Frequently asked questions on the COVID-19 pandemic for business, employers, and employees
Not sure where to start?
Get the help you need
- Visit the government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan website for information about supporting your employees and your business. It is constantly updated as the COVID-19 crisis evolves.
- All business supports offered by the federal government can be found here. Fill in a few answers to quickly determine what is available to your business and the links to those resources.
- Contact your local financial institution. The government is working closely with the financial sector to increase their lending capability to support you in in this challenging time. They are a good first place to start for help.
Supports for Business
Is my organization eligible for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy?
Eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS):
- Employers of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy are eligible except public sector entities (i.e. municipalities, Crown corporations, public universities, colleges, schools, and hospitals).
- Regulations were introduced in May to extend eligibility to the following groups: partnerships, Indigenous government-owned businesses, Registered Canadian Amateur Athletic Associations, registered journalism organizations, and private educational and training institutions.
- Companies must demonstrate a 30% decrease in revenue for April and May and a 15% decline in revenue for the month of March.
- Employers can compare their revenue of March, April and May 2020 to that of the same month of 2019, or to an average of their revenue earned in January and February 2020.
- Non-profits and charities are allowed to exclude government funding in their calculations when applying.
- An eligible employer’s entitlement to this wage subsidy will be based entirely on the salary or wages actually paid to employees.
Eligible employers will be entitled to receive a 100% reimbursement for employer-paid contributions to Employment Insurance (EI), Canada Pension Plan (CPP); Quebec Pension Plan (QPP); and Quebec Parental Insurance Plan premiums.
If an employee is receiving remuneration through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, their employer would not be eligible to claim the CEWS for that period.
Small businesses that do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy may be eligible for a smaller wage subsidy covering 10% of wages paid from March 18 to before June 20, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.
How is revenue calculated for applicants to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy?
To measure their revenue loss, employers can compare their revenue of March, April and May 2020 either to that of the same month of 2019, or to an average of their revenue earned in January and February 2020.
Gross revenues will be used to determine eligibility. Employers will be allowed to measure revenues either on the basis of accrual accounting (as they are earned) or cash accounting (as they are received). Please refer to the accounting method used to report gross revenues in your organization’s financial statements.
This excludes revenues from extraordinary items and amounts on account of capital (i.e. capital gains are not included in gross revenue calculations). Special rules will be provided to address issues for corporate groups, non-arm’s length entities, and joint ventures. Employers are required to maintain records to demonstrate a decline in revenues and remuneration paid to employees.
Non-profits will be allowed to include or exclude government funding in their applications.
Special consideration will be given to organizations that cannot show a year-over-year loss in revenue. This includes rapidly growing firms and those that were not in business last year.
How does the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy interact with access to other programs being offered?
- 10% Wage Subsidy: For employers that are eligible for both the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the 10% wage subsidy for a period, any benefit from the 10% subsidy for remuneration paid in a specific period would generally reduce the amount available to be claimed under the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy in that same period.
- Canada Emergency Response Benefit: An employer would not be eligible to claim the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy for remuneration paid to an employee in a week that falls within a 4-week period for which the employee is eligible for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit. Employers who are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy would still be able to furlough employees who will receive up to $2,000 a month.
Is my organization eligible for the 10% wage subsidy?
Organizations that do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy may continue to qualify for the previously announced wage subsidy of 10%. This subsidy is equivalent to 10% of remuneration paid between March 18 and June 19. The maximum subsidy amount is $1,375 per employee to a maximum of $25,000 for the employer.
Corporations can only qualify if they have taxable capital up to $15 million.
For employers that are eligible for both the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the 10% wage subsidy for a period, any benefit from the 10% subsidy for remuneration paid in a specific period would generally reduce the amount available to be claimed under the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy in that same period.
Am I eligible for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)?
The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) provides interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits to help cover their operating costs during a period where their revenues have been temporarily reduced due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 virus.Twenty-five percent of this loan is forgivable if repaid by December 31, 2022.
The program is being implemented by eligible financial institutions in cooperation with Export Development Canada (EDC). Small businesses and not-for-profits should contact their financial institution to apply.
To qualify, a borrower must:
- Be a Canadian operating business in operation as of March 1, 2020.
- Have a federal tax registration.
- Have total employment income paid in the 2019 year between $20,000* and $1,500,000.
- Have an active business chequing/operating account with its primary financial institution. This account was opened on or prior to March 1, 2020 and was not in arrears on existing borrowing facilities, if applicable, with the lender by 90 days or more as at March 1, 2020.
- Have not previously used the Program and will not apply for support under the Program at any other financial institution.
- Acknowledge its intention to continue to operate its business or to resume operations.
- Agree to participate in post-funding surveys conducted by the Government of Canada or any of its agents.
*On May 19, the Government of Canada announced an expansion to the CEBA eligibility criteria. The program will now be available to the following businesses: sole proprietors receiving income directly from their businesses, businesses that rely on contractors, and family-owned corporations that pay employees through dividends rather than payroll.
To qualify under the expanded eligibility criteria, applicants with payroll lower than $20,000 will need:
- A business operating account at a participating financial institution.
- A Canada Revenue Agency business number.
- To have filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return.
- Eligible non-deferrable expenses between $40,000 and $1.5 million. Eligible non-deferrable expenses include costs such as rent, property taxes, utilities, and insurance.
Am I eligible for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) Program?
To qualify for CECRA for small businesses, the property owner must meet the following requirements:
- You own property that generates rental revenue from commercial real property located in Canada.
- You are the property owner of the commercial real property where the impacted small business tenants are located.
- You have a mortgage loan secured by the commercial real property, occupied by one or more small business tenants.*
- You have entered or will enter into a rent reduction agreement for the period of April, May, and June 2020, that will reduce impacted small business tenant’s rent by at least 75%.
- Your rent reduction agreement with impacted tenants includes a moratorium on eviction for the period of April, May and June 2020.
- You have declared rental income on your tax return (personal or corporate) for tax years 2018 and/or 2019.
*For those property owners who do not have a mortgage, an alternative mechanism will be implemented. Further information will be outlined in the near future.
Impacted small business tenants are businesses, including non-profit and charitable organizations who:
- pay no more than $50,000 in monthly gross rent per location (as defined by a valid and enforceable lease agreement),
- generate no more than $20 million in gross annual revenues, calculated on a consolidated basis (at the ultimate parent level), and
- have temporarily ceased operations (i.e. generating no revenues), or has experienced at least a 70% decline in pre-COVID-19 revenues.**
** To measure revenue loss, small businesses can compare revenues in April, May and June of 2020 to that of the same month of 2019. They can also use an average of their revenues earned in January and February of 2020.
Support for Workers
What supports are available to workers impacted by COVID-19?
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
The federal government is offering the CERB to workers who lose income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether or not they are eligible for EI. The CERB provides $500 per week for a maximum of 16 weeks, and is available from March 15, 2020, to October 3, 2020. To help more Canadians benefit from the CERB, workers may earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the benefit.
Applications are open. Click here to apply, or apply by calling 1-800-959-2019.
The CERB is available to workers:
- Residing in Canada, who are at least 15 years old;
- Who have either:
- Stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19, or
- Are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) regular or sickness benefits, or
- Have exhausted their EI regular benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020;
- Who had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; and,
- Who have not quit their job voluntarily.
When submitting your first claim, you cannot have earned more than $1,000 in employment and/or self-employment income for 14 or more consecutive days within the four-week benefit period of your claim. When submitting subsequent claims, you cannot have earned more than $1,000 in employment and/or self-employment income for the entire four-week benefit period of your new claim.
Employment Insurance (EI)
The federal government is facilitating easier access to EI benefits by waiving the one-week waiting period for individuals in imposed quarantine and waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits. Employers should provide a Record of Employment (ROE) following the code instructions in the following question.
Enhanced Work-Sharing Program
This federal program provides EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours as a result of COVID-19 developments beyond the control of their employers.
Work-Sharing is a three-party agreement involving employers, employees and Service Canada. Employees on a Work-Sharing agreement must agree to a reduced schedule of work and to share the available work over a specified period of time.
Effective March 15, 2020 to March 14, 2021, the Government of Canada has expanded eligibility, extended the maximum duration of Work-Sharing agreements from 38 weeks to 76 weeks, and waived the mandatory cooling off period for employers who have already used the Work-Sharing program. Learn more.
Income Tax Deferrals
Individuals can defer their income tax filing without penalty until June 1, 2020 and payment of amounts owing until September 1, 2020.
Increased Pay for Frontline and Support Workers (Ontario)
The Government of Ontario is offering temporary pandemic pay to support employees who work in congregate care settings or primarily with vulnerable populations, where maintaining physical distancing is difficult or impossible. Eligible workers will receive $4 per hour on top of their existing hourly wages. Learn more.
Protected Leave (Ontario)
The Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020 provides job-protected leave for employees unable to work for the following reasons:
- The employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19.
- The employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
- The employee is in isolation or quarantine in accordance with public health information or direction.
- The employer directs the employee not to work due to a concern that COVID-19 could be spread in the workplace.
- The employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or day-care closure.
- The employee is prevented from returning to Ontario because of travel restrictions.
These measures are retroactive to January 25, 2020. The legislation will also make it clear employees cannot be required to show sick notes. Learn more.
Do I need to provide employees with a Record of Employment (ROE) for them to access benefits, and what are the appropriate ROE codes?
If your employees are directly affected by COVID-19 and they are no longer working, you must issue a Record of Employment (ROE) using the following codes:
- When the employee is sick or quarantined, use code D (Illness or injury) as the reason for separation (block 16). Do not add comments.
- When the employee is no longer working due to a shortage of work because the business has closed or decreased operations due to coronavirus (COVID-19), use code A (Shortage of work). Do not add comments.
- When the employee refuses to come to work but is not sick or quarantined, use code E (Quit) or code N (Leave of absence), as appropriate. Avoid adding comments unless absolutely necessary.
What supports are available to self-employed workers impacted by COVID-19?
Self-employed Canadians who lose income as a result of COVID-19 should apply to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). To be eligible for the CERB, self-employed people need to cease working and not receive income for at least 14 days because of COVID-19 disruptions.
The CERB provides taxable income of $2,000 per month for up to 4 months. It will be paid every 4 weeks and be available retroactively from March 15 until October 3, 2020.
Applications opened on April 6 at Canada.ca/coronavirus. Applicants can also apply by calling 1-800-959-2019. Canadians should begin receiving their CERB payments within 10 days of application. Learn more.
Additionally, all Canadians will have until June 1 to submit their income tax returns. Income tax payments can be deferred until August 31 without penalty.
How does COVID-19 affect my coverage under the Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan?
At this time, all coverage offered through Chambers Plan remains unaffected, regardless of the risk level. Click here to learn about your coverage related to COVID-19 under the Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan.
Reopening Non-Essential Workplaces
When will my workplace be allowed to reopen?
By following the proper health and safety guidelines the following businesses have been permitted to re-open:
- Garden centres and nurseries with curbside pick-up and delivery only;
- Lawn care and landscaping;
- Additional essential construction projects that include:
- shipping and logistics;
- broadband, telecommunications, and digital infrastructure;
- any other project that supports the improved delivery of goods and services;
- municipal projects;
- colleges and universities;
- child care centres;
- schools; and
- site preparation, excavation, and servicing for institutional, commercial, industrial and residential development;
- Automatic and self-serve car washes;
- Auto dealerships, open by appointment only;
- Golf courses may prepare their courses for the upcoming season, but not open to the public; and
- Marinas may also begin preparations for the recreational boating season by servicing boats and other watercraft and placing boats in the water, but not open to the public. Boats and watercraft must be secured to a dock in the marina until public access is allowed.
- Friday, May 8: Garden centres and nurseries will be able to open for in-store payment and purchases, operating under the same guidelines as grocery stores and pharmacies.
- Saturday, May 9: Hardware stores and safety supply stores will be permitted to open for in-store payment and purchases.
- Monday, May 11: Retail stores with a street entrance can begin offering curbside pickup and delivery
This follows the Province’s three-step roadmap for easing restrictions announced at the end of April. Each phase will last at least 2-4 weeks and will allow workplaces to reopen at different times, under different conditions. Read the framework here.
What should I do to prepare for reopening?
The Government of Ontario and provincial health and safety associations have released 61 technical sector guidance documents to support employers and employees in remaining safe in the workplace during the COVID-19 outbreak and the reopening process. These guidelines provide sector-specific directions. Additional guidelines will be released in the near future. Access the guidance documents here.
What are employers’ legal responsibilities towards employees during the pandemic?
You may access this guide by Minken Employment Lawyers for information about employers’ legal responsibilities. The guide answers:
- What are employers’ workplace safety responsibilities?
- What can employers do if an employee claims it is unsafe to come to work?
- What are employers’ options for ending their employment relationship with an employee?
- What kind of leave are employers required to give employees?
- Is WSIB relevant for employees who are sick or quarantined?
- And other questions.
What actions should my organization take to help contain the spread of COVID-19?
The Public Health Agency of Canada’s recommendations for workplaces include:
- Encouraging employees to use individual measures such as frequent hand washing and social distancing.
- Introducing policies that reduce social contact as much as possible. Where feasible, use teleworking arrangements to allow employees to work from home.
- Increasing frequency with which surfaces are disinfected, and providing access to handwashing facilities and sanitizing dispensers throughout the workplace.
- Following the federal government’s travel health advisories.
For a full list of recommendations, click here.
The OCC has prepared a Pandemic Preparedness Toolkit with prevention techniques to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and an explanation of legislation governing business continuity and staffing obligations.
How should my business respond if a worker becomes ill with COVID-19?
Currently under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, if an employer is advised that a worker is ill resulting from an exposure at work (including COVID-19), or a claim has been filed with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board with respect to COVID-19 exposure at work, the employer must notify the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in writing within four days. The employer must also notify the workplace joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative and trade union, if any.
Should we cancel business travel arrangements?
At this time, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends avoiding all non-essential travel outside of Canada. Keep in mind that travellers may be forced to remain outside Canada longer than expected, as many countries have introduced travel restrictions and quarantines, and airlines have cancelled flights. Additionally, travellers are expected to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return. Click here for more information.
What are the new tax payment and filing deadlines?
Federal tax filing and payment deadlines:
- T1, T2 – June 1, 2020
- T3, T5013 – May 1, 2020
- T3010 – December 31, 2020
- Federal income tax payments – September 1, 2020
- GST/HST filings and remittances – June 30, 2020
- The CRA is NOT deferring payment of payroll source deduction remittances.
Ontario (provincial) tax filing and payment deadlines:
- Employer Health Tax – August 31, 2020
- Tobacco Tax – August 31, 2020
- Fuel Tax – August 31, 2020
- Gas Tax – August 31, 2020
- Beer, Wine, and Spirits Tax – August 31, 2020
- Mining Tax – August 31, 2020
- Insurance Premium Tax – August 31, 2020
- International Fuel Tax Agreement – August 31, 2020
- Retail Sales Tax on Insurance Contracts and Benefit Plans – August 31, 2020
- Race Tracks Tax – August 31, 2020
Notes: It is recommended that you file returns electronically, as the CRA will not process paper returns until it resumes operations. Additionally, the CRA is permitting electronic signatures for federal T183 and T183 Corp. If you are in a net refund position, you are encouraged to file as soon as possible to help with your cash flows.
See additional resources to support your business
- Pragmatic, effective strategies to help your business navigate the COVID-19 crisis – Cash Flow
- Small Business Owners Needing Financial Advice: Advocis Connect
- How to Cope with the Impacts of COVID-19 on your business (BDC)
- Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges (McKinsey)
- What You Need to Know About New Support Programs for Entrepreneurs
- Navigating Your Medical/Dental Practice Through COVID-19
COVID-19 Implications on the Canadian Economy and Businesses
How do Canada’s travel restrictions affect my business?
The Public Health Agency of Canada strongly recommends avoiding all non-essential travel outside of Canada to stem the spread of COVID-19. This may require you to cancel or postpone business travel arrangements.
Additionally, the United States and Canada have agreed to close the border between the two countries to non-essential travel. Supply chains, including trucking, will not be affected by this measure.
The Government of Canada has also put in place measures to restrict entry into Canada by foreign nationals, with exemptions for temporary foreign workers and other foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying, or living in Canada.
For more information about travel implications, click here.
How can my organization help the government respond to COVID-19?
The Governments of Ontario and Canada are calling on businesses to help meet the challenges of COVID-19.
If your organization can provide medical products and services, visit these two portals to see which supplies are needed:
If you or your organization has ideas or solutions to help the government respond to COVID-19, visit Ontario Together. Solutions could include virtual mental health services, supply chain resiliency monitoring, or financial advising for small businesses.
Where can my business access funding to manufacture essential supplies needed to support the response to COVID-19?
If your company is able to manufacture technology, equipment, and medical products to aid in the fight against COVID-19, you may be eligible for funding from:
- The Ontario Together Fund. $50 million in provincial funding to help companies retool, build capacity, or adopt the technological changes needed to produce supplies and equipment for hospitals, long-term care homes, and other critical public services. Funding will go towards the most viable, innovative proposals. Learn more.
- Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen). Supercluster funding to support companies as they rapidly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by building a Canadian supply of essential equipment, products, and therapeutics. Learn more.
- The National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program and Innovative Solutions Canada. Funding for small- and medium-sized businesses (fewer than 500 staff) to supply products or solutions in response to COVID-19 related challenges. Learn more.
What resources has the OCC prepared to help members stay informed about and deal with the pandemic?
The OCC, in collaboration with Hicks Morley, released its “COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness Toolkit for Ontario Businesses.” This resource provides advice to help individuals protect themselves from the virus, outlines how the virus may impact the business community, and how employers can support their workers and prepare a business continuity plan. To access this resource, click here.
Further, the OCC developed a comprehensive website that is continually updated with the latest news, government announcements, and key links for employers and workers. To review this site, click here.