Employment Law Considerations in B.C.
Update on COVID-19

Written by Charlene Cleary
Charlene Cleary is the principal and founding lawyer of Westshore Law in Victoria. Serving clients on Vancouver Island and the mainland, she enjoys helping other business owners work through existing issues and also to help prevent future problems. www.westshorelaw.ca


Expansion of Existing Programs

5. EI Work Sharing Program

  • An existing program that has historically been only accessible to employers in particular situations. Link: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/work-sharing.html
  • Provides EI benefits (akin to a top up) to workers (who are eligible for EI) who agree to reduce their normal working hour as a result of developments beyond control of their employers.
  • The measure provides income support to employees eligible for Employment Insurance benefits who work a temporarily reduced work week while their employer recovers.
  • Work-Sharing is a three-party agreement involving employers, employees and Service Canada. Employees on a Work-Sharing agreement must agree to a reduced schedule of work and to share the available work over a specified period of time.
  • The big change? Government has announced special temporary measures to extending the eligibility of such agreement to 76 weeks, easing eligibility requirements and streamlining the application process.
  • The eligibility criteria are still somewhat rigid and will not be a solution for many small businesses.

6. Sick Leave

  • EI benefits for sick leave has been expanded to account for the COVID-19 crisis.
  • For workers without paid sick leave through their employer, who are sick, quarantined or forced to stay home to care for children, the Government is:
    • Waiving the one-week waiting period for those individuals in imposed quarantine that claim Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. This temporary measure is in effect as of March 15, 2020.
    • Waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits.

Useful Links

Here are two main links for federal government sites that we found useful:

Note and Disclaimer

We have compiled a summary the changes in the law, new programs and expansion to existing programs. Please refer to official government websites for precise details and application information (as it becomes available). This information sheet is only a summary of certain programs and does not list all available programs or issues surrounding COVID-19 and the workplace.

Nothing in this newsletter should be construed as legal advice – for specific advice or questions contact your employment lawyer.