Work-Share during COVID-19 – Your questions answered

April 02, 2020

Workplaces are continuing to address the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. One option that many employers are exploring is Work-Sharing (WS), a program that helps employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary decrease in business activity beyond the control of the employer. The WS program is an agreement between employers, employees, and the Government of Canada and provides Employment Insurance (EI) benefits to eligible employees who agree to reduce their normal working hours and share the available work while their employer recovers.

We've outlined the most common questions asked about the WS program and offer comprehensive answers.

What are the benefits of Work-Sharing for both employers and employees?

The WS program provides an option to employers when conditions beyond their control make them unable to support regular working hours for all of their employees. However, beyond the obvious benefit of preventing mass lay-offs, the main benefits of WS are:

For employers:

  • retain qualified and experienced workers
  • avoid recruiting and training new employees

For employees:

  • keep their jobs
  • maintain their work skills

How Do I Apply for Work Share?

The WS program application process has been simplified due to COVID-19. Employers are no longer required to provide a detailed recovery plan or have their employees sign the WS Unit form. Instead, applications can be submitted through a designated e-mail drop box.

To apply for the Work-Sharing program, employers must submit:

Your completed application can be e-mailed to one of the following email addresses, based on the area in which your business is located:

Atlantic Provinces: ESDC.TP-ATL-WS-TP.EDSC@servicecanada.gc.ca

Quebec: QC-DPMTDS-LMSDPB-TP-WS-GD@servicecanada.gc.ca

Ontario: ESDC.ON.WS-TP.ON.EDSC@servicecanada.gc.ca

Western Canada and Territories: EDSC.WT.WS-TP.ESDC@servicecanada.gc.ca

For more information on the Work-Sharing program, employers across Canada may call the following toll-free numbers:

Canada and the United States

Toll-free: 1-800-367-5693

TTY : 1-855-881-9874

Outside Canada and the United States

Telephone: 506-546-7569 (collect calls accepted)

Hours of operation: 7:00 am to 8:00 pm, Eastern Time, Monday to Friday.

For clients seeking information on the WS program, Service Canada has also created an enquiry unit. Clients can email their questions.

EDSC.DGOP.TP.REP-RES.WS.POB.ESDC@servicecanada.gc.c

What happens once the application is approved?

Employers will be informed of the approval and provided an access code for employees to use to register with Service Canada online. Employers will be required to issue a Record of Employment (ROE) using the code ‘Work- Share'.

How does the program work?

Employers will continue to pay employees on their payroll for all hours worked. In order to ensure that everyone is receiving a fair and equitable opportunity to work, available work hours should be equalized over the WS unit.

Key concepts and criteria to help ensure fair opportunities to work are:

  • WS unit: A WS unit is a group of employees with similar job duties who agree to reduce their hours of work over a specific period of time.
  • Equal sharing of work: All members of a WS unit agree to reduce their hours of work by the same percentage and to share the available work.
  • Expected work reduction: A WS unit must reduce its hours of work by at least 10% to 60%. The reduction of hours can vary from week to week, as long as the average reduction over the course of the agreement is from 10% to 60%.

What is required from employers?

Employers will have to submit a utilization report to Service Canada after each pay period, and the format of this report will be provided to the employer once the WS program is approved. Employers will be required to input the following information for each employee in the WS unit into the report:

  • Hours worked
  • Hours on vacation (not available for work)
  • Hours absent (unable to work)

How much will an employee receive from Service Canada?

The amount of benefits paid for a week of Work-Sharing is calculated by comparing the hours of work missed because of the WS agreement against the hours the claimant would have normally worked. Benefits are paid as a percentage of hours missed.

For example:

  • The weekly benefit rate (55% of their regular earnings to a maximum of $573) = $500.00
  • The normal work week was 40 hours prior to the Work-Sharing agreement
  • In the week under consideration, the claimant works 30 hours, missing 10 hours of work due to the Work-Sharing agreement

In this case, the claimant has worked 30 out of a possible 40 hours. Therefore, 10 out of 40 hours were lost due to the Work-Sharing agreement, or 25%. This claimant will be entitled to 25% of their benefit rate, or $125.00, for the 10 hours missed because of the Work-Sharing agreement.

How can BDO help?

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating significant challenges for employers and their employees, and we will continue to provide updated information as the situation evolves. BDO's People Advisory team can assist with developing contingency plans to help you protect your business and workers. The Government of Canada's Employment and Social Development site can provide more detailed information about Work-Sharing. You can also contact members of our team for guidance.

Marc Fournier, Partner and National Leader - People Advisory

Hali Van Vliet, Vice President - People Advisory