Rescue operations / Abating a disaster

Introduction

This document provides information on what the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) looks at when determining whether the employment of a person who participates in rescue operations and/or abating a disaster is pensionable or insurable, or both, under the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and the Employment Insurance Act (EIA). This document could also help in situations involving a volunteer firefighter.

Employer responsibilities

All employers are required by law to deduct CPP contributions and employment insurance (EI) premiums from most amounts they pay to their employees. Employers must remit these amounts to the CRA along with their share of CPP contributions and EI premiums. More information on employer responsibilities and obligations can be found through our Payroll menu page.

Explanations

For the purpose of this document, a rescue operation means an operation or a series of operations required to rescue or protect someone or something from imminent or actual danger. Examples include searching for someone, putting out a fire, or rescuing a person in distress.

For the purpose of this document, abating a disaster means taking action to lessen or reduce the effects of a disaster. A disaster is an event that may cause immediate or grave harm to the safety, health or welfare of people or widespread damage to property. Examples include fires, ice storms, earthquakes, or floods that could have devastating consequences on the country.

Pensionable and insurable employment

If a person is paid to participate in a rescue operation and/or abating a disaster and is regularly employed by their employer, this person would be considered to be an employee and, therefore, be engaged in pensionable and/or insurable employment in accordance with the CPP and EIA.

However, the CPP and EI Regulations provide that the employment of a person in a rescue operation and/or abating a disaster is excepted or excluded from pensionable or insurable employment if that person is not regularly employed by their employer.

For example, a person who is engaged to bring or deliver potable water, construct firebreaks, or prepare meals, for the fire crews at the base camp, would be considered to be participating in a rescue operation and/or abating a disaster. On the other hand, a person who does accounting or other administrative duties would not normally be considered to be participating in a rescue operation and/or abating a disaster.

In cases where the employment is excepted, the legislation allows the employee to elect to pay CPP contributions on these earnings when conditions are met. (Form CPT-20-Election to pay Canada Pension Plan Contributions)

For general information about determining whether or not a worker is an employee, see Guide RC4110, Employee or Self-employed?

Regularly employed

To determine whether or not the person is regularly employed, the following factors should be considered:

  • fixed pattern rather than a fixed period of employment;
  • the regularity of the work schedule;
  • the employment need not be long-term;
  • the employment can be only temporary so long as it is regular; and/or
  • the work schedule does not necessarily have to be determined in advance or remain fixed in time; however, it must be possible to identify some consistency in the frequency and the sequence of units of work which the employee is called on to provide.

Example - not regularly employed
Grace works occasionally or as required either on a temporary or long-term basis to cover for regular workers who are unavailable. She would be considered to be not regularly employed because there is no fixed pattern of employment, no regularity to the work schedule, and no consistency in the frequency and sequence of units of work which the worker is called on to provide. Grace's employment may be described as casual, intermittent, sporadic, or employed to an inconsiderable extent or hardly at all.

Example - regularly employed
Marc works two days a week or a particular shift each day. Regardless of whether his employment is temporary (for the duration of a particular rescue operation) or long-term (for more than one or a series of rescue operations), he would be considered to be regularly employed. This is because there is an identifiable fixed pattern of employment, a continuity and regularity to the work schedule, and there is a consistency in the frequency and sequence of units of work which he is called on to provide.

Volunteer firefighters

The courts have provided specific guidance for situations involving volunteer firefighters who participate in a rescue operation and/or abating a disaster. If the person is required to be on call, in the sense that they must be available to respond to calls during certain set periods, the hours of work may be described as regular. Therefore, this would indicate that the person is regularly employed

Example - not regularly employed (volunteer firefighter)
Mary is a volunteer firefighter for a small municipality. She carries a pager and can be called at any time. She is expected to attend training sessions 60% of the time that she devotes to being a volunteer firefighter to keep up to date with city safety regulations. She is paid the same hourly rate for her services at the scene of an emergency or disaster and for time spent in training. She has a full time job elsewhere. She is not required to respond to every call, and she determines which calls she wishes to take. She can leave her duties at any time with no consequences. Mary does not have any set hours or schedule to adhere to since she determines whether to respond to a call or not; therefore, she is not regularly employed.

Example - regularly employed (volunteer firefighter)
Paul is a volunteer firefighter for a small municipality. He holds the designation of captain and has a crew of four firefighters working under him while at a call. Paul carries a pager and can be called at any time. Every five weeks he is required to be on call for a week. When he is not on call, he has five minutes to respond. If he does not respond, another firefighter will cover; however, when Paul is on call, he is required to be available to respond. Paul is paid an hourly rate when at a call and a lower hourly rate when he is on call at the fire station. He also receives a fixed amount as a premium for each week he is on call. Since he is required to be available for set periods on a regular basis, he is considered to be regularly employed.

Requesting a ruling

If a worker or payer is not sure of the worker's employment status, either party can request a ruling by the CRA to have the status determined. More information on the ruling process is available in How to obtain a ruling for Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance purposes.

For more information

To get more information, call 1-800-959-5525 .

Legislative references

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