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COVID-19 Small Business Help Centre

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Everything you need to know to keep your business safe

With the emergence of COVID-19, our primary concern at CFIB is keeping you, your employees and your business safe. We will provide you with expert advice to guide you through this difficult time, as well as templates and policies that prevent viral transmission in the workplace. We will also continue putting pressure on governments to give your business greater relief—including direct income support.

We are updating this page regularly as new information becomes available. Please read below for answers to frequently asked questions and the latest government relief measures.

Frequently Asked Questions     Government relief & our fight for more     News and Surveys     FREE TEMPLATES     VIEW THIS WEEK'S WEBINAR

 

Given the urgency surrounding this issue, we have additional CFIB staff answering your inquiries to help you manage COVID-19 situations in the workplace. We are receiving hundreds of calls per day and apologize for any delays you may encounter—we are committed to getting back to you as soon as we can.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Business Continuity

What should I do if I’m concerned about rent payments?
  • When working with your landlords, remember that they are business owners too and many are worried about their own bills (mortgages, utilities, keeping a building running etc.). Check your finances and pay what you reasonably can pay, as you would want your customers to do. If you have a good history with your landlord, they might be more willing to negotiate. Finding new tenants in this economic climate may be more difficult than keeping a good one.
  • If you know you can’t make your payment, talk to your landlord. Many are currently renegotiating, and the best scenario is for reasonable people to work out an agreement. Make sure to put any agreements in writing. Here are templates provided by the Nova Scotia government from which you can start: 
  • Work with your bank to get emergency financing. Money may be available from your bank through the Canada Emergency Business Account or other additional funding that is being underwritten by the federal government. Some of this money may be in the form of interest free or forgivable loans.. 
  • Keep a record of payments you make and discussions you have in this area as this may become important at a later date and will help you keep track of negotiations and monies owed. 
  • Remember that it’s in everyone’s interests to see your business recover and be able to make full payments again. You cannot legally be evicted without some notice (which varies by province). Check your lease agreement to see the terms but typically at least a few weeks’ notice will be required. CFIB is also asking for temporary provincial protection to prevent renters from being evicted for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. You can read our full list of rent recommendations here.
Can I keep my business open?

Provincial governments are gradually determining their list of industries that they deem as an essential service. Depending on your province, government may require you to temporarily shut down your business if they consider you to be a non-essential service. Fines may be applicable for non-compliance.

If your business is able to keep operating at a distance, through telework, or online commerce you will likely be permitted to continue to stay operational throughout this period.

To find out if your provincial government is requiring you to temporarily close please see our online guide
 

Is my business considered to be an essential service?

The definition of an essential service can vary from one province to another. Please see our online guide to find out if your province has defined essential services.

Business is slow and I don't have enough work for my employees. What can I do about this?

Unfortunately, this is likely to be the case for many businesses. The government has pledged $10 billion in a credit facility administered by the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada. There are also steps you can take to determine you business’ future:

  • Review your finances: Look at your revenue vs your expenses – are you able to meet your basic expenses? Speak to your accountant/bookkeeper about your options and whether it makes sense to stay open, pause your business, shut down until an opportunity in the market arises, or close your business. 
  • Make a Business Continuity Plan: Weathering the storm will be difficult, make sure you have a plan as to how to do it. Restarting a business that has been suspended will take thought and time to bring back to its former level. Are there other options for your business to stay open? Can you find new suppliers? Can you change your business model to continue to serve your clients (i.e. provide delivery of food instead of having sit-in customers) 
  • Speak to your commercial insurance provider: You may be entitled to business interruption insurance payments. Call your provider to double check your entitlement. 
  • Communicate with your employees twice a week: 
    • Let employees know what safety measures/policies you are putting in place to keep them safe.
    • Post educational posters and share safety tips. 
    • Ensure that there is a way for employees to notify you if they are sick whether that be through health and safety representative/committee or though their manager.
    • Talk to employees about their job security/health status/income options. Are they entitled to employment insurance.
I am struggling to meet some of my obligations (rent, suppliers, etc), can I postpone these payments?
  • Look at your contract or lease to see if there is a clause regarding extreme circumstances  
  • If there is nothing in the contract, you can try and negotiate an agreement to reduce or delay your payment. 
  • Document any negotiations, discussions or payments
  • Look carefully at your finances, so you know exactly what you can afford before you speak with your landlord/a supplier.  If they permit you to reduce payments, you want to be sure it is an amount you can comfortably afford
  • Speak with your bank, credit union, BDC, EDC or other loan provider for some relief
  • We have been hearing from you and insurance companies that COVID-19 is rarely covered. Some insurance companies require that you have physical damage in order to access your Business Interruption insurance, other just do not cover diseases. Because every commercial insurance policy is different, we recommend that you speak with your insurance provider to better understand what coverage is available to you under the terms of your policy. If anything, you should check if any flexibility exists with your insurer and figure out what you may need to know in order to keep your policy valid for when you are ready to open your business doors again. For more information visit the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Can I get my business mail forwarded to my home address? How much does it cost? 

Yes, by using  Canada Post’s mail-forwarding service you can have business mail forwarded to an address of your choosing. Canada Post has confirmed that there will be no cost to access the service at this time, and anyone who did pay between March 13 and April 3, 2020 will be refunded.  

For more information see the Canada Post Q & A

For refunds, complaints or questions please contact Canada Post’s Customer Service at 1-866-607-6301.
 

How to access financial support

What do I need to know about tax filings & deferrals?

Individuals

  • Income Tax Return Submissions are extended to June 1, 2020
    • those expecting a GSTC or Canada Child Benefit should try not to delay their filing to ensure that their 2020-21 benefit is properly determined.
  • Payment arrangements are available if you cannot pay your taxes, child and family benefit overpayments, Canada Student Loans, or other government program overpayments in full

Businesses

If you are in Quebec, know that Revenu Quebec is applying the similar measures to CRA

  • GST/HST remittances will be extended until June 30, 2020. Eligibility is as follows:

    • Monthly filers have to remit amounts collected for the February, March and April 2020 reporting periods;
    • Quarterly filers have to remit amounts collected for January 1, 2020 through March 31, 2020 reporting period; and
    • Annual filers, whose GST/HST return or instalment are due in March, April or May 2020, have to remit amounts collected and owing for their previous fiscal year and instalments of GST/HST in respect of the filer's current fiscal year.

Note: although remittances are deferred, you must still file your GST/HST return on time.

For Everyone 

 

What is the Canada Emergency Business Account (aka 40k loans)?

Government funded interest-free loans (for the first year) provided through financial institutions in cooperation with Export Development Canada (EDC).

How much of a loan can I receive?

A loan of up to $40,000. Repaying the balance of the loan on or before December 31, 2022 will result in loan forgiveness of 25 percent (up to $10,000).

Who is eligible?

Employers with $50,000 to $1 million in total payroll in 2019. More details to come.

When can I apply?

This program should roll out in three weeks after March 27

Where can I apply?

Small businesses and not-for-profits should contact their financial institution to apply for these loans. Your assigned account manager will likely have access to these loans or have a method of contacting BDC and EDC.

Here are the details for the main financial institutions:

Am I eligible for the 75% Temporary Wage Subsidy?

The federal government will provide a 75% wage subsidy to eligible small businesses. More details from the government are available here.

Who is eligible?

  • Businesses (regardless of the number of employees)
  • Individual employers 
  • Partnerships
  • Not for profit organizations
  • Charities

that experienced a 30% reduction of their revenue in March, April or May.

How do I calculate a 30% reduction in revenue?

You will have to compare your revenue for the month you wish to receive the subsidy with your revenue for the same month last year and show a 30% decrease.

As the subsidy is for salaries paid since March 15, the three claiming periods are the following:

March 15 to April 11: compare March 2020 over March 2019.

April 12 to May 9: compare April 2020 over April 2019

May 10 to June 6: compare May 2020 over May 2019

For employers established after February 2019, eligibility would be determined by comparing monthly revenues to a reasonable benchmark. More details to come. 

Eligible period?

For salaries paid between March 15 and June 6.

How much can I receive?

For employees hired before March 15, the subsidy will cover the lesser of:

75% of the pre-crisis weekly remuneration paid (up to $847 per week); or

Current weekly remuneration paid (up to $847 per week).

For new employees (hired after March 15), it will cover 75% of the current remuneration paid (up to $847 per week).

More details to come on how to define pre-crisis weekly remuneration.

For example, 

  • If you have one employee hired in January with a pre-crisis weekly pay of $1000 and that this employee has now a weekly pay of $800, you will receive a subsidy of $750.
  • If you have one employee hired in January with a pre-crisis weekly pay of $1000 and that this employee has now a weekly pay of $500, you will receive a subsidy of $500.
  • If you hire a new employee in April, with a weekly pay of $500, you will receive $375.

Do I have to pay the remaining 25%?

All employers would be expected to at least make best efforts to top up salaries to 100%.

How can I apply?

Businesses will be able to apply through the CRA’s My Business Account portal as well as a web-based application. Businesses will have to apply every month.

More details to come.

What if I am not eligible?

  1. Use the 10% wage subsidy today (see details below). Using the 10% wage subsidy will reduce the amount you will be able to receive from the 75% wage subsidy.
  2. Try applying for the 75% wage subsidy anyways. This is no promise that you will receive the wage, but exceptions may be made if proper evidence is demonstrated. When the portal is available, be ready by having:
    • Your financial books/legers/journals up to date
    • Proof based on your finances to show that your business did have a decrease in cashflow/revenue/gross revenue
    • Determine your payroll (Ie. this could be by requesting your T4Sum from CRA)

Government is currently considering expanding the requirements for the 75% wage subsidy.

More information on the potential expansion can be found on The Globe and Mail articles below:

How does this work with CERB?

Your employees cannot receive CERB if they receive employment income. 

What if I have to lay off my employees?

You will still receive the subsidy for the remunerations paid after March 15 (if you are eligible). 

For example, if you are eligible for the claiming period going from March 15 to April 11, but you had to lay off you employees on March 31, you will receive the subsidy for remunerations paid between March 15 and March 31. Your laid off employees will remain eligible to receive CERB.

If you no longer have work for your employee, you could decide to continue to pay them and benefit from the subsidy. In that case, you don’t have to do a lay off. 

Does it cover the business owner or shareholder wage?

It depends on the structure of the business. If they receive a salary and a T4 at the end of the year, their salary should be covered. However, we are still waiting on confirmation. 

When can I expect to receive the first payment?

It is expected to take 3 to 6 weeks. Take some time to prepare your account for the last year. It will save you some time when applying for the subsidy. 

Am I eligible for the 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy?

Eligible employers are: 

  • Canadian-Controlled Private Corporation (incorporated) eligible to the small business deduction or non-profit organizations, registered charities; and 
  • Have an existing business number & payroll program account with CRA on March 18; and 
  • Pay salary, wages, bonuses, or other remunerations to an employee. 

Eligible period:

For salaries paid from March 18 to June 20, 2020.

How do I calculate the subsidy? 

It is a 10% subsidy, so if you have 2 employees that you pay $1,500 each, every two weeks, the subsidy will be $150 * 2 = $300 

What is the maximum subsidy I can receive? 

Over the 90 days period, the limit is $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer 

How do I receive the subsidy? 

You can reduce your remittance of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax that you send to the CRA by the amount of the subsidy. You will be able to keep a portion of your employees’ income tax instead of giving it all to CRA 

For example, if you have two employees for a total bimonthly labour cost of $3,000 and you deduct $700 from their pay for the federal and provincial income tax, you will be able to remit to CRA only $400 and keep the remaining $300 for you as you have a subsidy of $300 (as calculated above). 

The calculation is the following: Planed income Tax remittance – 10% subsidy = New Income Tax remittance 

You cannot however reduce your remittance of Canada Pension Plan contributions (CPP) or Employment Insurance (EI) premiums. 

When can I receive the subsidy?  

In the first remittance period that includes remuneration paid between March 18, 2020, and June 20, 2020 

For more details, see the Frequently Asked Questions from CRA.
 

What is the New Loan Guarantee for small and medium enterprises?

To support their operations, EDC will guarantee 80% of new operating credit and cash flow term loans that financial institutions extend to SMEs, up to $6.25 million. The program cap for this new loan program will be a total of $20 billion for export sector and domestic companies. Details to come. 
 

When can I apply?

This program should roll out in three weeks after March 27

Where can I apply?

Visit your current financial institution. Your assigned account manager will likely have access to these loans or have a method of contacting BDC and EDC.

What is the New Co-Lending Program for small and medium enterprises?

To provide additional liquidity support to Canadian businesses, the Co-Lending Program will bring the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) together with financial institutions to co-lend term loans to SMEs for their operational cash flow requirements. Eligible businesses may obtain incremental credit amounts up to $6.25 million, 80 per cent of which would be provided by BDC, with the remaining 20% by a financial institution. BDC’s portion of this program is up to $5 million maximum per loan. Eligible financial institutions will conduct the underwriting and manage the interface with their customers. The potential for lending for this program will be $20 billion. Details to come. 

When can I apply?

This program should roll out in three weeks after March 27

Where can I apply?

Visit your current financial institution. Your assigned account manager will likely have access to these loans or have a method of contacting BDC and EDC.

What do I need to know about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)?

What is the CERB? 

The CERB will replace the emergency care benefit and the emergency support benefit previously announced. All Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID-19, whether they are EI-eligible or not, will be able to receive the CERB. If you have lost income because of COVID-19 the CERB will provide you with temporary income support 

How much money will I get? 

A flat rate of $2,000 a month for up to four months. The benefit is taxable but no tax will be taken directly from the cheque, instead it will be payable next year when you file your tax return.

Am I eligible? 

  • You must reside in Canada and have a valid social insurance number (tfws included) 
  • You are 15 years of age or older at the time of application 
  • You have stopped or will stop working for reasons related to covid-19, or because you are unable to work due to illness, or because you lost your employment for other reasons beyond your control; and  
    • If you are submitting for your first benefit period, that you have stopped or will stop working for at least 14 consecutive days within the 4-week benefit period; or 
    • If you are filing for a subsequent benefit period, you did not receive any employment or self-employment income for the period for which you previously claimed the benefit and do not expect to receive any employment or self-employment income in the 4 week benefit period 
  • You have not quit your job voluntarily  
  • You are not receiving nor have you applied for the CERB from the Canada Revenue Agency nor are you receiving Employment Insurance benefits for the same benefit period 
  • You have earned a minimum of $5,000 in income within the last 12 months or in the 2019 calendar year from one or more of the following sources:  
  • Employment income 
  • Self-employment income
  • Dividend, under certain conditions.

When can I start applying? 

If you are eligible for EI, it is recommended that you apply for CERB through the E-Service Canada portal. This is open now.

Non EI eligible applicants are able to apply  now. Applications for each period will be staggered. Applicants will begin to receive their CERB payments within 10 days of their application. The CERB will be paid & require a self-attestation every four weeks. CERB will be available until October 3, 2020. 

To avoid overloading the CRA portal, CRA has recommended that the day to apply will depend on your month of birth. If you were born in:

  • January, February and March, you can apply starting April 6
  • April, May and June, you can apply starting April 7
  • July, August and September, you can apply starting April 8
  • October, November and December, you can apply starting April 9

In order to receive your benefit faster, make sure that you have signed-up for direct deposit with CRA and that the information you provided is up to date.

More details here.

How do I apply? 

There are two ways to apply:

  • Online with My Service Canada (recommended for those eligible for EI)
  • Online with CRA My Account (recommended for those non-eligible for EI)
  • Over the phone with an automated phone service: 
    • If you have Portal Account issues:
      • 1-833-966-2099
    • If you have filed tax returns prior to 2018 
      • 1-800-959-2019
      • 1-800-959-2041
    • If you have never filed a tax return before
      • 1-800-959-8281

Note: Ensure that your have your SIN, confirmation of your postal code and know the period that you are applying for when you call. 

  • I’m locked out of my portal! What should I do?

The fastest way to apply to CERB would be to call 1-833-966-2099.

You will have to re-apply for each claiming period.

More details here.

Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) deliver this benefit jointly so if you have already applied for Employment Insurance, you do not need to re-apply. 

What are the periods for receiving the CERB?

The CERB is available in 4-week periods, during which claimants must have no income:

Period Dates
1 March 15, 2020 – April 11, 2020 *
2 April 12, 2020 – May 9, 2020
3 May 10, 2020 – June 6, 2020
4 June 7, 2020 – July 4, 2020
5 July 5, 2020 – August 1, 2020
6 August 2, 2020 – August 29, 2020
7 August 30, 2020 – September 26, 2020

*open for applications currently

Can I be employed and receive the CERB? 

Technically yes, as long as you are not receiving any income from your employer. 

I’m a seasonal employee – do I still qualify for CERB?

Yes, provided you meet all the eligibility criteria. 

Are employers still required to file ROEs for their employees to receive the CERB? 

As an employer, if your employee's insurable earnings are interrupted for 7 days then you will still need to submit an ROE for them to Service Canada (the fastest way to do this is through ROE web).

Employees applying for CERB do not need their ROE to apply to CERB. 

Employees applying for EI, can use their previous 12 month paystubs to create an interim ROE. This will allow them to start and process their ROE while waiting for employers to submit their ROE.

Please note that all EI applications received after March 15th are automatically being treated as CERB applications.  

How do we deal with employees asking to be laid off for the CERB? 

If an employee quits their job/takes a leave of absence voluntarily, they will be not eligible for the CERB. This program is designed for employees who are no longer able to work due to COVID-19. People will have to self-attest multiple times during the CERB payment period, and post-mortem audits may occur. 

Are independent contractors eligible for the CERB? 

Yes, if you meet the zero-income requirement. 

How is government going to track zero income for the CERB? 

This will be done purely by attestations. Government will reserve the right to ask to see bank statements, and post-mortem audits may occur.  

Can I receive benefits from my province and the CERB at the same time?

Yes. For example, in Quebec you can receive the temporary aid for workers from the Quebec government and the CERB from the federal government.

Can I get EI or the CERB if I am working under a temporary work permit? 

You are eligible for EI if you meet the regular eligibility criteria. 

You are eligible for the CERB if you have a valid social insurance number and meet all the criteria.   

Can I get EI and the CERB at the same time? 

No, applicants cannot receive EI regular or sickness benefits and the CERB at the same time but:

  • Those who are already receiving EI regular benefits will continue to receive the same benefits until the end of their benefit period. If these benefits end before October 3, 2020, they may then apply for the CERB if they meet the eligibility requirements.
  • EI claims of those who became eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits March 15th onward will be automatically processed through the CERB. After 4 months of receiving the CERB, they will still be able to apply for their regular EI benefits if they are still unemployed. Receiving the CERB first will not affect their eligibility to receive EI benefits after.

Can I get CPP and the CERB at the same time?

Yes, you are eligible for CPP and CERB at the same time. However, you must meet all the other eligibility criteria for CERB including not having any income.

I still have questions about CERB or CRA My Account!

Agents are available to speak to about CERB or CRA My Account at 1-800-959-8281.
 

If I am cutting my employee's wage due to COVID-19, can I stop their benefits too?

Unless requested by the employee in writing, it is never recommended to cut benefits without first consulting your benefits provider and your provincial ministry of labour. Cutting an employee’s benefits without notice may be in non-compliance with your provincial Employment Standards Act & Human Rights Act. 

What is the Business Credit Availability Program?

The new Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) provides $10 billions of additional support to businesses experiencing cash flow challenges through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC). Your bank/credit union might also have solutions more targeted to your needs.

To access the BCAP through EDC

Effective March 24, 2020, EDC is stepping up to support all exporting companies by offering their bank a guarantee on loans of up to $5M so that companies can access more cash immediately.  For more details, contact your financial institution.
 
Through a MyEDC account Canadian businesses can access free services and information. Insight, tools and advice are available through the Export Help Hub

For credit insurance customers, EDC understands how difficult this time is and therefore effective immediately EDC will:

  • Cover losses for goods shipped even if the buyer has not accepted the goods, subject to terms.
  • Waive the 60-day waiting period for claims. 

Customer Support/access to information 

If you’re new to EDC and are seeking more information please call 1-800-229-0575 or contact them here.

Current EDC Customers who need working capital and financial solutions should contact their account manager.

Existing EDC customers who need assistance with insurance products and online portals should contact 1-866-716-7201 and [email protected].

If you only sell products and services within Canada, other Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) partner financial institutions are here to help you. Contact the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) at 1-877-232-2269 as a first step to see how they are helping businesses like yours.

ROEweb is freezing and not working—What should I do?
  1. Provide a copy of the employee’s paystub or a copy of the “to-be-filed” ROE to the employee.
  2. File the ROE when possible on ROEweb

    
We know this is very frustrating. CFIB is raising this issue with government. 

In the meantime, the fastest way for an employer to submit their ROEs is still online through ROEweb. Although paper ROEs seem like a quick solution for businesses it will not help Service Canada work more efficiently. 

For employees applying for EI, know that employees can always provide Service Canada with pay stubs/a copy of the ROE to create an interim ROE while waiting for their employer’s ROE.
 

Is CERB taxable?

Yes. It will not be taxed at first, however you will need to claim it as income when preparing your income tax return for the 2020 year.

EI & Employee Income

How do I apply for EI?

Eligible applicants should apply for EI online: Apply online now

Note: Even applying online you will still need to submit your Social Insurance Number requests by mail.

If you go to a Service Canada office, please note that measures are in place to ensure the health and safety of customers and employees. These include waiting outside until you can be safely served and respecting social distancing.

If you are able to access the service you require online or by mail, you will be asked to return home to do so.
 

What do I need to apply?

Make sure you have the following information to complete your application:

  • the names and addresses of your employers in the last 52 weeks
  • the dates you were employed with each employer and the reasons you're no longer employed with them
  • your detailed explanation of the facts if you quit or were dismissed from any job in the last 52 weeks
  • your full mailing address and your home address, if they are different
  • your social insurance number (SIN)
  • your mother's maiden name
  • your banking information, including financial institution, branch (transit) number and your account number, to sign up for direct deposit

The online application takes about an hour to complete. Your information is saved for 72 hours (3 days) from the time you start. If you don't complete the application, you can come back to it later using the temporary password that you receive when you start your application.
If you don't complete the application within 72 hours, it will be deleted and you'll have to start a new application.
 

When should I apply for EI?

Apply as soon as you stop working. If you wait more than 4 weeks after your last day of work to apply you may lose benefits. Please be aware that your first payment may take 4 weeks to arrive due to the influx of applications.

If my employees are laid off, can they work while receiving EI?

Employees can work while on claim using the:

Workshare program 

This is a three-way agreement with the employee, employer and Service Canada that takes about 30 days to negotiate. If the employer has already put this in place, Service Canada will waive the 30 days of negotiation.
 

My employee is quarantined, will they be eligible for EI?

Employees who are quarantined or who are ordered to self-isolate due to COVID-19 are eligible for EI sick benefits. 

  • The one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits will be waived for new claimants who are quarantined so they can be paid for the first week of their claim
  • Priority EI application processing for EI sickness claims for clients under quarantine 
  • People claiming EI sickness benefits due to quarantine will not have to provide a medical certificate
  • People who cannot complete their claim for EI sickness benefits due to quarantine may apply later and have their EI claim backdated to cover the period of delay 

Contact the new dedicated toll-free phone number if you are in quarantine and wish to waive the one-week EI sickness benefits waiting period so you can be paid for the first week of your claim:

  • Telephone: 1-833-381-2725 (toll-free)
  • Teletypewriter (TTY): 1-800-529-3742 

If you are experiencing symptoms such as cough, fever, difficulty breathing or you are in self-isolation or quarantine, do not visit or enter any Service Canada office.  Services can be accessed either online or by calling 1 800 O-Canada.
 

What is the Work Sharing program?

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

Employees, their employers and Service Canada negotiate a Work-Sharing agreement. Employees must also agree to a reduced schedule of work and to share the available work over a specified period of time.

I still have questions about how this will work with my business specifically!

E-mail [email protected]

How do I apply to the Workshare program?

Who is an eligible employer?

  • Have you been in business in Canada year-round for at least two years?
  • Are you a private business, a publicly held company or non-for-profit organization?
  • Can you show a decrease in business activity of approximately 10%?
  • Are you employees eligible to receive Employment Insurance benefits?
  • Will your employees agree to a reduction of their normal working hours?
  • Do you have a minimum of two employees?
  • Can you wait 10 days to negotiate your Workshare agreement?

If all the above are a yes, then Apply for Work-Sharing.

How do I apply for the Workshare program?

Email the below two items to Service Canada to start the negotiation process for your workshare agreement (this will be unique for every location or work-sharing unit.)

Note: Service Canada must receive the package at least 10 days before the requested start date of the Work-Sharing Agreement.

  1. an Application for a Work-Sharing Agreement ESDC-EMP5100 (including attachments and signatures of both employer representative(s) and employee representative(s)
  2. Attachment A (a list of employees included in the Work-Sharing unit) available in PDF (8 KB) and Excel (36 KB) format)

Who do I email my application to?

Atlantic Provinces - [email protected]

Quebec - [email protected]

Ontario - [email protected]

Western Canada and Territories - [email protected]

For more information please read the Work sharing program Applicant Guide.

COVID update: Those who have implemented work-sharing in the past will have the 30-day negotiation/application period waived. If you have signed a work-sharing agreement before please consult the temporary special measures to see if you are eligible for the COVID-19 extension of the Work-Sharing agreements from 38 weeks to 76 weeks. 

I have multiple work-sharing units and/or locations, what do I do?

Since the people, location and agreement will be different for each one, you will need separate work-sharing agreements for each location/unit. 

Do I need to file an ROE when laying off employees?

When laying off employees you will be required to file a Record Of Employment (ROE). An ROE must be filed whenever there is a change in status of an employee including when a business is forced to close by government.

Once the ROE is filed your employees will be able to apply for regular Employment Insurance benefits. In many jurisdictions, there is an exemption from giving or paying notice when a business needs to close due to unforeseen circumstances. We have requested clarification from provincial and territorial governments on this.

New Brunswick has confirmed that businesses are exempt from giving or paying notice if the layoff is due to the COVID pandemic. 

How do I complete the ROE?

An ROE has to be filed when there is an interruption of earnings of seven days (known as the seven-day rule). The interruption of earnings occurs when there are seven consecutive days with no work and no insurable earnings, or when an employee’s salary falls below 60% of regular weekly earnings due to illness, injury, quarantine, pregnancy, etc.  

If you are filing the ROE electronically, it must be issued within 5 calendar days of the end of the pay period in which the employee’s interruption of earnings occurs. If you are using a paper ROE, it must be issued within 5 calendar days of the employee’s interruption of earnings, or the date you became aware of the interruption of earnings.  

How do I complete my employee’s ROE?

  1. Through ROEweb either by using a:
  • Select Sign-In Partner; or
  • GCKey

Note: Service Canada will require a second method of verification which they will send by mail before you gain access to ROEweb.

     2.    Calling Service Canada 1-800-622-6232 for a Paper ROE (unavailable at the moment)
 

For more information please read the Steps to complete the ROE.

How do I code the ROE?

 

CODE A Shortage of Work (Layoff)) When you are laying off employees due to a shortage of work or a temporary business closure.
CODE D Illness or Injury When an employee is absent due to illness, quarantine, or ordered self-isolation.
CODE E Quit When an employee quits their job, or refuses to come into work.
CODE H Work-Sharing When you have received approval to participate in the work-sharing program and the employee needs to apply for benefits.
CODE N Leave of absence Can be used if an employee is unable to work; for example, schools and day cares are closed and so they must stay home with a child.

                           

DO NOT put any comments in the comments box on the ROE; this will slow down processing as the ROE will need to be reviewed manually. 

For now, the eligibility criteria remain unchanged. We will update the information if the government announces special measures.  

What is a SUB plan or “Top-up" plan

The Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Program is designed for businesses who do want to “top-up”or increase their employees’ weekly earning when they are unemployed due to a temporary stoppage of work, training, illness, injury or quarantine. These SUB plans need to be registered with Service Canada and are not considered as earnings and therefore are not deducted from EI benefits. These are supplementations of the employer’s side

For more details see the SUB plan guide.
 

Employee Management

My employee cannot work because schools and daycares are closed. What should I do?

If working from home is an option, you should consider it. If it is not possible, ask them if they want to take their vacation. If they don’t wish to take their vacation, then you will need to file an ROE. Use either Code E for Quit, or Code N for Leave of Absence. We recommend not using Code K or putting any comments in the comment box, since that will slow the processing time of the ROE. 

What are the obligations of my employees?

Employees must take the necessary steps to protect their own health and well-being and that of their co-workers. Employees must comply with any preventive measures put in place by the employer (use of personal protective equipment, hygiene requirements, etc.), and they must report hazards to their employers. The possibility they may have been infected with COVID-19 is a hazard that must be reported to the employer.

What will happen to my workers on open visas and international students?

Workers with open visa’s, international students and workers on visas will be allowed entry into Canada, despite restricted border measures, provided that they self-isolate for 14 days.

Employees working from home: how do I make this work?

For many businesses, the COVID pandemic may be the first time they’ve had to consider having employees working from home. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to ensure productivity even while the team is geographically separated. 

Staying connected – Communication will be more important than ever. As well as e-mail, consider a cloud-based platform such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Skype or Facebook Workplace to allow for instant messaging. You can create group chats so members of internal teams can have virtual meetings and even conference calls without needing the telephone. 

Be clear in your expectations – Is it more important that employees work a certain number of hours or that they complete a certain task? How often should employees check in? Be mindful that employees may have unavoidable distractions such as child-care due to school closures. 

Make sure employees have what they need – Not everyone will be set up for working from home, so talk to employees and make sure they have what they need to do their job. Don’t assume that employees have landlines, printers, fast internet connection, etc.

Be patient – This is a time of huge turmoil for everyone, and some employees will adapt better than others. Acknowledge the stress your employees are feeling and work with them to find solutions.

If employees are concerned about working from home, you can share with them our top tips for a productive home office
 

What will happen to my Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) who were brought in with a Labour market Impact Assessments (LMIA)?

Employer responsibilities:

  • Honour the worker’s period of employment to start upon their arrival to Canada
  • Paying the wages and benefits during the TFW’s self-isolation period 
    • Specifically, for the workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program
    • Other workers must be paid for a minimum of 30 hours per week and at the rate specified on the LMIA
  • The employer can withhold standard contract deductions (e.g. Employment Insurance, housing, transportation, etc.) as per their TFW Program stream requirements.
  • No deductions of any additional amounts due to the self-isolation period
  • Keep a proof of employee wages paid
  • Cannot authorize the worker to work during the self- isolation period, even if requested by the worker. The only exception is if the service is deemed an essential service by the Chief Public Health Officer. No other duties other than those approved by the Chief Public Health Officer may be asked of the worker.
  • Regularly monitor the health of workers who are self-isolating or workers who become sick after the self-isolation period.
    • Communicate with your employee on a daily basis (call, text, email, or in-person two metres away if necessary) during self-isolation and ask if they are experiencing any symptoms
    • Maintain a record of responses received
  • If a worker becomes symptomatic at any time the employer must:
    • Immediately arrange for the worker to be fully isolated from others
    • Contact the local public health officials
    • Contact the appropriate consulate (suggested)
       

Fraud and business security

What COVID scams do I need to be aware of?

As businesses close and there is a move to working at home, cyber-security is more important than ever. There have already been reports of malicious e-mails masquerading as legitimate entities using the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to capture private and personal information. 

NOTE: Government will not reach out to you directly by phone or email to offer you relief

Phishing

When fraudsters pose as a company, brand or e-mail address you recognize, it’s called phishing. A play on the word fish, the perpetrators are fishing for someone to fall for their scam by sending e-mails (usually with a link to a website) purporting to be from a reputable company. They’re hoping to trick people into giving out personal information or making payments.

How to prevent phishing:

  • Make sure you have a spam filter on your e-mails
  • Look for tell-tale signs such as typos, grammar errors or poor image quality
  • Check the e-mail address – businesses and organizations don’t use hotmail or gmail accounts
  • Don’t assume people or businesses are who they say they are
  • Don’t give out personal/business information unless you’re absolutely sure of who you are dealing with.
  • Trust your instincts – if you’re not comfortable, contact the company directly to find out if the message is legitimate.

Phone Scams

Callers will try to trick you into handing over personal information (full name, address, Social Insurance Number, etc.) by posing as a government official. A true government official will be willing to provide you with their name, agent number (if applicable), department, and the building they are calling from. They will also already have all your information. 

Examples of these scams include callers pretending to be from CRA either threatening criminal action if a fine isn’t paid or offering relief monies paid by direct deposit. 

Text Scams

Similar to phishing, text scams will try to get you to click a link that will either lead to a malicious website or download malicious content onto your phone. Recent examples include a fake Red Cross text offering free face masks if you just click the link…

Stop and think before you share personal information over the phone or click on COVID-19-related links.

Resources:

Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
Competition Bureau – Little Black Book of Scams
CFIB Fraud Hub

I receive shipments from the United States, is it safe to accept them?

Yes, the delivery of merchandise and therefore the work of the delivery people is essential to maintain economic activity. Transportation companies have very strict health measures in place to ensure the safety of their drivers and the customers who receive the merchandise.  

Health and safety

Am I obligated to put preventive measures in place?

Occupational Health and Safety requires employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees. 

Preventive measures could include:

  • Ensuring that handwashing facilities are readily available and encouraging employees to practice good hygiene.
  • Ensuring employees are aware of the symptoms and risk of the virus.
  • Having a Health and Safety meeting with your committee or representative (if applicable) to review business policies and protocols.
  • Posting safety measures and encouraging employees to follow them to help prevent person to person transmission.
  • Permitting employees to work remotely where possible. Communicate this to employees, so they will feel comfortable working from home if they are feeling under the weather.
  • Having safety products available (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, gloves, etc.). 
  • Paying additional attention to cleaning – disinfecting door handles, computer keyboards, telephones, etc. 

Note: these measures also help prevent the spread of other infections such as colds, the flu, and stomach bugs.

Be wary of singling out an employee to stay home as a preventive measure, if other employees are continuing to come into the workplace. The reason to remove the employee from the workplace needs to be supported by facts, and be in line with public health guidelines, to avoid the possibility the move could be perceived as being discriminatory.

Do I need a coronavirus sick policy?

Having a small business sick policy or attendance policy is good business sense at all times, not just when there is a pandemic. Letting employees know exactly what they are entitled to, based on Employment Standards requirements and your own internal policies, will set expectations and reduce confusion and frustration. 

My employee is invoking their “right to refuse” unsafe work – what do I do?

Under Occupational Health and Safety legislation, employees have a right to refuse work if they have reasonable grounds to believe it is dangerous to their health or safety. Remind your employees of the preventive measures that have been put in place, and the safety products available to them. This may help mitigate instances of employees refusing to work due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Each employee has a duty to report any dangerous situation to their supervisor. The employer then has a duty to take remedial action by having the workplace health and safety committee and/or representative investigate. In some cases, a government health and safety officer may need to investigate as well. 

The employer may choose to reassign work. In this case, the employee must receive the same wages and benefits as they would have received under their previous assignment.

Please review the OH&S legislation in your jurisdiction for guidance on further reporting responsibilities, or talk to a CFIB Business Counsellor.

What do I do if a sick employee has come into my workplace?

Per Occupational Health and Safety requirements, you have the right to screen (i.e. health & travel) your customers and employees for the safety of your other employees. The answer as to how to deal with a sick employee still coming into work will depend on your current attendance/sick policy, the exposure of the virus in your workplace, and the nature of your work:

  • Remind them of the attendance/sick policy that you have put into place
  • Send them home to quarantine and let them know that they will be able to apply for EI sick leave
  • Communicate with your employees: 
    • Acknowledge the incident
    • Let them know of the measures that the company is taking to ensure their safety i.e. send them all home for the day, clean/spray down the office,  announce new PPE requirements
    • Remind employees of who they contact should they have any concerns about their health.
  • Speak to your local or provincial public health authority to determine if you should temporarily shut down your business
     

Employee travel

My employee just came back from a region with coronavirus. What should I do?

The federal government is requiring all travelers arriving from an international destination to self-isolate for 14 days. If the employee develops even a low-grade fever or mild cough they should avoid close contact with other people, and call their healthcare provider or public health department (contact information below).

If the employee is ill and still exhibiting symptoms, you can ask the employee to provide a note from a healthcare practitioner that gives them clearance to return to work, before the employee may return to their regular duties. 

My employees are taking business trips for work. Should I let them go?

The federal government is recommending that all international travel be restricted. International flights will only be permitted to land at certain airports, and travellers arriving from international destination will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. It is also possible that travellers will find themselves quarantined in the country they are visiting.

My employee has a vacation time booked to a place with confirmed cases of coronavirus, can I refuse to let them go?

Under the Employment Standards an employer can refuse to give an employee time off. You may need to cover the money lost by the employee if you have previously granted permission (rules vary by jurisdiction).

It's also important to consider a Human Rights perspective. Ensure you are focusing on the virus and not on the employee’s race, ethnicity or place of origin. An employee could easily feel discriminated against if you refuse the time off.

As an employer, you have the obligation to ensure the health and safety of your employees. Ensure your employees are well informed of the risks associated with traveling to effected regions, and of your company policy regarding the potential of a quarantine requirement upon their return from their trip.  If the employee chooses to travel anyway, advise them the government will require them to quarantine for 14 days, and they may be required to provide clearance from a physician at the end of the 14 days in order to return to work, to ensure the health and safety of your workplace. 

My employee has travelled outside the province; can I require them to isolate when they return?

Some provinces are now mandating a 14-day self-isolation for any person returning from outside the province. If this is the case in your province, then the employee will have no choice but to self-isolate.

If your province does not have the requirement to self-isolate following inter-provincial travel, the business could ask the employee to self-monitor for 14 days and if they show signs of COVID to report to their healthcare practitioner or public health. Requiring an employee to self-isolate when it’s not mandated by the government may mean still paying the employee. It would be best to talk to a lawyer in those situations to ensure the business is on-sides with any applicable employment standards rules and regulations.
 

View our COVID-19 Webinar: FAQs and Government Support Update

CFIB is hosting a weekly COVID-19 webinar, which is aimed at helping your business cope with the ongoing pandemic. In each webinar, we will update you on the government supports and business closures before our experts field your questions. Join us to get answers and share your own experiences as we tackle this crisis together.

WATCH THE APRIL 3 WEBINAR

Please note that due to the rate at which the current situation is changing, the information in this webinar is considered accurate as of April 3rd. 

Free templates for your business

Download our customizable templates to easily put policies in place that keep your employees, clients and business safe. Our templates include:

  • Notice to visitors (business closure): If the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing you to temporarily close your business, you may need a sign to communicate this information to your customers, letting them know when you aim to reopen and how you can be reached in the meantime.
  • Notice to visitors: If you welcome visitors in your business, you might want to remind them to follow the safety measures you’ve put in place. This sign can help you communicate your expectations clearly and stop unsafe behaviour at the door.
  • Emergency preparedness: Emergencies can happen at any time. Our five-step checklist will help you identify risks to your business and make an emergency plan to deal with them—including the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Sick policy: Having an attendance or sick policy is a best practice at any time. It lets your employees know their rights regarding time off for sickness, reducing confusion and frustration. 

Our government pressure is leading to greater relief

CFIB is pushing policy makers  at all levels of government to provide economic relief measures for small businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak. We need to ensure small businesses have the cash flow to keep their doors open and employees paid, especially in sectors affected by an immediate drop in sales. See current relief measures and find out what we're still fighting to get by jurisdiction below.

Federal

Provincial

Alberta British Columbia
Manitoba New Brunswick
Prince Edward Island Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia Ontario
Quebec Saskatchewan
NWT Yukon

Municipal

Alberta municipalities Saskatchewan municipalities
Newfoundland and Labrador municipalities
How to contact public health authorities

Investigating your concerns

We're surveying our members regularly on the impact COVID-19 is having on small businesses--and using the data to put additional pressure on governments for greater relief measures. They're telling us these surveys are invaluable to them as the situation unfolds.

See the full results

News from CFIB: Statements and releases on COVID-19

We are here to help

Don’t see the information you need? To talk to an expert, contact us at:

1-888-234-2232     Ask a COVID-19 Question