Work-Sharing Program – COVID-19

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

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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:

The Program allows employees to:

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. Employers may be able to extend their agreements up to a total of 76 weeks

Work-Sharing temporary special measures to support employers and workers affected by COVID-19

Effective March 15, 2020 to March 14, 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.



Eligible 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

Ineligible employers

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
  • self-employed


Eligible employees

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

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.)

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, or
  • self-employed

Processing times

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.

In order to address the increased volume of applications and to better support all employers and employees, applications will be processed based on start date. Applications that are submitted over 10 business days prior to the requested start date of the agreement will be processed as efficiently as possible to meet the requested start date but processing may exceed 10 business days.  

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 to ensure that officials can support employers in establishing the Work-Sharing agreement as efficiently as possible.

How to apply

Note: Timeline for employers submitting Work-Sharing documentation 

Employers are now requested to submit their applications 10 business days prior to the requested start date. The streamlined measures undertaken by Service Canada will aim to reduce the processing time to 10 business days.

Prior to COVID-19, employers were requested to send their Work-Sharing application (and supporting documentation) 30 days prior to their requested start date.

To apply for the Work-Sharing program, employers must submit:

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:

Atlantic Provinces






Western Canada and Territories


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 for specific Work-Sharing information or to request general information about the Program.

Alternate formats

Employer toolkit

Employee toolkit

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