The past two weeks have been surreal. Many employees and employers are hanging on by a thread, mentally and financially. Many employees worry if they will have jobs or receive enough hours to pay their bills. Employers are being forced to close or scale back their services, all the while still having to pay their rent, taxes, and payroll, while the market for many services is simply on hold.
What can employers do to keep their head above water, while still trying to do the right thing by their employees?
There are now some options:
- COVID-19 Leave of Absence (Alberta Employment Standards Code):
Unpaid 14-day leave of absence due to Quarantine. Contact me to discuss as the Government has been quite particular as to who qualifies for this leave of absence.
- EI Sickness Benefits (Employment Insurance Act):
An employee can apply for EI Sickness Benefits for up to 15 weeks of income replacement for those employees who are unable to work because of illness, injury, or quarantine. Employees quarantined due to COVID-19 are eligible to apply for these benefits. The normal one week waiting period is waived for new claimants who are quarantined. Please contact me to ensure you are filling out the Record of Employment properly to assist your employee with their application. Ensure you don’t state that they WILL qualify as that is not up to you as the employer. A certain amount of insurable hours are necessary to qualify for these benefits.
- Temporary Layoff Provisions (Alberta Employment Standards Code sections 62-64):
The employee can typically apply for EI while temporarily laid off. Ensure you don’t state that they WILL qualify as that is not up to you as the employer. Please contact me to discuss the legal requirements when providing notice for a temporary layoff because if you don’t follow the legislation, you could be deemed to have constructively terminated the employee.
- Termination without Cause (Alberta Employment Standards Code and Common Law):
The employer can terminate without cause and provide the employee with a severance package consisting of termination pay at a minimum and perhaps common law severance if warranted or contractually obligated. The employee can also apply for EI benefits through Service Canada. Consult with a lawyer to determine what amount of severance is owed.
- Reduced Hours/ days of work:
The employer is able to reduce hours of work and days of work if required due to a shortage of work. The amount of the reduction must be reviewed with a lawyer to ensure you are not constructively dismissing your employees, which results in wrongful dismissal damages. Also, it’s important to ensure that any changes are documented in revised employment agreements. Please contact me to discuss if you currently do not have written agreements with your employees as increased common law severance would apply if you do not have an Employment Standards termination provision, which can get very costly for an employer.
Please feel free to reach out to discuss any of the above options at firstname.lastname@example.org.