The Transition from CERB to EI and Other Programs | Author: Brooke Auld, Employment Lawyer
At the beginning of the pandemic, a multitude of job losses caused by the emergency lockdown prompted the federal government to hastily implement the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Set up to provide Canadians with temporary income replacement, this program ended on October 3, 2020.
If you were eligible to receive CERB between March 15th and October 3rd and overlooked applying, it’s not too late. You can still do so retroactively until December 2, 2020. Early next year, the government will issue T4A tax slips to all CERB recipients. You must declare this taxable income when you file your tax returns for 2020 in April. The government did not deduct taxes before sending you these benefits. Consequently, consulting with an accountant beforehand will allow you to plan for any taxes you might owe on this income.
Transition to Employment Insurance (EI)
CERB recipients should prepare for change after October 3, 2020. Service Canada will transition you from CERB to EI, the Employment Insurance benefits program. Eligible recipients will receive up to $573 per week for a maximum of 26 weeks. However, unlike CERB, Service Canada will tax these benefits at the source. To plan your cash flow and determine how much money you stand to receive, consult the Government of Canada Website.
Also, CERB recipients should make note of important changes with this transition. You will only qualify for the new EI benefits if Service Canada has your Record of Employment (ROE) on file. In addition, you must meet other qualification criteria. To assist with a swift transition, ensure that your employer(s) have submitted ROEs for each job you held in the 52-week period before you went on CERB.
CERB to EI – Who Should Reapply?
Some individuals will have to submit a new application for EI. This includes anyone with a 900-series social insurance number, such as foreign-trained workers or international students. Self-employed workers who received benefits through Service Canada will also need to reapply, along with individuals who received CERB through the Canadian Revenue Agency and those who filed a CERB report, declaring they have returned to full-time employment.
Although Service Canada has stipulated they will contact all CERB recipients regarding their eligibility, you should still check your Service Canada account and follow up to avoid delays.
Comparing CERB and EI Requirements
The EI program, operated by Service Canada, differs from CERB in some ways. First of all, your eligibility begins after being off from work for two weeks. Accordingly, you can estimate your first payment to arrive on October 11, 2020. Just like CERB, Service Canada will require you to complete bi-weekly reports to determine your continued eligibility. However, unlike CERB, the government now expects you to continue making reasonable and ongoing job search efforts while receiving EI. If you are proactively reaching out to employers, applying for job postings, or conducting job bank searches, keep a record of these efforts in the event of an audit.
In addition, you must report any earnings you receive while on EI. This includes wages, salary or commissions, vacation pay, retirement pension and severance in lieu of notice.
Severance Pay and EI
Severance pay will impact your EI benefits start date. If you are caught up in an unfortunate wrongful dismissal or constructive dismissal case, you may not know the amount of your severance when you apply for EI benefits. However, you should declare these funds in your biweekly report as soon as you receive them. This will likely trigger an EI overpayment and cause your payments to stop. The Receiver General will issue a Notice of Debt and ask for repayment from your severance payout.
CRB, CRCB and CRSB
Some individuals may not qualify for the EI program. The government launched three new programs under Bill C-4, that may accommodate you. These benefits apply retroactively from September 27, 2020, to avoid a gap in coverage after the end of CERB.
Self-employed workers can apply for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). If you are unable to work because you are caring for an ill family member, or due to children attending on-line learning from home, you can apply to the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB). You will continue to receive a taxable benefit of $500 per week, just like you did under CERB for a maximum of 26 weeks. The government does not require your ROE for these benefit programs.
Anyone sick or in isolation due to COVID-19 should apply to the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB). You will receive $500 per week for a maximum of two weeks.
Seeking a Legal Opinion
Most individuals do not require legal representation to file claims for EI or other any of the emergency benefits programs outlined above. The requirements are fairly straightforward along with the application processes.
However, Service Canada puts a very high emphasis on an accurate ROE to assess your claim. You will likely require our help if your employer refuses to issue your ROE, causes delays with it or issues it with errors out of spite. Such actions can delay your claim, have it denied or result in a significantly lower payout. Contact us as soon as possible if this has occurred to you.
In addition, you should also seek legal help if your employment status remains ambiguous. The terms “layoffs” and “terminations” are often used interchangeably. But your rights and entitlements differ greatly depending on which one it is. In an uncertain economic climate, some employers will try to walk in the gray zone between the two. Booking a 1-hr consultation with one of our experienced employment lawyers can help clarify the matter for you.
Lecker & Associates has successfully represented employees for over 35 years. If you believe your employer has breached your rights during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact us.
About The Author
Brooke M. Auld, B.A. (Hons.), LL.B, LL.M, is an employment lawyer at Lecker & Associates and a passionate advocate for employee rights.