Work-Sharing Program – COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, all Work-Sharing agreements fall under the COVID-19 temporary special measures. The Government of Canada has extended these measures to September 26, 2021.
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Work-Sharing (WS) is a program that helps employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary decrease in business activity beyond the control of the employer. The program provides Employment Insurance (EI) benefits to eligible employees who agree to reduce their normal working hours and share the available work while their employer recovers. Work-Sharing is an agreement between employers, employees and the Government of Canada.
The Program allows employers to:
- retain qualified and experienced workers, and
- avoid recruiting and training new employees
The Program allows employees to:
- keep their jobs, and
- maintain their work skills
Key program features
- WS unit: A WS unit is a group of employees with similar job duties who agree to reduce their hours of work over a specific period of time
- Equal sharing of work: All members of a WS unit agree to reduce their hours of work by the same percentage and to share the available work
- Expected work reduction: A WS unit must reduce its hours of work by at least 10% to 60%. The reduction of hours can vary from week to week, as long as the average reduction over the course of the agreement is from 10% to 60%
- Agreement length and extension: A WS agreement has to be at least 6 consecutive weeks long and can last up to 26 consecutive weeks. However, due to COVID-19, employers who request an initial Work-Sharing agreement, which used to be for a duration of 26 weeks, automatically receive up to 76 weeks, even if they expect that their employees will return to normal work hours sooner. Employers can end their Work-Sharing agreement at any time
Work-Sharing temporary special measures to support employers and workers affected by COVID-19
Effective March 15, 2020 and extended to September 26, 2021, and not limited to one specific sector or industry, the Government of Canada is introducing temporary special measures:
- Extension of the maximum possible duration of an agreement from 38 weeks 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 in 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, and
- Expand eligibility for staff who are essential to recovery, Government Business Enterprises (GBEs) and non-for-profit organization employers
To be eligible for a WS agreement, your business must:
- be a year-round business in Canada for at least 1 year
- be a private business or a publicly held company, or
- have at least 2 employees in the WS unit
Eligibility was also extended to:
- Government Business Enterprises (GBEs), also referred to as public corporations, and
- 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, or
- the decrease in business activity is due to a recent increase in the size of the workforce
And if you are a:
- shareholder who is responsible for the direction of the company and who holds 40% and 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 (such as municipalities, Government Agencies, etc.), or
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, and
- agree to reduce their normal working hours by the same percentage and to share the available work
Please note that core employees who do not wish to be part of a Work-Sharing agreement or who are not eligible to receive EI benefits are still required to reduce their hours of work. They need to do it on an equal basis as employees who are part of a Work-Sharing agreement.
Eligibility was also extended to:
- employees considered essential to the recovery and viability of the business can now be eligible to participate in Work-Sharing (such as technical employees engaged in product development, outside sales agents, marketing agents, etc.)
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, or
The streamlined measures introduced by Service Canada are aimed at reducing the processing time to 10 business days (down from 30 business days) prior to the start date of the agreement. As a result, employers are now required to submit their applications a minimum of 10 business days prior to the requested start date of the agreement.
How to apply
Note: Timeline for employers submitting Work-Sharing documentation
Employers are requested to submit their completed applications and Attachment A form (EMP5101) must be submitted a minimum of 10 business days prior to the requested start date. Please note Work-Sharing agreements can only start on a Sunday to align with the Employment Insurance payment cycle. Please also consider this in the planning of your Work-Sharing application.
Incomplete Work-Sharing applications may delay Service Canada’s assessment of your application.
Please note Work-Sharing agreements can only start on a Sunday to align with the Employment Insurance payment cycle. Please also consider this in the planning of your Work-Sharing application.
Employers should make Service Canada aware of any imminent lay-offs. This is to ensure that officials can support employers in establishing the Work-Sharing agreement as efficiently as possible.
To apply for the Work-Sharing program, employers must submit:
- Applications for a Work-Sharing Agreement form (EMP5100)
- Attachment A: Work-Sharing Unit form (EMP5101)
- note: If the employer does not have enough room on one Attachment A form (EMP5101), they can use as many forms as required. If possible, please submit separate Attachment A form (EMP5101) per Work-Sharing unit
Please send your application to one of the following email addresses, based on the area your business is located or where the maximum of participants are located:
Western Canada and Territories
Service Canada will acknowledge in writing the receipt of the application.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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