What is the Work-Sharing Program?

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Work-Sharing (WS) is a program that helps employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary decrease in business activity beyond the control of the employer. The program provides EI benefits to eligible employees who agree to reduce their normal working hours and share the available work while their employer recovers. Work-Sharing is an agreement between employers, employees and the Government of Canada.

Allows Employers to:

  • retain qualified and experienced workers, and
  • avoid recruiting and training new employees


Allows employees to:

  • keep their jobs, and
  • maintain their work skills


Key program features

  • WS unit: A WS unit is a group of employees with similar job duties who agree to reduce their hours of work over a specific period of time
  • Equal sharing of work: All members of a WS unit agree to reduce their hours of work by the same percentage and to share the available work
  • Expected work reduction: A WS unit must reduce its hours of work by at least 10% to 60%. The reduction of hours can vary from week to week, as long as the average reduction over the course of the agreement is from 10% to 60%
  • Agreement length and extension: A WS agreement has to be at least 6 consecutive weeks long and can last up to 26 consecutive weeks. Employers may be able to extend their agreements up to a total of 76 weeks


Work-Sharing temporary special measures to support employers and workers affected by COVID-19

  • Effective March 15, 2020 to March 14, 2021, and not limited to one specific sector or industry, the Government of Canada is introducing temporary special measures.
  • Extension of the maximum possible duration of an agreement from 38 weeks to 76 weeks
  • Mandatory cooling off period has been waived for employers who have already used the Work-Sharing program so that eligible employers may immediately enter into a new agreement
  • Reduce the requirement and expand eligibility to employers affected by accepting business who have been in business for only 1 year rather than 2, and eliminate the burden of having to provide sales/production figures at the same time





Eligible employers 

To be eligible for a WS agreement, your business must:

  • be a year-round business in Canada for at least 1 year
  • be a private business, a publicly held company or a not-for-profit organization, and
  • have at least 2 employees in the WS unit


Ineligible employers

Your business is not eligible for WS if it is experiencing a reduction in business activity due to:

  • a labour dispute
  • a seasonal shortage of work
  • a pre-existing and/or recurring production slowdown, or
  • the decrease in business activity is due to a recent increase in the size of the workforce



Eligible employees

To be eligible for WS, your employees must:

  • be year-round, permanent, full-time or part-time employees needed to carry out the day-to-day functions of the business (your “core staff”)
  • be eligible to receive EI benefits, and
  • agree to reduce their normal working hours by the same percentage and to share the available work


Employees that are not eligible for WS include:

  • seasonal employees and students hired for the summer or a co-op term
  • employees hired on a casual or on-call basis, or through a temporary help agency
  • employees who are needed to help generate work and/or who are essential to the recovery of the business. For example:
    • senior management
    • executive-level marketing/sales agents
    • outside sales representatives
    • technical employees engaged in product development
  • employees who hold more than 40% of the voting shares in the business


How to apply

Note: Timeline for employers submitting Work-Sharing documentation 

Employers are now requested to submit their applications 10 calendar days prior to the requested start date.

Prior to COVID-19, employers were requested to send their Work-Sharing application (and supporting documentation) 30 calendar days prior to their requested start date.

The streamlined measures undertaken by Service Canada will aim to reduce the processing time to 10 calendar days.

To apply for the Work-Sharing program, employers must submit:


Please send your application to one of the following email addresses, based on the area your business is located:

Atlantic Provinces

Email: [email protected]


Email: [email protected]


Email: [email protected]

Western Canada and Territories

Email: [email protected]

Contact us

For more information on the Work-Sharing program, employers across Canada may call toll-free.

Canada and the United States

Toll-free: 1-800-367-5693
TTY : 1-855-881-9874

Click here for a handy worksheet for Employers:  https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus/employees-overview.html

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