As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact workers in all areas, governments are attempting to find ways to provide relief. For example, the Federal Government has created the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which are intended to help those who have lost work due to the pandemic and to prevent the loss of work by subsidizing employers, respectively. These are just two examples of many responses to the pandemic that governments in Canada are taking to attempt to help its workforce.
Recently, the Government of Ontario announced that it was implementing a new measure to help a class of workers who are at the forefront of the fight against the virus – frontline and support workers. “Temporary pandemic pay” is a program designed to provide support for frontline staff who are at risk and experiencing challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak.
What Is Temporary Pandemic Pay?
Eligible workers will receive an additional $4.00 per hour on top of their existing hourly wages for sixteen (16) weeks. This is not based on the existing salary, meaning that those who are eligible will receive this amount regardless of how much they already earn, and they will receive it automatically.
Further, those who are eligible and have worked at least 100 hours in a designated four-week period will receive an additional lump sum payment of $250.00 for that period. The designated four-week periods are April 24, 2020, to May 21, 2020; May 22, 2020, to June 18, 2020; June 19, 2020, to July 16, 2020; and July 17, 2020, to August 13, 2020. Eligible workers are not prevented from receiving the lump sum payment for multiple designated periods, meaning that the total amount one could receive in lump sum payments is $1,000.00.
Who Is Eligible?
Those who work in both an eligible position (that is, who are eligible workers) and for an eligible employer will receive pandemic pay. Both requirements must be met for eligibility. Eligible workers and workplaces are enumerated on the Government of Ontario’s website and include many, but not all, workers and workplaces in the following industries: health care, long-term care, retirement homes, social services, and corrections.
How Does It Work?
Eligible employees will be paid the additional $4.00 per hour by their employers, while eligible employers will be contacted by the Government by May 15, 2020, to receive pandemic pay. This means that eligible employees and employers do not have to worry about applying for pandemic pay. However, the process for the additional $250.00 lump sum payments for those who work more than 100 hours in a designated four-week period has yet to be determined.
Note that the temporary pandemic payments are not part of an employee’s salary, are non-pensionable, and have no impact on benefits provided by employers or on eligibility for Employment Insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
So long as this program is implemented properly, it will provide frontline workers with some relief without requiring any additional effort on their part. They will not have to worry about determining whether they are eligible or dealing with an application process. The same goes for eligible employers.