COVID-19 Helpful Resources & FAQs

COVID-19 Support - March 18, 20 - Bri Newman

As Canada takes measure to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we are here to help you navigate impacts these measures may have on your day to day operations. Please note that this is an extremely fluid situation and updates/changes are happening regularly. We will continue to keep this post up to date as information is released or updated.

Employer Resources

Work-Sharing Temporary Social Measures

Resources for Canadian Businesses

Business Credit Support


Employee Resources 

Applying for EI

How to properly Self Isolate

Awareness Resources

Self Assessment Tools 

Some provinces have released self assessment tool to help you determine whether you should be tested for COVID-19

Saskatchewan Self Assessment Tool

Manitoba Self Assessment Tool

British Columbia Self Assessment Tool

Ontario Self Assessment Tool

Alberta Self Assessment Tool


About COVID-19 

Q1: How does COVID-19 spread? 

Response: Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets that are spread when you cough or sneeze
  • close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands

Q2: What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

Response: Those who are infected with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. This is the longest known infectious period for this disease.

Symptoms have included:

  • fever
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • pneumonia in both lungs

In severe cases, infection can lead to death. If you think you might have COVID-19, take a self-assessment here

Q3. How can you prevent Coronavirus?

Response:  Canadians should continue to think ahead about the actions that they can take to stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, including:

  • Social distancing: slowing the spread of COVID-19 by making a conscious effort to keep a physical distance between each other. This means making changes in your everyday routines to minimize close contact with others, including:
    • avoiding crowded places and non-essential gatherings
    • avoiding common greetings, such as handshakes
    • limiting contact with people at higher risk like older adults and those in poor health
    • keeping a distance of at least 2 arms-length (approximately 2 metres) from others
  • Reducing contact with others by following the guidance for self-monitoring, self-isolating, or isolating
  • Hygiene: Proper hygiene can help reduce the risk of infection or spreading infection to others:
    • washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
    • using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
    • coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand
    • disposing of any tissues you have used as soon as possible in a lined waste basket and wash your hands afterwards
    • avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Cleaning: Health Canada has published a list of hard surface disinfectantsthat are likely to be effective limit the transfer of  theCOVID-19 microorganisms.

 For Employees

 Q4. Tell me more about EI?

Response: In response to this unprecedented crisis, the Federal Government of Canada has:

  • Waived the one-week waiting period for individuals imposed on quarantine to access EI benefits
  • Waived the requirement for a medical certificate to access EI benefits

This means eligible employees will now be able to access benefits for their period of absence, up to a maximum of 15 weeks immediately. If you are directly affected by the COVID-19 because you are sick or quarantined and you have not yet applied for EI benefits, please submit your application before contacting Service Canada. This will prevent delays in establishing your claim. If you have already completed the application for EI sickness benefits whether you are sick or quarantined and would like to have the one-week waiting period waived, call the new toll-free phone number. Applications can be made on the Service Canada website.

Additionally, our team has also prepared an FAQs document outlining the steps included in applying for EI, for more information please reach out to our team through Intercom or otherwise.

Q5. What other benefits are available to me due to COVID-19?

Response: The Government of Canada is taking immediate, significant and decisive actions to help Canadians facing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Below you can find a list of all relief measure announced by the Government in response to COVID:

Q6. Can I refuse to go to work?

Response: Employers have a positive obligation to take reasonable care in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of employees under occupational health and safety legislation. Where an employee has reason to believe that there is a dangerous condition in the workplace, or that their duties present a danger to their health and safety (which is not an inherent or normal condition of their work), the employee may be able to refuse to attend work or perform certain duties.

 For Employers

 Q7: Do employers have the right to terminate or lay off their workforce? 

 Response: Under provincial employment standards legislation in the common law provinces, employers generally have a right to terminate their employees without cause at any time, subject to the provision of appropriate notice of termination (or pay in lieu) and severance pay (if applicable).

To the extent employers suffer financial hardship because of the COVID-19 outbreak, they may be permitted to terminate their employees without cause. Employers should, however, proceed with caution and ensure the terminations cannot be perceived to be based on any prohibited ground of discrimination (including disability) or related to an employee’s request to take a sick leave in connection with COVID-19.

Employers may be able to temporarily lay off all or some of their workforce to ameliorate the financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. Employment standards legislation across the country provides employers with a right to temporarily lay off all or part of a workforce for a period of time without triggering a termination. However, there is case law that suggests a temporary layoff without pay may amount to constructive dismissal in the absence of a contractual right to do so (which could include, among other things, an employer policy or practice of layoffs without pay). Employers should review their employment agreements, policies and/or practices with a view to determining whether a temporary layoff is an option that they wish to pursue. Employers who seek to impose a temporary layoff should ensure, at a minimum, that they are complying with applicable provincial legislation.

A number of provincial governments are proposing amendments to statutory leave that guarantees to address the impact of COVID-19. Since the situation is highly fluid, we suggest you check your provincial government website, ESA and labour code for information.

Q8: Is advance notice required before a Temporary Layoff?

Response: In BC, Ontario and Quebec there are no advance statutory notice requirements before an employee can be placed on a temporary layoff. In Alberta, written advance notice of 1-2 weeks (depending on years of service) must generally be provided. However, the requirement for advance notice is waived where unforeseeable circumstances prevent employers from providing advance notice, in which case written notice must be provided as soon as is practicable in the circumstances.

The notice must be in writing, state that it is a temporary layoff notice, set out the date the layoff commences and include sections 62-64 of Alberta’s Employment Standards Code. While notice of a temporary layoff is not required under the Canada Labour Code, a temporary layoff may be more than 3 months if the employer notifies its employees before the layoff that they will be recalled on a fixed date, which is not longer than 6 months, and the employees are recalled on that date.

Q9. Do Obligations Change Depending on How Many Employees are Temporarily Laid Off?

 Response: Where an employer lays off multiple employees in a short period of time, the employer should be aware of applicable statutory group/mass termination obligations which in many jurisdictions, also apply to temporary layoffs.

Whether these obligations are triggered will be a jurisdiction-specific inquiry. For example, in British Columbia group termination entitlements apply when 50 or more employees’ employment is terminated within any two-month period, unless it meets one of the exceptions as set out in the British Columbia Employment Standards Act (section 65). In Alberta, if the employer intends to terminate the employment of more than 50 of its employees within a 4-week period, the employer must comply with the group termination provisions of the AB Code. In Ontario there are no mass or group termination considerations for temporary layoffs, however, should the layoffs extend beyond the allotted time mass termination entitlements may apply. In Quebec there are specific rules which apply for “collective dismissal” (ex. a layoff for a period of 6 months or more involving 10 employees and more of the same establishment in the course of 2 consecutive months). Federally, a group termination is the termination of employment of 50 or more employees at a single establishment within a 4-week period.

These obligations may include providing written notice of the layoffs to an applicable government authority and to the employees in accordance with applicable employment standards legislation. Further obligations may ensue if the layoffs are considered terminations.

Q10. What benefits do businesses get due to COVID-19?

 Response: The Government of Canada is taking immediate, significant and decisive actions to help Canadians facing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Below you can find a list of all relief measure announced by the Government in response to COVID:

Q11. Are employers still required to file ROEs for their employees to receive CERB?

Response: As an employer if your employee’s insurable earnings are interrupted for 7 days then you will still need to submit a ROE for them. However, your employee will be able to access the CERB regardless of whether an ROE has been filed or not.

For more information on Canada’s Response to COVID-19, visit: Canada’s Economic Response Plan

This post is being managed by the HR4 COVID Task team – Jessica Marchese, Sajitha Nair and Bri Newman.  If you need resources/communication templates or support in anyway surrounding COVID-19 please reach out – we are here to help!

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