YOUR NEW CHEAT SHEET FOR EI BENEFITS DURING COVID-19. LAID OFF? TAKING CARE OF KIDS? CAREGIVER? THE NEW DEAL [AS OF MAR. 25, 2020]

The federal Government continues to develop and change employment insurance benefits during this pandemic. 

Here is a list of the employment insurance (EI) benefits available to you for emergency financial support, as of March 25, 2020:

EXISTING - REGULAR EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE:

EI regular benefits provides benefits to individuals who lose their jobs through no fault of their own (i.e., due to shortage of work, seasonal or mass lay-offs), including attributable to COVID-19.

To be eligible:

 the employee must have worked 600 insurable hours in the last 52 weeks; and

 the employee must have lost his or her employ through no fault of his or her own

If you have been laid off from your work as a result of your employer`s response to COVID-19 you are eligible for Regular Employment Insurance.

You can apply at this link:

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-regular-benefit.html

EXISTING – EI SICKNESS BENEFIT:

Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement and is available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or self-quarantine, to allow them time to restore their health and return to work.

Canadians who are self-quarantined (as instructed by either a public health official or an occupational health official through their workplaces) can apply for EI sickness benefits.

You can apply here:

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-regular-benefit.html

To be eligible:

 the employee must be unable to work for medical reasons;  

 the employee accumulated 600 insured hours of work in the 52 weeks before the start of your claim; and  

 the employee has been instructed by either a public health official or occupational health official through the workplace to self-quarantine (i.e. post-out-of-Ontario travel, after testing positive for COVID-19, or while awaiting test results).

More information on the EI sickness benefit here:

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness.html

EXISTING – FAMILY CAREGIVER BENEFIT:

The Family Caregiver Benefit for Children allows eligible caregivers to receive up to 35 weeks of financial assistance to provide care or support to a critically ill or injured child.  

To be eligible:

o the patient/child’s life must be at risk of illness or injury;  

o the patient/child must be experiencing a significant change in their baseline state of health;  

o the patient/child must require the care and support of one of more family members; and  

o a primary physician must declare how long the patient/child would require the caregiving support of the parent/family member.  

With respect to COVID-19, caregivers are not likely to be eligible for this EI benefit unless their child tests positive for COVID-19 and is actively receiving treatment.

NEW – CANADA EMERGENCY RESPONSE BENEFIT (“CERB”):

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) offers income support for up to SIXTEEN weeks to those who lose pay because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal Government reports that CERB will be a "simpler and more accessible" program, now covering employees who lost their jobs, got sick, are under quarantine or have to stay home because of school closures.

The CERB collapses and replaces entirely the two, previously announced benefits; specifically, the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit.

CERB is available to wage earners, contract workers and self-employed people, who do not otherwise qualify for EI benefits, as explained above.

Specifically, the CERB will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000 monthly ($500 weekly), for up to four months to:

  • those who must stop working due to COVID19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support;
  • workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19;
  • working parents who must stay home, without pay, to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures;
  • workers who still have their employment, but are not being paid because there is currently insufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work; and
  • those who are self-employed, in the gig economy or operate as freelancers, including contract workers, who would not otherwise qualify for EI benefits, as explained above.

The online portal to apply for CERB will be available in early April, and most Canadians can expect payments within ten days. 

CERB payments will be issued every four weeks, and will be available from March 15, 2020 to Oct. 3, 2020.

WHAT ABOUT THOSE ALREADY RECEIVING EI?

Canadians already receiving EI regular benefits and/or sickness benefits will, as of March 25, 2020, continue to receive those benefits and should not apply to the CERB.

Canadians who already have applied for EI, but whose application has not yet been processed, do not need to reapply.

Canadians who are eligible for EI regular and/or sickness benefits may still access those benefits if he or she remains unemployed after the sixteen-week period covered by the CERB.

More information about the CERB is available here:

https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan/covid19-individuals.html#new_canada_emergency_response_benefit

CLAWBACKS AND DEDUCTIONS AGAINST EI BENEFITS (FOR WORKING):

If an employee works while receiving EI (sickness or regular) benefits, the employee is able to keep only one-half (i.e., $0.50) of the EI benefits for every dollar earned earn, up to 90% of the weekly insurable earnings used to calculate the employee’s EI benefit amount (i.e., the earnings threshold). If the employee earns any income above the earnings threshold, the Commission will deduct those amounts dollar-for-dollar from the benefits received by the employee. Whether an employee’s income during an EI benefit period will be deducted depends on whether the income falls within the meaning of “earnings” in the EI program.

Certain kinds of income will not impact EI benefits, including:

[a] disability benefits;

[b] survivor or dependent benefits;

[c] worker's compensation benefits paid under specific regulations;

[d] additional insurance benefits paid under an approved private plan (for example, payments for pain and suffering or medical expenses that received from an insurance company after an employee has been injured in a car accident);

[e] additional sickness benefits paid by an employer from a registered supplemental unemployment benefit plan (as long as the income, benefits, and additional amounts combined do not exceed 95% of the weekly earnings);  

[f] sickness or disability payments received under a private wage loss replacement plan; and

[g] retroactive salary increases.

Here is a chart explaining what constitutes earnings for EI:

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/earnings-chart.html

EMPLOYER-PAID “TOP UP” TO EI BENEFITS [SIMILAR TO PARENTAL OR MATERNAL LEAVE]:

If an employer tops-up an employees earnings, beyond the EI (sick or regular) benefits, it will be considered “earnings” and will be deducted or clawed-back from the employee’s benefits, unless the top-up was given under a formalized “top up” plan, otherwise known as a “Supplemental Unemployment Benefit”. Therefore, employees who received an informal, non-registered top-up, at least currently, are likely to be subject to claw-back against their EI benefits.

SUB PLANS – SUPPLEMENTAL UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT PLAN (“SUB”) – NO CLAWBACK:  

Any employer can utilize a SUB to increase employees’ weekly earning during a period of unemployment, when they are unemployed as a result of a temporary stoppage or shortage of work, training, illness, injury or quarantine. Payments from SUBs must be registered with Service Canada – they are not considered to be earnings and are not deducted from EI (sick and regular) benefits.  

SUBs must be registered by Service Canada, as of the date on which the application for the SUB is filed by the employer. SUBs must be registered before the effective date of the SUB. If a SUB plan is not registered, at least currently, any top-up payments by the employer to EI (sick or regular) benefits will be deemed as “earnings”, and be subject to deduction or claw-back, as explained above.

More information about SUBs is available here:

https://www.canada.ca/en/privy-council/corporate/transparency/reporting-spending/departmental-results-reports/2016-2017/supporting-information-sub-programs.html

A sample SUB is available here:

https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/ei/ei-list/reports/supplemental-unemployment-benefit/sample.html

PROVINCIAL (ESA) LEAVES OF ABSENCE AND EI BENEFITS – TIED TOGETHER:

Note that the new, statutory leaves of absence authorized by Ontario in response to COVID-19 are tied to, and rely on, the federal EI program to compensate employees while they are away from work. However, this is subject to change depending on what funding is allocated to the program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More information about Ontario’s COVID-19-related authorized leaves of absence can be found here:

http://wardlegal.ca/31582887996624


Thank you for reading this - Jason Ward of WARDS LAWYERS PC.

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This WARDS LAWYERS PC blog is for general information only. It is not legal advice, or intended to be. Specific or more information may be necessary before advice could be provided for your circumstances.

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