COVID-19 Resource

Employer Options During COVID-19: Work-Sharing Program

March 23, 2020


Many employers wish to avoid layoffs during this unprecedented economic climate.  An option for employers is to work with their employees to create alternative employment arrangements.

Work-Sharing is one program available to employers and employees that can accommodate a temporary reduction in business activity due to events beyond the control of the employer, such as COVID-19.

Work-Sharing involves a three-party agreement between the employer, employees and Service Canada. This optional arrangement requires employees to agree to a reduced schedule of work and to share the available work over a specified period of time. If this arrangement is agreed to, employees receive Employment Insurance benefits (“EI benefits“) as a top up to their income earned from their reduced hours.

Who can apply for the Work-Sharing program?

This program is open to both private and public corporations and to not-for-profit organizations; however, to be eligible for this program, a business must have operated for at least two years, year-round. The Work-Sharing program is designed to assist businesses experiencing a shortage of work that is temporary and beyond their control; therefore, businesses that have cyclical/recurring slowdowns are ineligible. Further, a business must show that its business activity, such as sales or production levels, has decreased by at least 10% within the last six months.

Work-Sharing is available to permanent, year-round employees who are eligible to receive EI benefits. A temporary employee can participate in this program only if they are not employed on a seasonal basis and if they have maintained hours similar to permanent full-time or part-time employees within the last twelve months.

How do I apply for a Work-Sharing agreement?

A joint application, made by the employer and the employees, must be submitted a minimum of 30 days prior to the requested start date. An employer must submit, and implement, a recovery plan designed to return the employees participating in the Work-Sharing program back to normal working hours by the end of the Work-Sharing agreement.

Work-Sharing agreements must have a minimum duration of six weeks. While such agreements usually have a maximum duration of 38 weeks, in light of the COVID-19 crisis, the Government of Canada has temporarily extended the possible duration of Work-Sharing agreements from 38 weeks to 76 weeks across Canada for those businesses impacted by COVID-19. As well, the Government of Canada has waived the mandatory waiting period so that employers with a recently expired Work-Sharing agreement may immediately apply for a new one.

If you have questions about your obligations as an employer with respect to a Work-Sharing agreement, please contact a member of Fogler, Rubinoff LLP’s employment group.

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Employment and Labour