COVID-19: Provincial and Federal Benefits for Employees in BC

Up to date as of April 6, 2020.

If you are sick

Workers Compensation through Worksafe BC

If you are a worker, you have three key rights:

  1. Right to know about hazards in the workplace;
  2. Right to participate in health and safety activities in the workplace; and
  3. Right to refuse unsafe work if you believe it presents an undue hazard

Exposed to Covid-19 at Work?

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 at work, tell your employer and go home*. Call your doctor or 811 for health instructions (don’t go to the office or hospital). File a Workers Compensation Claim with Worksafe BC by phone at 1 888 WORKERS (1 888 967-5377).

If you can show that you got sick from work (and not in some other way), you should file a Workers Compensation Claim with Worksafe BC. You will not qualify if you are quarantined or ordered to self-isolate. Here in information about WCB wage loss benefits for COVID-19 illness arising out of and in the course of employment.

Under what circumstances can you refuse work?

An undue hazard is an “unwarranted, inappropriate, excessive, or disproportionate” risk, above and beyond the potential exposure a general member of the public would face through regular, day-to-day activity.

In these circumstances, the worker should attempt to resolve the issue with their employer first (i.e. report the hazard to their employer and participate in any investigation of the hazard). If the matter is not resolved, the worker and employer must contact WorkSafeBC here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/contact-us/departments-and-services/health-safety-prevention

Link for information about WCB wage loss benefits for Covid-19 arising out of and in the course of work: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/news-events/announcements/2020/March/covid-19-and-the-workplace

Link for information about reporting your injury: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/claims/report-workplace-injury-illness/how-workers-report-workplace-injury-illness

*Different rules may apply to healthcare workers who are delivering essential services. If you fall into this category, check with your employer/union about what to do if you are exposed to COVID-19.

Sick leave/Short Term Injury and Illness Plan (STIIP)

If you have extended health care through work, please review the terms for sickleave/STIIP. Some of these plans may cover workers who are quarantined, selfisolating, caring for a sick-dependant, or protecting the health of someone in their house.

Medical Employment Insurance (MEI)

Changes have been made to the EI rules for individuals who are required to self-quarantine. Workers can make a claim for sickness benefits when medical reasons are preventing them from working.

Requirements for the MEI

  • Unable to work due to medical reasons.
  • Regular weekly earnings have decreased by more than 40% for at least one week; and
  • At least 600 insured hours of work in the previous 52 weeks before the start of the claim (600 hours of work amounts to 20 weeks of work, working 30 hour weeks)

What will you receive under Medical Employment Insurance?

  • Up to 15 weeks income replacement
    • The amount received depends on your insurable earnings in the past 52 weeks, or since the start of your last claim, whichever is the shorter time period.
    • You could receive 55% of your insurable earnings, as defined by the CRA, to a maximum of $573.00 per week for a maximum of 15 weeks.
    • If your family income is $25,921.00 or less, you may be entitled to the family supplement if you also have one child under 18 and you or your spouse receive the Canada Child Benefit. This supplement would be automatically added to your weekly benefit payments; however, the total weekly amount provided cannot exceed $573.00.
  • Waiting period can be waived if you call 1-833-381-2725 (toll-free) – heads up: we have heard that you can expect to wait several hours on this line!
  • Requirement for a medical note is waived

Can self employed workers apply for Medical EI and how much can they claim?

  • Self-employed people will need to register for access to EI Special Benefits (link below)
  • The amount of time spent on your business must have decreased by more than 40% for at least one week due to your medical condition
  • Need to have earned at least $7,279 in 2019

Link to more information on EI Sickness Benefits: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness.html

Link to register for EI Special Benefits: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/eiself-employed-workers.html

Link to start your application with EI : https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/eisickness/apply.html

If you are not sick

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

CERB replaces the previously announced and unimplemented Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit. Applying to this program began April 6th, 2020.

Important Note

  • You are not entitled to receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) while you are receiving Employment Insurance (EI) benefits or the CERB from Service Canada. If you have already submitted an application with Service Canada for EI or the CERB, you cannot apply for this benefit through CRA.

To be eligible, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You reside in Canada.
  • You are 15 years of age or older at the time of application.
  • For your first CERB application: you have stopped or will stop working due to reasons related to COVID-19 and, for at least 14 consecutive days of the four week period for which you are applying, you will not be receiving:
    • employment income;
    • self-employment income; or
    • provincial or federal benefits related to maternity or paternity leave.
  • For your subsequent CERB applications: you continue to not be working due to reasons related to COVID-19 and, for the four week period for which you are applying, you will not be receiving:
    • employment income;
    • self-employment income; or
    • provincial or federal benefits related to maternity or paternity leave.
  • You have not quit your job voluntarily.
  • You have not applied for, nor are you receiving, CERB or EI benefits from Service Canada for the same eligibility period.
  • You have earned a minimum of $5,000 income within the last 12 months or in 2019 from one or more of the following sources:
    • employment income;
    • self-employment income; or
    • provincial or federal benefits related to maternity or paternity leave.

Eligibility periods:

  • Eligibility periods are fixed in four week periods.
  • You may apply for CERB for up to a maximum of 16 weeks.

How to apply

  • My Account portal through the Canada Revenue Agency or paper application

What will you receive?

  • up to $2,000 for 16 weeks (4 months) for those who lose pay as a result of Covid-19 pandemic
    • This is different from EI benefits which provide you 55% of normal weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $573/week
  • Workers (including employees and self-employed individuals) who do not qualify for EI will have access to CERB.

Income Tax Information

  • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is taxable
  • Information slips will be made available for the 2020 tax year in My Account under Tax Information Slips (T4 and more).
  • If you are later found to be ineligible, you will be required to repay the benefit

EI/CERB – which should you apply to and when?

  • The Trudeau government has suggested the following:
    1. If you are already receiving EI regular and sickness benefits – these benefits will continue and you should not apply for the CERB;
    2. If you have already applied for EI and your application has not yet been processed, then you do not need to re-apply.
    3. You are unable to return to work due to Covid-19, if your EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, you can apply to CERB once your EI benefits end
  • If your EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, you can apply for CERB after your benefits end
  • If you are unemployed after the 16 week period covered by CERB and you are eligible for regular EI and sickness benefits – you can apply to EI to access these benefits

Link for more information:

https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/introduces-canada-emergency-response-benefit-to-help-workers-and-businesses.html

Link to apply: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/benefits/apply-for-cerb-with-cra.html

British Columbia Provincial Benefits for Workers

The Province of BC has also made support available to Canadian workers.

British Columbia has a wide range of COVID-19 emergency benefits for workers

B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers (BC-EBW)

Working people who receive federal Employment Insurance, or the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit are eligible for BC-EBW (in other words, apply for the federal benefits first to show the province that you qualify!).

For working people, BC-EBW will provide a one-time, non-taxable benefit of $1000 for people who are unable to work. The application portal is not ready yet, but payments are predicted for May.

BC Child Tax Benefit has been increased. This should automatically go to families receiving this benefit.

The BC Climate Action Tax Credit is increased and will automatically be paid to qualifying families.

BC-Temporary Rental Supplement (BC-TRS) Program provides $500 paid directly to the landlords for up to three months. The application process has not been announced. 

Link for more information on BC-EBW: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/employment-business/covid-19-financial-supports/emergency-benefit-workers

Link for more information on BC-TRS: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/covid-19-bc-renter-landlord-financial-help-1.5509636 and https://www.bchousing.org/COVID-19

Disclaimer – The information contained herein is of a general nature. It is not intended to be legal advice and it is not intended to address the exact circumstances of any particular individual or entity. No one should rely on or act upon such information without receiving appropriate professional advice and without a thorough examination of their particular situation. Please contact our office if you have any questions with respect to the content of this entry, this website, or our Terms and Conditions .