Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

March 13, 2009 17:42 ET

Keeping Canadians Working: New Improvements to Work-Sharing Program

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 13, 2009) - The Government of Canada introduced its Economic Action Plan to support Canadians during the global recession and invest in Canada's long-term growth. As part of this plan, the Government is investing an unprecedented $8.3 billion in the Canada Skills and Transition Strategy (CSTS) to support workers and their families, including measures for income support and skills and training. A number of labour market policies and programs are being adjusted to temporarily provide additional support to workers and the unemployed facing transitions in these tough economic times.

Included in the CSTS are improvements to the Work-Sharing Program.

Work-Sharing is an Employment Insurance (EI) program that assists businesses experiencing a temporary slowdown caused by factors beyond their control. It is designed to avoid layoffs by offering EI income benefits to qualifying workers willing to work a reduced work-week while their employer recovers.

Work-sharing represents a win-win situation. Employers can retain employees and avoid expensive re-hiring and re-training costs, and employees are able to continue working and keep their skills up to date.

The Government has extended work-sharing agreements to a maximum of 52 weeks to allow companies a longer time to recover. The Government is increasing access to Work-Sharing agreements through greater flexibility in the qualifying criteria and streamlining processes for employers. For example, the Government is easing the requirements for the employer's recovery plan. Due to the uncertainties arising from the current economic downturn, the policy recognizes that employers may not be able to articulate specific timelines or benchmarks related to recovery. In addition, the government is committed to reducing the paper burden for businesses involved in work sharing, making it easier for them to do business.

The Government has taken action to drastically reduce the waiting time between agreements. Employers who participated in a Work-Sharing agreement which ended prior to February 1, 2009, are immediately eligible to apply for a new extended agreement involving the same employees, without a waiting period between agreements.

These changes will permit more employers to avoid lay-offs while their industry recovers from the recession, thus minimizing the financial impact on workers and the communities they live in. The Government knows that by keeping Canadians working, we can minimize the impact of this difficult economic time.


BACKGROUND

CANADA'S ECONOMIC ACTION PLAN - WORK-SHARING (WS)

The temporary policy changes announced in Canada's Economic Action Plan will increase access to Work-Sharing (WS) during this difficult economic time and extend the Agreements to allow a longer period for companies to recover. The main elements of the policy change include:

Extended WS Duration:

- New WS Applications received from the week beginning February 1, 2009 will have a possible maximum duration Agreement of 52 weeks.

Reduction in the Waiting Period between Agreements:

- Employers who participated in a WS Agreement which terminated prior to February 1, 2009, are immediately eligible to apply for a new, extended Agreement involving the same employees, without a waiting period between agreements.

- Pending WS applications, received before February 1, 2009, will be eligible for an agreement of up to 26 weeks (the maximum initial allowable period at the time of application). When the end date is reached, employers may immediately apply for a new WS Agreement.

- Active WS Agreements, with start dates prior to February 1, 2009, will continue to their approved end date. Employers may then immediately apply for a new WS Agreement.

Ease of Access to Work-Sharing

- We recognize that employers may not be able to give specific recovery plans, due to the uncertainties arising from the global economic downturn. Recovery Plans must now focus on the steps employers will take to remain viable within the timeframe of the Agreement in order to recover as the economy strengthens.

Implementation:

- The changes were effective as of February 1, 2009 and will continue until April 3, 2010. Implementation will begin immediately.

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