The CEWS, the CERB and Returning to Work
Photo by Ewien van Bergeijk – Kwant on U

As we look towards returning to work and re-opening businesses we thought we would re-visit the CEWS and CERB, both of which have recently been extended. 

The CEWS (Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy) continues to provide employers with a wage subsidy to bring employees back. The CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) may be working against employers in some instances, where employees do not want to come back or serve to make more money by not working and staying on the CERB. 

Extension of the CEWS

The government has doubled the length of the CEWS program to now extend until August 29, 2020. Eligibility for the CEWS is broken down into periods, where an employer needs to demonstrate a specific revenue reduction for that period. Periods 5 (July 5 – August 1) and 6 (August 2 to August 29) are expected to require a 30% reduction in revenue, however, details have not yet been announced.

The CEWS continues to be available to help employers recall laid-off workers and to position themselves for reopening. The CEWS covers up to 75% of an employee’s wage. 

The CERB and Returning to Work 

The CERB period has been extended to last until October 3, 2020, entitling eligible individuals to a $500 a week benefit for up to 24 weeks. The CERB is causing some confusion as employers re-call employees to work and some employees – happily receiving the CERB – are simply declining. 

Now that the benefit period has been extended, benefits are available during the period between March 15, 2020 and October 2, 2020. Individuals will be able to apply for retroactive benefits if they were eligible during this period, until December 2, 2020. 

The CERB is available to individuals:

  • Residing in Canada, who are at least 15 years old;
  • Who have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted their Employment Insurance regular or fishing 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.

Individuals can earn up to $1,000 in a four week period and still remain eligible for the CERB. 

If employers have work in excess of $1,000 per month available for employees and the employee has no valid reason to remain on leave – such as entitlement to the Infectious Disease Emergencies Leave – then an employee cannot choose to remain on the CERB and refuse to work. 

Entitlement to the CERB requires that an employee involuntarily stop working. When an employee chooses to not work or to work less, their entitlement to the CERB will be lost. 

While the CERB is notoriously easy to access, the government has vowed to crack down on false claims and audits are expected. A tip line “Lead Program” has been set up to allow people to report anyone suspected of abusing COVID-19 benefits. 

If you have questions about government benefits or returning to work, get in touch for a consultation.