Work-Sharing program for employees - Temporary special measures for COVID-19 overview

On this page

Work-Sharing (WS) is an Employment Insurance (EI) program that helps employers and employees avoid layoffs. The program allows employers to retain skilled employees when there is a temporary decrease in business activity beyond the control of the employer.

Temporary special measures

  • Extension of the maximum possible duration of an agreement from 38 week to 76 weeks
  • Mandatory cooling off period has been waived for employers who have already used the Work-Sharing program so that eligible employers may immediately enter into a new agreement
  • Reduce the previous requirements for a recovery plan to a single line of text within the application form
  • Reduce the requirement and expand eligibility to employers affected by accepting business who have been in business for only 1 year rather than 2, and eliminate the burden of having to provide sales/production figures at the same time for the last 2 years
  • Expand eligibility for staff who are essential to recovery, Government Business Enterprises (GBEs) and non-for-profit organization employers

Who can apply for Work-Sharing:


  • Your employer has been a year-round business in Canada in operation for at least 1 year
  • Your employer is a private business or a publicly held company
  • The business has at least 2 employees in the WS unit
  • Your employer is a Government Business Enterprises (GBEs), also referred to as public corporations
  • Your employer is a not-for-profit business experiencing a shortage of work due to a reduction of business activity and/or a reduction in revenue levels due to COVID-19


Eligible employees

To be eligible for WS, your employees must:

  • You are a year-round, permanent, full-time or part-time employees needed to carry out the day-to-day functions of the business (your "core staff")
  • You are eligible to receive EI benefits
  • You agree to reduce their normal working hours by the same percentage and to share the available work

Eligibility was also extended to:

  • employees who are considered essential to the recovery and viability of the business (such as technical employees engaged in product development, outside sales agents, marketing agents, etc.)

If you were able to identify yourself in the above mentioned statements, you may be eligible for the Work-Sharing program and the Special Measures for COVID-19.

Ineligible employees

Employees that are not eligible for WS include:

  • 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
  • self-employed

The eligibility requirement for Work-Sharing is the same as for regular EI benefits

  • Employees must have 420 to 700 hours of insurable employment during their qualifying period which is the 52 weeks prior to the start of their EI benefit period
  • Each employee in the Work-Sharing unit must experience a reduction of their normal work hours that may be between 10% and 60% over the duration of the agreement (The employee’s work reduction cannot exceed 60%)
  • Each employee must work a minimum average of 40% (2 days) of their normal weekly hours over the life of the Work-Sharing agreement
  • Each employee in the Work-Sharing unit must work at least a minimum of 30 minutes in any given week

Benefits for employees in a Work-Sharing agreement

Work-Sharing benefits employees by:

  • avoiding lay offs and ensuring work skills are retained, and
  • participants receive 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

Please refer to the Work-Sharing Program- COVID-19 web page for more information on employees EI benefits.

Contact us

For more information on the Work-Sharing program, employers across Canada may call toll-free.

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)

Hours of operation: 7:00 am to 8:00 pm, Eastern Time, Monday to Friday.

Service Canada has also created an enquiry unit for clients affected by COVID-19 that are seeking information related to the Work-Sharing Program. Enquiries can be sent to the generic mailbox below for specific Work-Sharing information or to request general information about the Program.


Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: