The federal government introduced a Bill on September 24 in support of Canada’s economic recovery. Bill C-2, An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19,creates three new temporary recovery benefits designed to support those who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19 and will be given to workers who are not eligible for Employment Insurance.

Once the Bill receives Royal Assent, the new benefits would provide income support to workers and promote economic recovery by introducing measures that encourage people to safely return to work.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says, “These measures will make sure Canadians continue to have the income supports they need and that we continue to provide sufficient resources for the fight against COVID-19.”

According to a government press release, the legislation includes:

  • A Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) of $500 per week for up to 26 weeks to workers who are self-employed or are not eligible for EI and who still require income support. This benefit would support Canadians who have not returned to work due to COVID-19 or whose income has dropped by at least 50%. These workers must be available and looking for work, and must accept work where it is reasonable to do so;
  • A Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) of $500 per week for up to two weeks, for workers who are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19. This benefit supports our commitment to ensure all Canadian workers have access to paid sick leave; and,
  • A Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) of $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household, for eligible Canadians unable to work because they must care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because schools, day-cares or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19 or because the child or family member is sick and/or required to quarantine. 

Canadians can apply for CRB, CRSB and CRCB through the Canada Revenue Agency for one year until September 25, 2021.

Canada Labour Code Amendments

Bill C-2 includes proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code that would ensure that federally regulated employees have access to job-protected leave to ensure they can avail themselves of these benefits.

Bill C-2 also includes the government’s intention to amend and extend the application of the Public Health Event of National Concern Payments Act (PHENCPA) to December 31, 2020. PHENCPA, which was enacted in March when the pandemic began, enables the government to access the funds required for a significant part of the COVID-19 response measures that make up Canada’s Economic Response Plan. Under this proposed approach, the government is seeking Parliamentary approval for access to funding, subject to prescribed limits until the end of 2020, for measures that will protect the health and safety of Canadians and support individual businesses. This spending authority can only be used for specific measures approved in advance by Parliament as part of Bill C-2.

According to Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough, “Together, these Recovery Benefits fill gaps in the way Canadians qualify for income support, ensuring access to all Canadians who are unable to work due to COVID-19 so that no one is left behind. If you cannot work, and still don’t qualify for the simplified EI, there is support available to you, tailored to your specific needs.”

Responding to the increased number of Canadians who are looking to re-enter the workforce, the federal government will also invest $1.5 billion in the Workforce Development Agreements to offer skills training and employment supports. This is in addition to the $3.4 billion that has already been provided to provinces and territories under the Labour Market Development Agreements and Workforce Development Agreements in 2020-2021.

Training offered through the Workforce Development Agreements program reaches a broad scope of workers, including gig workers and those who are self-employed. This is meant to help workers quickly get training and acquire new skills in a changing labour market.

For advice on these and other employment or labour law matters, contact the offices of Toronto employment lawyers Grosman Gale Fletcher Hopkins LLP. We regularly advise workplace parties on a wide range of legal workplace issues. Contact us online or by phone at 416-364-9599 to schedule a consultation.