COVID-19 and Your Employment
posted in: Employment
As you may be aware, the Federal and Provincial Governments have instituted measures to assist businesses and employees who are struggling as a result of COVID-19.
For Employees, as of April 6, 2020, applications are being accepted for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This provides up to $2,000 a month for a maximum of 4-months. Notably, certain individuals who do not qualify for EI may qualify for CERB. Please see the Federal Government’s webpage for details about eligibility and how to apply: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html
For Employers, the Federal Government is proposing the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. This would provide a subsidy of up to 75% (up to a maximum benefit of $847 a week) for employee remuneration to eligible businesses. The details of this subsidy are still subject to change. Please see the Federal Government’s webpage for more information regarding eligibility and this program’s interaction with other government assistance: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan/wage-subsidy.html
Both Employees and Employers should be aware that the Province has announced an extension to the time period during which an employee can remain on temporary layoff. This period is up to 120 days from 60. It is expected to apply to temporary layoffs that occurred from March 17th onward.
As we all adjust to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many of us are facing an uncertain future when it comes to our own jobs and business operations. The employment law team here at KMSC Law LLP is available to provide guidance and answers to issues or questions you have with respect to your own employment or with respect to employer’s obligations to their employees.
This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice.
Notice of Dismissal
Fortunately, the law in Alberta provides some protection for employees from job loss on short notice. In Alberta, the immediate dismissal of an employee must be the consequence of a substantial concern: what the law calls “just cause.” It is important to note that economic downturn, business shut down, or even global pandemic does NOT represent legal “just cause” to terminate employment without notice.
Employers may dismiss an employee without just cause, but then they must either provide a reasonable period of notice or payment in place of such notice. The required length of the notice depends on a variety of circumstances, including written agreements and how long an employee has remained with the company.
Reduced Hours and Layoffs
An employer may have the right to temporarily reduce hours, alter job descriptions or enforce work from home obligations, but in some cases, these changes may amount to “constructive dismissal.” Constructive dismissal means that an employee affected by specific changes can either accept the change and continue with employment or consider himself or herself terminated and claim pay in lieu of notice. Whether a reduction of hours, layoff or other change amounts to constructive dismissal depends on all the circumstances. It is highly advisable to consult with a lawyer before pursuing a claim based on constructive dismissal.
Additionally, when employers perform layoffs or reduce hours, they must do so per employment standards and human rights legislation. This means that certain timeframes and formalities must be observed and that such measures must not be implemented in a discriminatory manner.
Recently, the Provincial Government has implemented an unpaid but job-protected leave for those who are required to self-isolated as a result of COVID-19. There is also an emergency isolation support payment.
WCB and EI
In addition to any claim or rights employees may have with their employer, there are also other options that may be available. WCB may be available for an employee who contracts the virus as a result of their employment. Alberta’s Workers’ Compensation Board has issued a fact sheet describing the situations where COVID-19 infections may be compensable. That information can be found here: https://www.wcb.ab.ca/assets/pdfs/workers/WFS_COVID-19.pdf.
Employment Insurance (“EI”) benefits may be available, and the Federal Government has recently announced substantial changes to temporarily boost this benefit program, including making a similar program available to self-employed individuals. Alberta’s Provincial Government is likewise planning new protective measures in answer to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our Employment Law team is following these developments and are here to assist with the most up to date answers available to help you ensure you are doing everything possible to make it through this unfortunate situation.
If you have any questions related to your business or employment situation, please call our office at 780-532-7771 for more information on scheduling a consultation with a member of our Employment Law Team.