We wish to serve our northern and western region to help you navigate through these unprecedented times and build resiliency. For ease of reference, we have compiled a list and summary of assistance programs currently available, for companies considering the use of temporary layoffs due to the impact of the COVID-19 on their business, as well as outlined the general rules and legislation.

Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Program

Employers can register for a Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) plan to top up their employees' weekly earnings when they are unemployed due to a temporary stoppage of work, training, illness, injury, or quarantine, and in receipt of EI benefits.

  • SUB Plan is required to be registered prior to being able to supplement employees – employer must send in application
  • SUB Plan allows employers to supplement income to employees as a top up to EI benefits up to a maximum of 95% of weekly earnings

A full overview of the Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Program can be found here.

Work-Sharing Program

Work-Sharing (WS) is an adjustment program designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business activity that is beyond the control of the employer. The measure provides income support to employees eligible for Employment Insurance benefits who work a temporarily reduced work week while their employer recovers.

Employer must submit the application package 30 days before the requested start date. Several conditions must be met which include:

  • Employees must have similar job duties/descriptions
  • All affected employees must agree to the work sharing agreement
  • The unit must reduce hours of work by at least 10% (one half day) to 60% (three days)
  • The agreement must be at least 6 weeks long and can go up to 38 weeks (with new extensions up to 76 weeks)
  • Employer must experience a decline in business activity by at least 10%
  • Employees involved must apply for EI benefits

You are eligible to apply if you are experiencing a downturn in business activity related to the global outbreak of COVID-19, and have:

  • WS agreements signed between March 15, 2020 and March 13, 2021;
  • WS agreements that began, or ended between March 15, 2020 and March 14, 2021; and
  • WS agreements that ended between June 23, 2019, and March 14, 2020 and are in their mandatory cooling-off period.

More information and additional eligibility requirements for the Forestry Sector and the Steel and Aluminum Sector can be found here.

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy supports eligible employers impacted by COVID-19 to reduce the amount of payroll deductions required to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The Federal Government will cover up to 75% of each employee's salary on the first $58,700 that they earn this year, or up to $847 per week. The subsidy will be backdated to March 15, 2020.

To be eligible, a business' revenue has to have decreased by at least 30%. The size of a business does not impact eligibility. The number of employees a business has does not determine whether they will receive this financial support. Non-profit organizations and charities are eligible for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.

The Federal Government asks for the honesty of businesses when applying to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. There will be severe consequences for those who abuse this program and the Federal Government has indicated that a verification system will be put in place. It may also be a few weeks before the subsidy is paid to businesses.

Temporary Layoffs and Terminations

With the various legislative rules under the provincial employment standards legislation across Canada, we wanted to highlight important information when considering temporary layoffs. The information provided is for non-unionized employers.


An employer who wishes to temporarily lay off an employee can do so by providing the employee a written layoff notice. The notice requirements vary as outlined:

  • at least one week prior to the date that the layoff is to begin, if the employee has been employed by the employer for less than 2 years; or
  • at least two weeks prior to the date that the layoff is to begin, if the employee has been employed by the employer for two years or more.

Given the recent pandemic, it is important to note that if unforeseeable circumstances prevent an employer from providing the notice in accordance the above, it must be given as soon as is practicable in the circumstances. The layoff notice must include clear guidance that this is a temporary layoff notice, the date the layoff is to commence. It is also recommended that the notice include a copy of section 62(1) of the Alberta Employment Standards Code and sections 63 and 64, and include any other information provided for in the regulations.

An employee can be laid off for 60 days within a 120-day period. Anything over and above this period is considered to have been terminated and termination pay is payable.

An employer may request an employee to return to work by providing the employee with a recall notice in writing stating when the employee must return to work and provide instruction that the employee must return within seven days of the date of the recall notice. If an employee fails to return to work within seven days of the recall notice, the employee is not entitled to termination pay.

Termination notice is not required if the contract of employment is or has become impossible for the employer to perform by reason of unforeseeable, or unpreventable causes beyond the control of the employer.

For more information, please review here or contact your Crowe MacKay advisor.

British Columbia

A temporary layoff must be agreed upon by the employee, or written within the terms of a contract or agreement before the layoff. If these conditions are met, an employer can temporarily layoff an employee for a maximum of 13 weeks. An employer is not required to provide statutory notice or termination pay for employees temporarily laid off unless or until the layoff exceeds 13 weeks in a 20-week period of time. If the lay off period exceeds those that are set out above, it would be considered a termination of employment. The date of termination would, therefore, be the first day of the temporary layoff period. Entitlements owing to the employee should be calculated based on this date. If none of the above apply, (for example, no agreement or no contract for layoff), and you reduce an employee's hours by 50% or more, this could be considered a termination of employment.

An employer is not required to statutory termination pay in a situation where the contract is "impossible to perform due to an unforeseeable event or circumstance other than receivership, action under section 427 of the Bank Act (Canada) or a proceeding under an insolvency Act."

For more information, please review further details here or contact your Crowe MacKay advisor.

Northwest Territories

An employer who wishes to temporarily lay off an employee is required to give the employee written notice, which must indicate the expected date on which the employer will request the employee to return to work. If notice is not provided, the employer will be deemed to have terminated the employment of the employee and termination pay is payable.

A temporary layoff cannot exceed 45 days during a period of 60 consecutive days. There is a potential to extend a temporary layoff to a period exceeding 45 days if satisfied that special circumstances justify the extension, and that the employee will be recalled.

Should a temporary layoff exceed the 45 days and has not been given any extensions, the employee shall be deemed to have had their employment terminated on the last day of the temporary layoff and the employer is required to pay the employee termination pay.


Under normal circumstances, employees must be provided with written notice by an employer who wishes to temporarily layoff an employee and the notice period varies on length of employment. Where no notice is provided, employers must provide pay instead of notice equal to the amount of notice the employee is entitled to. However, Saskatchewan has specific guidance for public emergency layoffs.

As part of an employer's response to a public emergency during an order of the c=Chief Medical Health Officer, or an emergency declaration by the Government of Saskatchewan, employers can issue layoffs and do not have to provide notice or pay in lieu of notice that will occur for a maximum of 12 weeks in a 16-week period. This measure is in place to allow employees to immediately access supports provided through provincial and federal programs. Employees are still considered employees in this case.

If a layoff exceeds 12 weeks with the 16-week period from the first day of the interruption of work, the employee is not reinstated and pay instead of notice is immediately payable to the employee.

These are minimum standards that may be superseded by an employment contract providing the terms offer at least what is available through employment standards regulations.

For more information, please review here or contact your Crowe MacKay advisor.

Yukon Territory

A temporary layoff means an interruption of an employee's employment by an employer for a maximum of 13 weeks in a period of 20 consecutive weeks. If an employer temporarily lays off an employee and the layoff exceeds a temporary layoff period as outlined, the employee shall be deemed to have been terminated at the start of the temporary layoff and the employer shall pay the employee termination pay.

A temporary layoff can exceed the periods as outlined above if the Director has fixed a later recall date or unless the Employment Standards Board has ordered an extension of the layoff period or both. If the layoff period expires, the employee is considered to have been terminated at the beginning of the period and pay in lieu of notice must be paid to the employee.

For more information, please review here or contact your Crowe MacKay advisor.

Please note that there are some potential risks that could arise from a temporary layoff where there is no term in an employee's contract allowing for such, a company policy providing for such, or a past practice at the company of temporary layoffs. For more information, please contact your Crowe MacKay advisor if your company is considering temporary layoffs.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Support for individuals facing unemployment should be directed to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) which will be accessible through a secure web portal starting in early April. The new Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months to eligible individuals.

Read more on CERB here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.