March 30, 2020

McLennan Ross Update for Monday

By McLennan Ross Labour and Employment Team

What we are seeing 
  • Late in the day on Friday, March 27, 2020, the Government of Canada announced that it was increasing its small business wage subsidy from 10% to 75% for qualifying businesses for up to 3 months, retroactive to March 15, 2020. The Government promised that more details on eligibility criteria would be announced prior to the end of March. Under the previous program, businesses were eligible “if their taxable capital employed in Canada for the preceding taxation year, calculated on an associated group basis, was less than $15 million.” The subsidy was to be provided through employers reducing their current remittance of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax to be sent to the CRA by the amount of the subsidy. It remains to be seen if these details will remain the same or be adjusted now that the subsidy is significantly more than the 10% previously offered.

What we are hearing
  • On March 27, 2020, the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta issued further restrictions on courthouse access across the Province. See these updated restrictions here.
  • These new restrictions are in addition to the suspension of all hearings other than emergency or urgent matters which was implemented on March 20, 2020, with requests for such emergency or urgent hearings submitted online for consideration before a hearing date is granted.
  • The Alberta Court of Appeal conducted its first wholly electronic appeal hearing today.  McLennan Ross’ own Gerhard Seifner was one of the lawyers involved, appearing in the traditional lawyer’s gown, but online. The hearing proceeded very smoothly.  

What we are saying
  • With the ever changing list of support programs being provided by the Governments of Alberta and Canada to struggling employers, and with the details of those programs still often either undefined or untried, employers are continually having to re-evaluate the best options for surviving the economic impact of the pandemic and being ready to operate once the state of emergency is lifted. Whether to temporarily layoff, mass terminate, job share or rely upon wage subsidies is a complex decision with the best strategy for one business not guaranteed to be the same for another business. Considerations include:
    • The number of employees affected;
    • The possible statutory and common law obligations owed to any terminated employees;
    • The ability to attract quality candidates once demand for employees re-occurs;
    • The need to continue to operate as an essential service or workplace during the pandemic; and
    • The ability to be compensated by customers for the services rendered.
  • For these reasons, we recommend discussion with the appropriate professionals, including experienced employment law counsel, to best understand the implications of each option before making any significant workforce decisions.

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