sur les accidents du travail et les maladies professionnelles to specify that students doing job shadowing or work training under the responsibility of an educational institution would be covered under the legislation.

  • Question: We have some employees who are on unpaid leaves of absence. They are still taking part in our pension plan. Do we have to report a pension adjustment (PA) for them?

    Answer: Yes, you must report a PA for these employees. A PA is the measure of the benefit or accrual that an individual earns in a year within a registered pension plan (RPP) or deferred profit-sharing plan (DPSP) that an employer sponsors. The PA is important because it can reduce the amount that an individual can contribute to a registered retirement savings plan.

    For employees on an unpaid leave of absence who continue to accrue pension credits or pensionable service, report the PA in box (52) on a T4 even if the employee did not earn employment income in the year. If the PA is zero, leave the box blank. In box (50), report the registration number of the RPP or the DPSP unless the PA is zero and the employee did not contribute to the plan. Administrators of multi-employer plans should report the benefit on a T4A.

    For information on calculating a PA for employees on a leave of absence, refer to the CRA’s Pension Adjustment Guide (T4084) at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/publications/t4084.html.