Current and accurate as of March 26, 2020
As the situation with COVID-19 continues to unfold in Alberta and around the world, businesses are coming to grips with the reality that this situation will likely continue for longer than originally anticipated, and with much more broadly reaching effects. We are continuing to do our best to stay abreast of the latest developments so that we can assist our clients to navigate these increasingly difficult times.
This information is intended for non-unionized workers, so if you require information related to your unionized employees, please feel free to reach out and we will direct you to alternate sources of information.
Please note that this is a rapidly changing and evolving situation, and that this information is based on our best knowledge at the current time. Due to the unique circumstances of every business, not all information is applicable to all employers, so please feel free to contact us with any questions.
The Employment Standards Code does not give any guidance on the payment of earnings when implementing layoffs. To be on the safe side, we advise compliance with the rules for payment of earnings on termination – namely, that they should be paid no later than three consecutive calendar days after the last day of employment. If you have some lead time for the layoffs and can handle it administratively, it may be beneficial to give employees their notice of layoff and final accrued pay at the same time, especially if the federal government has not yet waived the one-week waiting period for regular EI benefits.
If you will be terminating 50 or more employees within a four-week period, the Employment Standards Code has special rules relating to group terminations with which you need to comply. The employer must give the Minister of Labour and the affected employees the following amount of written notice according to the number of employees affected:
This notice can be provided as working notice or pay in lieu of notice, or a combination of both. In the circumstances of a mass termination, the notice periods are based solely on the number of employees being terminated, regardless of the years of service that an individual employee may have.
Failure to give the required notice to the Minister of Labour can result in an administrative penalty being imposed on the employer. Once the Minister has been informed, staff will offer the employer information about programs and services available to the terminated employees through the governments of Alberta and Canada.
These rules may well be relaxed by the government at some point in future as a result of the current pandemic, however until that happens, employers will be expected to comply with the current rules.
We do not recommend using the same layoff notification form for employees in other provinces, as the rules in each province can differ widely. For example, in some provinces, advance notice of the layoff is not required, and in others, temporary layoffs are not permitted unless they are allowed by a collective agreement, employment contract or employee consent. In yet other jurisdictions, there is little practical difference between a layoff and a termination of employment, and the circumstances giving rise to a temporary layoff can differ widely. If you plan to implement layoffs in other jurisdictions, we recommend obtaining the opinion of a practitioner in that province. Through our Interlaw partner firms across the country, we are happy to assist you in clarifying your legal obligations when implementing layoffs in other provinces.
The federal government has recently made changes to the EI Work Share Program, which provides EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours as a result of developments beyond the control of their employers. These changes have extended the eligibility of such agreements to 76 weeks, have eased eligibility requirements, and streamlined the application process. The purpose of this program is to assist employers to avoid layoffs, and to support employees who are receiving a reduced income as much as possible. Our understanding is that the employer has to apply for this program and that there may be some lead time to do so (although likely not as much as previously) so if you think that you might want to implement the program at some future time, we recommend that you take steps to register as soon as possible. Further information about the program and its requirements should be found on the Service Canada website.
There have been numerous initiatives announced by the provincial and federal governments recently to provide financial assistance to businesses affected by these unprecedented circumstances, and we understand that additional aid programs are currently under consideration. For the time being, however, these are some of the programs of which we are aware as of the present time:
Corporate income tax changes
Education property tax deferral
WCB premium payment deferral
Utility payment deferral
Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP)
Cooperation with participating private-sector lenders:
Bank of Nova ScotiaBMOCIBCHSBCTD BankRBCNational BankDesjardinsLaurentian BankCanadian Bankers AssociationCanadian Credit Union Association
Temporary Wage Subsidy
Recognizing that things are changing rapidly, and each business and workforce is unique, please do not hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns, or if we can be of assistance in any way.
Also, we note that this information is current as of business on March 26, 2020 and will be subject to change following this date.