CERB COVID-19By now the CERB (the Canada Emergency Response Benefit) has entered the common parlance but questions about this benefit still abound. Employers and employees are still puzzling over some aspects of this benefit. We address some of the confusion in this post.  

Can I Get the CERB if I Quit?

We have come across several examples of people who would stand to make more money by not working and collecting the CERB than working and getting paid. Unlike EI, which is tied to your actual income, the CERB is the same for everyone, regardless of income level – it’s $500 a week for up to 16 weeks. This is making the CERB an option attractive to people like part-time workers or those making minimum wage who may work a full week for around the same amount of money. 

Employees CANNOT get the CERB if they voluntarily leave their job. 

In many instances, employees are refusing to work – even where work is available – because they feel that leaving their home and going to work is unsafe. These employees will not be eligible for the CERB. Similarly, employees who ask to be fired or laid off so that they can access the CERB would likely be seen as committing CERB fraud. 

Eligibility Even if Work is Still Available

Some employees may have to leave their jobs – or some self-employed people may need to stop working – for reasons related to COVID-19 even where work is still available. These people will generally be CERB eligible because they will not have voluntarily quit, but have been forced to quit or stop working because of COVID-19.

In Ontario, those who are on the Infectious Disease Emergencies Leave will generally be CERB eligible. This includes individuals taking care of their kids because of school and daycare closures, those in quarantine or who are sick with COVID-19, or those caring for a family member sick with COVID-19.

Being in quarantine in this context means being in quarantine for a legitimate reason, on the advice of public health. An individual who does not have a reason to be in quarantine – for example, they just don’t feel safe going out – would not be in quarantine for the purposes of the CERB or the Infectious Disease Emergencies Leave. A legitimate reason would be something like having returned from abroad or having been in contact with someone with COVID-19. 

Generally, in order to be eligible individuals must meet the following criteria:

  • Be residing in Canada
  • Be at least 15 years old 
  • Have stopped working because of COVID-19 
  • Have had an income of at least $5,000 in 2019, or in the 12 months prior to their application date
  • Be without income for at least 14 days in the initial period and expect to have no income thereafter

Moonlighting or Earning Money While on the CERB

Moonlighting – or doing other work for pay – while on the CERB is at this point not allowed. This means that individuals still earning some income will not be eligible. To be eligible an individual needs to have NO income for 14 days in the initial benefit period and expect to have NO income thereafter. 

This is a tough pill to swallow for many, like those who are self-employed and may still be able to earn some income but have lost the majority of their contracts, clients etc. We expect that this criterion may change. 

More Info on the CERB

The CERB application is now online and has been available since Monday, April 6, 2020. Once an individual applies, they can expect to receive benefits within 10 days. The benefits can be retroactive to March 15, 2020, so a first payment may cover several weeks. Individuals need to reapply every 4 weeks.  

The Government has an extensive Q&A about the CERB on their website. 

If you have questions about government benefits or how to scale your workforce in light of the COVID-19 crisis, get in touch for a consultation or check out our online resource for employers, PIVOT DIY.