Payroll FAQ – COVID-19

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With the current situation in Alberta there are many unknowns regarding the proper payroll treatment related to leaves and layoffs.  This could change daily however this is the information that we were provided by the Canadian Payroll Association on March 17, 2020.

Sick Leave – Alberta

On Friday, March 13, 2020 the Alberta government announced changes to the Employment Standards Code Regulation prohibiting employers from requiring sick notes from employees, expanding job-protected leave from 5 to 14 days, and waiving the requirement that employees be employed for 90 days before being entitled to this job-protected leave. At the time, the government indicated that this leave would be paid, though did not provide specifics.

The 14 day protected job leave is for anyone who has come in contact with the virus or travelled to a different country and is currently undergoing testing.  The Federal government has indicated that this leave is unpaid but the Alberta government has indicated it is paid. It may be that it will be a combination of payments from the employer through the use of sick leave, if your employer provides it, or vacation time or actual paid leave during this time so that the financial impact is lessened.  As well, the Federal EI program should be an income supplement for those required to be off work due to the virus.

For people quarantined due to COVID-19, the government is eliminating the waiting period entirely, so you can get EI benefits for an entire 14-day quarantine. The EI benefits remain the same based on 55% of your income level to a maximum amount of $573.00 per week.  There is no additional amount due to the COVID-19 virus.

Normally a medical certificate signed by your doctor is required to get sick-leave benefits, however it appears, at this time that the government is waiving the note requirement for patients required to go into quarantine by law or by a public-health official.

If you are put into quarantine as a precaution and aren’t sick then, but later do test positive for COVID-19, a signed medical certificate confirming the diagnosis will be required for you to receive sick-leave EI benefits beyond the initial period of the quarantine

Lay-offs

If laying off employees temporarily due to a shortage of work caused by the implications of the virus there is no requirement to pay out vacation pay.  However, if the employee doesn’t come back to work, then you will need to pay out all the outstanding vacation pay.  If an employee requests vacation pay to be paid upon layoff, as an employer it is your duty to comply. Here is the link for the Alberta Labour Standards termination procedures: https://www.alberta.ca/termination-pay.aspx . For more information, please contact (780) 427-3731.

Temporary lay-off notice can be provided to an employee for up to 60 days and at that time they must come back to work or be provided with termination pay.  Benefits are usually continued during a temporary lay-off.

For further information regarding this topic you can contact the Canadian Payroll Association at 1-800-387-4693.

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