Canada’s Post-CERB Landscape and Expansion of the Canada Labour Code’s COVID-19 Leave

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has ended, but the pandemic has not. The Federal Government’s replacement benefit landscape is finally here to bridge the gap.

Earlier today, the Senate passed COVID-19 Response Measures Act[1] or Bill C-4. The Bill, which was passed by the House of Commons on September 30, 2020, introduces three replacement benefits for the CERB through the Canada Recovery Benefits Act, and introduces a corresponding expansion to the COVID-19 leave provisions of the Canada Labour Code.

CERB-replacement benefits

To provide support to Canadians who are unable to work as a result of COVID-19, Bill C-4 introduces the following three benefits:

BenefitAmountEntitlement Period
Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)$500 a week*Maximum of 13 two-week periods (i.e., maximum of 26 weeks in total), minus one two-week period for every two weeks for which EI regular benefits were received between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.
Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)$500 a weekMaximum of 2 weeks
Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)$500 a weekMaximum of 26 weeks

*Note that this is an increase from the previously announced $400 a week, which was introduced to ensure consistency with the CERB (which also provided $500 a week).

Each of these benefits will be available to eligible Canadians for a period beginning on September 27, 2020 and ending on September 25, 2021. To be eligible an individual must:

  • Have a valid social insurance number;
  • Be at least 15 years old on the day they apply for the benefit;
  • Be resident and present in Canada during the week they receive the benefit; and
  • Have at least $5000 in income (employment, self-employment or from prescribed sections of the Employment Insurance Act) in 2019 (or 2020 for applications brought in 2021) or in the 12-month period preceding the day on which they make their application.

The CRB is intended to provide income support individuals who do not qualify for the Federal Government’s “simplified” employment insurance (EI) system. To be eligible for the benefit, the individual must have been not employed or self-employed or experienced a reduction in their average weekly income of at least 50%. Individuals will not receive the benefit if they place undue restrictions on their availability for work, fail to return to their employment when it was reasonable to do so, or if they quit their employment or voluntarily cease work (unless it was reasonable to do so).

The CRSB is available to individuals who are unable to work for at least 50% of the time they would have otherwise worked because (i) they contracted or might have contracted COVID-19; (ii) they have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments or have contracted other sicknesses that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority, would make them more susceptible to COVID-19; or (iii) they isolated themselves on the advice of their employer, a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority for reasons related to COVID-19.

Lastly, the CRCB is available to individuals who are unable to work for at least 50% of the time they would have otherwise worked because they were caring for a child who was under 12 years of age or were caring for a family member who requires supervised care for reasons related to COVID-19. Reasons include the following:

  • The child or family member’s school, a day program or other facility was unavailable or closed, or only open at certain times for certain persons, for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • The child or family member could not attend school, a day program or other facility because they (i) contracted or might have contracted COVID-19; (ii) were in isolation for reasons related to COVID-19; or (iii) would, in the opinion of a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner, be at risk of having serious health complications if they contracted COVID-19.
  • The person who usually cared for the child, or the care services normally provided to the family member at their place of residence were not available, for reasons related to COVID-19.

Expansion of the Canada Labour Code COVID-19 leave

Through Bill C-4, the Federal Government has also expanded the job-protected leave outlined in section 239.01 of the Canada Labour Code so that federally regulated employees may utilize the above replacement benefits if necessary.

Prior to Bill C-4, the COVID-19 leave introduced by the Federal Government on March 25, 2020 was scheduled to be repealed on October 1, 2020. In its place, starting on October 1, 2020, the Code would be amended to introduce a 16-week quarantine leave under the Code’s existing medical leave provisions.

Bill C-4 postpones the introduction of the 16-week quarantine leave to September 26, 2021, the day after the CERB-replacement benefits end. Furthermore, the Code’s COVID-19 leave provision is not repealed, and will be replaced with revised COVID-19 leaves that mirror the CRSB and CRCB eligibility requirements, specifically:

  • Employees will be eligible for a leave of absence of up to 2 weeks if they are unable to work for the same reasons outlined under the CRSB above.  
  • Employees will be eligible for a leave of absence of up to 26 weeks if they are unable to work for the same reasons outlined under the CRCB above. Regardless of which circumstances apply to the employee, the aggregate amount of leave an employee is entitled to take is not to exceed 26 weeks. Leave taken by an employee prior to October 1, 2020, i.e., under the previous COVID-19 leave provisions, do not count towards this aggregate amount. However, if two or more federally regulated employees reside in the same household, only one may take leave at a time and their aggregate amount of leave is to not exceed 26 weeks.   

We are ready to assist you

Bill C-4 introduces a number of substantial changes to the COVID-19 benefit landscape, and raises many questions for both provincially and federally regulated employers. We expect the Federal Government to offer more guidance on the CERB-replacement benefits and on the expansion of the Code’s COVID-19 leave in the coming weeks, and we will continue to monitor this situation.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact any member of our Employment and Labour team.


[1] https://parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/bill/C-4/third-reading

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Larysa Workewych

About Larysa Workewych

Larysa Workewych is an associate in our Employment and Labour group. In her practice, Larysa advises employers in all areas of employment and labour law, including employment contracts and policies, terminations and wrongful dismissals, human rights and workplace accommodations, and employment standards.

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