A Closer Look at Canada’s Return-to-Work Dilemma
A Closer Look at Canada’s Return-to-Work Dilemma

As the pandemic continues to impact workplaces across Canada and around the world, the Federal government has taken action by providing financial support for both employers and employees.

Benefits available include:

  • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which provides approximately $500 per week to employed and self-employed Canadians who have been directly affected by COVID-19; and
  • The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), designed to support businesses by helping them keep employees on payroll (covering about 70% of a worker’s wage) and encouraging them to re-hire workers who were previously laid off.

Supporting Canadians when they need it the most

In June 2020, the government announced an extension of the CERB, making it available to eligible workers for a new maximum of 24 weeks.

Investments in Today’s Climate and Beyond

More recently, on July 17, 2020, the government announced an extension of the CEWS to December 19, 2020 and made some modifications, including:

  • Increased access, making it available to employers with a revenue decline of less than 30% and providing a gradually decreasing base subsidy to all qualifying employers; and
  • A top-up subsidy of up to an additional 25% for employers most impacted by the pandemic (e.g., the travel/tourism industry, which has been severely hampered by travel restrictions).

Some employers have even introduced their own short-term income benefits to further support their employees and help bridge the gap.

Having that extra financial support during a difficult time is critical for employees and employers alike. But when it comes to transitioning back to work, it also involves some challenges.

Not all Canadians want to go back

According to a recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), more than a quarter (27%) of small firms report that some of their laid-off staff have refused to return to work when recalled. Within that group, 62% say they simply prefer to keep getting the CERB payments.

However, the motivations aren’t purely financial. Other reasons for not wanting to return to work include concerns about their (or their family’s) health (47%), issues relating to childcare or family duties (27%) and fear of taking public transit (7%).

As Canada slowly reopens its doors, this is an emerging challenge for employers: How can we create a safe environment that employees are comfortable returning to? What will it take to ease their fears and anxieties during the process?

Here are just few of the issues that employers need to consider:

  • Clear organizational policies to cover areas such as workplace safety, travel and virus outbreaks;
  • Onsite use of masks and other personal protective equipment;
  • Other safety protocols like screening and physical distancing;
  • Employee communication and training on any new policies or procedures; and
  • Planning for a potential second wave of the virus later this year.

It’s not an easy task. To stay on top of new developments, make sure to check out our COVID-19 resources page for useful tips and resources.

53rd Annual Canadian Employee Benefits Conference


Alyssa Hodder
Director, Education and Outreach – Canada

[Related Reading: New Report: 5 Changes Canadian Workplaces Have Made During COVID-19]

The latest from Word on Benefits:

Alyssa Hodder

Director, Education and Outreach – Canada Favorite Foundation Product: Conferences and blogs on what’s new and interesting in the industry Benefits Related Topics That Interest Her Most: Benefits communications and how to engage plan participants Personal Insight: The proud mother of two lovely and challenging girls, Alyssa enjoys travelling and experiencing different cultures. In her spare time, she loves to read and write, but her most unusual hobby is participating in a competitive axe-throwing league (nothing more rewarding than hitting that bullseye!)

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