Frequently asked questions on the COVID-19 pandemic for business, employers, and employees
What supports are available to businesses facing challenges related to COVID-19?
The Government of Canada’s relief package includes the following supports for businesses:
- Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. Any company can qualify no matter what size. This includes not-for-profits and charities. Companies must demonstrate their revenues have decreased by 30% or more to be eligible. The federal government will cover up to 75% of an employee’s salary on the first $58,700 earned which means up to $847 a week. Funds will be back-dated to March 15. The Prime Minister encouraged businesses that have the means to pay the remaining 25% of salaries. The Government of Canada also warned against companies seeking to take advantage of this subsidy or make fraudulent claims. More details to come tomorrow.
- Access to additional credit. More than $10 billion in credit will be available through:
- Interest-free loans to small businesses. Through a new Canada Emergency Business Account, financial institutions and Export Development Canada (EDC) will offer interest-free loans of up to $40,000. Small businesses should apply through their financial institutions. Learn more.
- A loan guarantee for SMEs through EDC for loans of up to $6.25 million. Learn more.
- A co-lending program for SMEs between financial institutions and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). Learn more.
- Additional credit from EDC and BDC as part of the Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP). Businesses seeking support through BCAP should contact the financial institutions with whom they have a pre-existing relationship. Learn more.
- Credit for the agri-food sector through Farm Credit Canada. Learn more.
- Deferrals on:
- Income taxes until August 31.
- GST/HST remittances until June 30.
- Customs duty and sales tax for importers until June 30.
- Audit suspensions by the Canada Revenue Agency.
- An Insured Mortgage Purchase Program to provide stable funding to banks and mortgage lenders and support continued lending to Canadian businesses and consumers.
For more information about these and other federal measures, click here.
The Government of Ontario has introduced the following measures to support businesses (note that some of these are pending approval):
- Lower electricity rates for small businesses, farms, and residents until at least May 8, and banning electricity disconnection for those that fail to pay their utility bills until July 31. Click here for more information.
- Tax deferrals:
- $6 billion in provincially administered taxes deferred from April 1 to August 31
- $1.8 billion in property taxes deferred for 90 days (including the provincial education tax) in collaboration with municipal partners
- Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premium and expense deferrals of $1.9 billion for employers for 6 months.
- Postponement of the 2021 property tax reassessment.
- Changes to the Employer Health Tax (EHT) to retroactively reduce the tax and temporarily increase the exemption to $1 million
- A Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit to support regions lagging in employment growth.
For more information about these and other provincial measures, click here.
The City of Toronto is supporting businesses in Toronto with the following measures:
- An extended grace period for tax and other payments for businesses (payment and payment penalties) for 30 days, beginning March 16.
- A contingency fund to support businesses and affected groups.
- Expanded small business advisory services to help businesses as they plan to recover from impacts.
- Exemptions to the Noise Bylaw for all retail businesses to facilitate after-hour deliveries and ensure essential goods remain in stock.
Other municipal governments have also implemented measures to support businesses, including tax deferrals. Visit your local government’s website for details.
What supports are available to workers impacted by COVID-19?
The Government of Ontario is protecting workers impacted by COVID-19 with legislation that:
- Provides protected leave to individuals needing to go into isolation or quarantine and for those who need to miss work in order to care for family members, including children who are at home due to school or daycare closures. The protected leave will be retroactive to January 25 (the date of the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Ontario).
- Makes explicit that doctor’s notes will not be needed in such instances.
For more information on the provincial government’s response, click here.
The Government of Canada’s relief package includes the following protections for workers and unemployed Canadians:
- The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for workers who lose income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether or not they are eligible for EI. The CERB provides $2,000 a month for up to four months. For more information about the CERB, click here.
- Easier access to Employment Insurance (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 below.
- Enhanced Work-Sharing Program to provide EI benefits to workers that agree to reduce their normal working hours as a result of COVID-19 developments beyond the control of their employers. For more information about the temporary Work-Sharing measures, click here.
- Income tax filing deferrals without penalty until June 1 and payment of amounts owing until August 31.
For more information about the federal government’s response, click here.
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 will open through a secure web portal in early April. Applicants will also be able to apply via an automated telephone line or toll-free number. Canadians will 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.
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.
Are businesses required to close to aid with social distancing?
The Government of Ontario has mandated the closure of all non-essential workplaces for at least 14 days, beginning on March 25. Essential workplaces include supermarkets, pharmacies, cannabis dispensaries, LCBOs, restaurants for takeout and delivery, agri-food businesses, utilities, insurance, and more. For a full list, click here.
For more information about closures of at-risk workplaces or how emergency measures impact you, please call 1-888-444-3659. Help is available from Monday to Sunday, from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
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.
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:
- 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.
How can businesses communicate specific needs and concerns as they face new challenges related to COVID-19?
The OCC has prepared an online form for its members to share concerns, ideas, and requests of government. Click here to access the form.
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.