On April 1, 2020, the Federal Government provided further detail on eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a recently announced program designed to provide temporary income support of $2,000 per month to employees who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The portal for accessing the CERB is expected to launch on April 6, 2020. Applicants will be able to apply for the benefit retroactively to March 15, 2020.
In order to qualify for the CERB, applicants must have stopped working for reasons related to COVID-19, because they are unable to work due to illness, or because they have lost their employment for other reasons beyond their control. When applying for the CERB, employees will be required to attest that they do not expect to receive income for at least 14 consecutive days. If so, they will be eligible to receive the CERB for the first four week benefit period. However, in order to be eligible to receive the CERB for later benefit periods, the newly-released details require the employee to expect to have no employment income.
One of the practical consequences of the added eligibility criteria is that employers would not be able to implement planned rotating periods of temporary layoff (such as two weeks laid off, two weeks back at work, and repeating) in order to allow employees to continue working and receive the CERB at the same time. This presents a challenge to employers who had hoped to use the CERB as a way to reduce payroll costs while avoiding layoffs. However, it is important to note that there are other federal programs with the same purpose and effect, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the Work-Sharing program. Employers who wish to minimize income disruption for their employees while reducing their payroll costs are encouraged to consider these programs.
Miller Thomson is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation to ensure that we provide our clients with appropriate support in this rapidly changing environment. For articles, information updates and firm developments, please visit our COVID-19 Resources page.