Work-Sharing fact sheet for employees - COVID-19 temporary special measures
On this page
- Work-Sharing agreement definition
- Duration of a Work-Sharing agreement
- Eligibility for Work-sharing agreements
- New employee eligibility guidelines
- Expanding eligibility to staff essential to the recovery
- New temporary special measures for Work-Sharing
- Eligibility requirements for employees to take part in a Work-Sharing agreement
- Work reduction of employees exceeding 60%
- Benefits for employees in a Work-Sharing agreement
- Party who submits an application for a Work-Sharing agreement
- Employer’s responsibilities in a Work-Sharing agreement
- Establishment of the Employment Insurance benefit rate
- Employees receiving EI benefits
- Other sources of earnings
- Employee benefits under a Work-Sharing agreement
- Waiting period for Work-Sharing benefits
- Taxable Employment Insurance benefits
- Shareholders and Work-Sharing agreement
- Wages calculation under a Work-Sharing agreement
- Work-Sharing unit definition
- Calculation of the benefit rate for high-salary employees
- Employee layoffs
- Utilization Reports for employers with irregular work schedules
- Relief grant payment
- Employees participation in simultaneous Work-Sharing agreements
- Employee representative
- Contact us
Work-Sharing is a program supported through the Employment Insurance (EI) fund, that assists employers to face cutbacks and avoid layoffs. The reduction of employment must average between 10%-60% of a normal work week over the life of the agreement. In order to help compensate for reduced income from the employer, the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (the Commission) assists EI eligible workers to collect Employment Insurance benefits.
Work-Sharing agreement definition
During a Work-Sharing agreement, available work is redistributed through a voluntary reduction in hours worked by all employees within one or more work units. This enables the employer to retain a full work force on a reduced work week rather than laying off part of the work force.
Duration of a Work-Sharing agreements
Work-Sharing is a temporary measure. Usually, Work-Sharing agreements can be a minimum of 6 weeks and a maximum of 26 weeks in duration. In extenuating circumstances, an extension of up to 12 weeks to the agreement may be considered and approved by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).
A temporary special measure for COVID-19 has been put in place providing an extension of another 38 weeks, with a maximum of 76 weeks, to all businesses across Canada that are directly or indirectly impacted by the downturn in business due to COVID-19.
Eligibility for Work-sharing agreements
Employers and employees must agree to participate in Work-Sharing and apply together.
To be eligible for a WS agreement, your business must:
- be a year-round business in Canada in operation for at least 1 year
- be a private business or a publicly held company
- have at least two employees in the WS unit
Eligibility was also extended to:
- Government Business Enterprises (GBEs), also referred to as public corporations
- Not-for-profit employers experiencing a shortage of work due to a reduction of business activity and/or a reduction in revenue levels due to COVID-19
Your business is not eligible for WS if it is experiencing a reduction in business activity due to:
- a labour dispute
- a seasonal shortage of work
And if you are a:
- shareholder who is responsible for the direction of the company and who holds 40% or more of the voting shares
- employer who operates solely for the purpose of carrying out the administration of a government program/activity that is purely government in nature. For example:
- government agencies
To be eligible for WS, your employees must:
- be year-round, permanent, full-time or part-time employees needed to carry out the day-to-day functions of the business (your "core staff")
- be eligible to receive EI benefits
- agree to reduce their normal working hours by the same percentage and to share the available work
Eligibility was also extended to:
- employees considered essential to the recovery and viability of the business including:
- technical employees engaged in product development
- outside sales agents
- marketing agents
Employees are not eligible if they are:
- seasonal employees and students hired for the summer or a co-op term
- employees hired on a casual or on-call basis, or through a temporary help agency
- employees responsible for the direction of the company and who hold more than 40% of the voting shares in the business
New employee eligibility guidelines
Government Business Enterprises (GBEs), also referred to as public corporations, will now be eligible to access the Work-Sharing program.
Government owned establishments engaged in activities that are not purely governmental in nature, are usually classified to the same industry as privately owned establishments engaged in similar activities, and are now eligible for Work-Sharing.
This temporary expanded eligibility excludes employers that operate solely for the purposes of carrying out the administration of government programs and activities that are purely governmental in nature.
Expanding eligibility to staff essential to the recovery
In the context of COVID-19, employees now considered essential to the recovery and viability of the business are now considered to be eligible to participate for Work-Sharing. Examples of employees now eligible includes:
- inside/outside sales responsible for recovery
- technical employees engaged in product development
- executive marketing and sales agents responsible for recovery
- senior management responsible for recovery
- shareholders who have a role in recovery/investors
New temporary special measures for Work-Sharing
On March 11, 2020, the Government of Canada announced that it would make available over $1 billion for a whole-of-government response to the effects of COVID-19 on Canada’s people, economy and businesses.
As such, the temporary special measures to support workers and employers affected by COVID-19 includes the following:
- the maximum duration of Work-Sharing (WS) agreements was extended to a maximum of 76 weeks
- the mandatory cooling-off period between WS agreements is waived. Eligible employers can apply immediately for the remaining time up to the maximum established duration of 76 weeks
- reduce the previous requirements for a recovery plan by removing the annex B and replacing it to a single line of text within the application
- reduce the requirement and expand eligibility to employers affected by accepting businesses who have been in year-round business for only one year rather than 2, and to eliminate the burden of having to provide the sales/production figures for the last two years at the same time
- expand eligibility for staff who are essential to recovery, Government Business Enterprises (GBEs) and non-for-profit organization employers
Eligibility requirements for employees to take part in a Work-Sharing agreement
The eligibility requirement for Work-Sharing is the same as for regular EI Benefits. Employees must have 420 - 700 hours of insurable employment during their qualifying period which is the 52 weeks prior to the start of their EI benefit period. The exact number of required hours depends on the unemployment rate in the EI economic region where employees live.
Each employee in the Work-Sharing unit must experience a reduction of their normal work hours. This reduction may be between 10% and 60% over the duration of the agreement. Consequently, each employee must work a minimum average of 40% (2 days) of their normal weekly hours over the life of the Work-Sharing agreement.
Work reduction of employees exceeding 60%
The employee’s work reduction cannot exceed 60%. Under the Work-Sharing Program, the employer must agree to a reduction in the employees’ regular work schedule ranging between a minimum of 10% and a maximum of 60% on average, over the life of the agreement.
For example, in a regular 40-hour work week, the projected reduction in hours must be a minimum of 4 hours per week (10%), or a half day, and the projected maximum weekly reduction cannot exceed 3 days per week or 24 hours (60%).
Benefits for employees in a Work-Sharing agreement
When a company faces difficulty beyond its control and is forced to cut back production, it may have only two courses of action. It can either lay off workers temporarily or make an agreement with the affected employees and the Commission to participate in a Work-Sharing arrangement.
Work-Sharing benefits employees by
- Avoiding lay offs and ensuring work skills are retained, and
- Providing participants with EI benefits to supplement their wages during the production slowdown. It is the responsibility of the employer to maintain employee benefits during the Work-Sharing agreement
Party who submits an application for a Work-Sharing agreement
Employers and workers must agree to participate in Work-Sharing and submit a joint application to ESDC. For any extension of the agreement or addition/deletion of Work-Sharing participants, the employer or the union/employee representative and ESDC all must agree. At any time during the agreement the employer, the union or employee representative or ESDC have the right to terminate the Work-Sharing agreement.
Employer’s responsibilities in a Work-Sharing agreement
The employer is responsible for scheduling hours of work. The employer will be responsible for reporting Work-Sharing hours on a bi-weekly basis. Any changes to the original agreement, including the addition or deletion of workers, should be reported to Service Canada immediately. Work-Sharing agreements do not affect workers’ entitlement to regular EI Benefits if they happen to be laid off after the agreement ends.
Establishment of the Employment Insurance benefit rate
The EI benefit rate for each employee is established at the start of the Work-Sharing agreement after the submission of a claim. The benefit rate is established in the same manner as the benefit rate for all other EI claims.
The Work-Sharing benefit payable in any given week is based on the employee’s loss in normal average weekly earnings. It is expected that workers will make themselves available for work that is offered to them while participating in Work-Sharing. Earnings received from sources other than Work-Sharing need to be reported by each claimant.
Employment earnings that are not from the Work-Sharing employer will be deducted from the Work-Sharing benefits payable based on the existing working while on claim provisions.
Employees receiving EI benefits
Employees who are receiving Employment Insurance regular or special benefits and are called back to work can stop receiving these benefits in order to participate in WS. If not already on the WS agreement, an amendment would have to be done to add employees to an existing agreement and then, they would need to be added to weekly Utilization Reports in order to start receiving WS EI benefits.
Other sources of earnings
The EI working while on claim provisions allow claimants to stay connected to the labour market and earn additional income while on claim. The provisions allow claimants to keep receiving a portion of their EI benefits, along with all earnings from employment or other sources.
Claimants can keep 50 cents of EI benefits for every dollar earned or received while on claim, until their earnings reach 90% of the weekly earnings used to establish their claim. Any earnings above this cap are deducted dollar-for-dollar from benefits. This method is the default rule that automatically applies to all eligible claims.
Note: Specific statutory holidays occurring within a Work-Sharing period are the responsibility of the employer and not compensated by EI benefits.
Employee benefits under a Work-Sharing agreement
The employer must maintain all existing employee benefits for the duration of the Work-Sharing agreement. For example:
- health/dental insurance
- pension benefits
- group disability
However, employees should be made aware that benefits (including any subsequent payout of benefits) may be reduced if calculated based on earnings or hours of work.
Waiting period for Work-Sharing benefits
Participants do not have to serve a waiting period for Work-Sharing benefits. However, benefits are processed through the EI payment system, meaning it will take a few weeks for the first cheques to arrive.
Taxable Employment Insurance benefits
EI Benefits are taxable and are subject to the rules and regulations of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Act. In certain cases for high-income workers, a portion of the EI benefits under Work-Sharing may have to be repaid when the annual income tax return is filed.
Tax deductions for Employment Insurance Work-Sharing benefits are determined from the information the claimant provides in the Income Tax section of the Employment Insurance application. The amount of tax deducted is specific to the claimant's province, personal tax situation and benefit rate.
The Employment Insurance benefits received by Work-Sharing participants are taxable, however because of the weekly amount of benefits paid, taxes are not always withheld at source. Participants may wish to have their income tax deductions increased in order to avoid having to pay a large amount of income tax at year-end.
This request can be made by phone at the following toll-free number:
- EI Call Centre: 1-800-206-7218
- TTY: 1-800-529-3742
For faster service, WS participants need to give Service Canada their Social Insurance Number (SIN).
At the time the participant files their income tax return, depending on their net income, they may be required to repay some of the Employment Insurance benefits received. Benefit repayment requires claimants with a net yearly income exceeding a specified threshold to repay a percentage of the Employment Insurance regular benefits received during the tax year.
For example, if a WS participant’s 2019 net income from all sources exceeds $63,500, they will be required to repay 30% of the lesser of:
- their net income in excess of $63,500, or
- the total regular benefits, including regular fishing benefits, paid in the taxation year.
Exemptions apply in certain circumstances. For more information on repayment of benefits at income tax time please visit: Employment Insurance (EI) and Repayment of Benefits at Income Tax Time.
Shareholders and Work-Sharing agreement
Yes, shareholders can be part of the WS agreement if they do not hold significant decision-making power and own less than 40% of the company’s shares.
Wages calculation under a Work-Sharing agreement
The amount of benefits paid for a week of Work-Sharing is calculated by comparing the hours of work missed because of the Work-Sharing agreement against the hours the claimant would have normally worked. Benefits are paid as a percentage of hours missed. For example:
- weekly benefit rate = $500.00
- the normal work week was 40 hours prior to the Work-Sharing agreement
- in the week under consideration, the claimant works 30 hours, and misses 10 hours of work due to the Work-Sharing agreement
In this case, the claimant has worked 30 out of a possible 40 hours. Therefore, 10 out of 40 hours were lost due to the Work-Sharing agreement, or 25%. This claimant will be entitled to 25% of their benefit rate, or $125.00, for the 10 hours missed because of the Work-Sharing agreement.
Work-Sharing unit definition
A Work-Sharing unit is a group of core employees who have agreed to participate in the Work-Sharing program and to reduce their normal working hours. A Work-Sharing agreement may include more than one Work-Sharing unit. Some larger employers may have WS agreements that are comprised of several WS units (included in separate attachment A forms) with different job descriptions or from different departments.
The unit generally includes all employees in a single job description or all employees who perform similar work. Employees who do different work but whose jobs impact one another (in other words slowdown in business affects one job resulting in less work for another job or jobs) may form one WS unit provided that all employees can reduce their hours equally.
There must be a minimum of 2 employees in a Work-Sharing unit.
Calculation of the benefit rate for high-salary employees
A WS participant will receive a portion of their weekly benefit rate that is equivalent to the portion of work missed due to WS. A WS participant’s benefit rate is determined by the amount of their insurable earnings. The benefit rate is generally 55% of the client’s insurable earnings to a maximum available rate. If the participant’s insurable earnings per week is $1,082.69 or higher, their benefit rate will be $595 (the maximum benefit rate set for 2021).
For example, if the participant has a weekly insurable earning that is $1,082.69 or higher and usually has a 40-hour work-week, which has now been reduced by 40%, the participant missed 40% (or 16 hours) of their work-week under the WS program and would receive 40% of $595.
To calculate the hourly rate of the benefit and overall benefit to be paid:
- $595 divided by 40 (NWH) = $14.88 per hour missed
- $14.88 x 16 hours of work missed = $238.08. This amount is rounded up or down to the nearest dollar
Based on this calculation, the participant would receive $238 in WS benefits for that week, for the portion of hours that were not worked and unpaid by the employer.
Some employers may have been unable to avoid layoffs prior to applying to participate in WS. Core employees who were laid off prior to the employer applying to enter into a WS agreement may be included in the WS unit. Any employees laid off between the submission of an application to enter into a WS agreement and the date the WS agreement commences will also be eligible to participate however, nothing requires an employer to include them. An employer is also not required to call back all employees in layoff status.
If the employer would like to add workers that were not part of the Work-Sharing agreement after the agreement commences, an ammendment to the agreement will be required.
If the business does not recover as expected and an employee is laid off during or at the end of a Work- Sharing agreement, the employee can apply to transfer their claim to regular benefits. Normally, the benefit rate and the normal duration of the claim are not reduced by Work-Sharing participation, as WS benefits are not regular benefits. WS participation will not have exhausted any of their entitlement to regular or special benefits if only WS benefits were paid.
Note that employee benefits are based on their original Record of Employment (ROE), not on the Work-sharing hours.
Utilization Reports for employers with irregular work schedules
Each employee is required to work at least 30 minutes per week to remain eligible for benefits under the program, as indicated on Utilization Reports.
Relief grant payment
A relief grant one-time lump sum payment to employees would be excluded from earnings under regulation 35 if the payment is not conditional to providing some sort of service to the employer for the assistance and that the assistance is freely given by the employer, without any legal obligation.
Employees participation in simultaneous Work-Sharing agreements
A Work-Sharing participant can only be paid for one agreement at a time, even if they work for 2 different businesses who are both applying for Work-Sharing benefits. Should this be the case, the employee must be added to attachment A forms for all agreements they wish to participate in. The client will then be contacted to determine which agreement they want to be paid for and an Insurance Payment Operational Centre (IPOC) will manually process all payments.
Under COVID-19 special measures, additional flexibility is being provided for employee representative even if they are not part of the Work-Sharing unit.
Payroll officers and/or Human Resources Advisors/Administrators are examples of individuals who can be employee representatives and can validate the accuracy of the Work-Sharing Unit.
Employer Contact Centre
For more information on the Work-Sharing Program, employers across Canada may contact the Employer Contact Centre:
Hours of operation: 7:00 am to 8:00 pm, Eastern Time, Monday to Friday.
Canada and the United States
- Toll-free: 1-800-367-5693
- TTY : 1-855-881-9874
Outside Canada and the United States
Telephone: 506-546-7569 (collect calls accepted)
Employer Inquiry Unit
Service Canada has created an inquiry unit for employers affected by COVID-19 that are seeking general information related to the Work-Sharing Program. Inquiries can be sent to email@example.com.
Employment Insurance Call Centre
For general questions about their Work-Sharing EI benefits and payments, employees can call the Employment Insurance Call Centre. Please note that for privacy reasons, Service Canada is unable to disclose information specific to an employee’s file to employers.
- English: 1-800-206-7218
- French: 1-800-808-6352
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