Canada’s Work-Share Program Overview

What is the Work-Share program?

Work-Sharing is based on a three-party agreement involving a retailer, its employees, and Service Canada. Employees on a Work-Sharing agreement must agree to a reduced schedule of work and to share the available work over a specified period of time with their colleagues within their Work-Share unit.

How does the program work?

The goal of the Work-Share program is to prevent lay-offs for retailers when conditions beyond their control make them unable to support regular working hours for all of their employees.

The program allows staff to remain employed with a temporarily reduced schedule by 10% to 60% of their regular hours. The reduction of hours can vary from week to week, as long as the average reduction throughout the agreement is from 10% to 60%. Retailers are responsible for paying employees for all hours worked. When employees are not working, they will receive Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.

The program requires at least 2 or more employees with similar job duties to be part of the program. This group is referred to as a Work-Share unit. All members of a Work-Share unit will have equally reduced hours and time back at work.

How long can an employee remain on the Work-Share program?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government introduced a temporary extension from 38 weeks to 76 weeks for the maximum duration of a Work-Share agreement.

What are the eligibility requirements?

For a retailer to be eligible for a Work-Share agreement, they must:

  • be a year-round business in Canada for at least 1 year
  • be a private business or a publicly held company, and
  • have at least 2 employees in the Work-Share unit

For a retail employee to be eligible for a Work-Share Agreement, they must:

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

How to apply

Employers need to submit a completed application 10 business days prior to the requested start date.

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 or where the majority number of participants are located:

More information

Q & As

  • How do I contact Service Canada to get specific information on detailed Work-Share questions?

    Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has established a Work-Share Rapid Response team. You can send them general inquiries on your specific situation by email: [email protected].

    Applications for the program can also be made over email, by region. View application.

  • If we have team members on the Work-Share program, but we end up having to lay them off completely, will being on the Work-Share program impact their EI benefits and the duration of being on EI?

    WS participation normally would not impact the benefit rate and the normal duration of an EI claim if an employee is laid off during the Work-Share agreement, or at its end.

    WS benefits are not regular benefits, so WS participation doesn’t exhaust any employee entitlement to regular or special EI benefits if only WS benefits were paid. Also, EI employee benefits are based on the employee’s original ROE, not on the WS hours. 

  • Can I have employees on Work-Share and receive the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) for them at the same time?

    It is possible to combine both the Work-Sharing Program and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). However, any Work-Sharing EI benefits received by employees through the Work-Sharing program will reduce the subsidy you would receive under the CEWS.

  • Can commissioned salespeople participate in the Work-Share program? If so, how do we calculate their income?

    Yes they can, if they meet the eligibility criteria. For the purpose of submitting your application, you should estimate the average pay, including salary and commissions of each individual and then average it out over the whole unit for an overall amount.

  • Given the uncertainties of COVID-19, is an estimate of anticipated percent reduction of work hours acceptable?

    Yes, an estimate is fine.

  • Do retailers need a separate application for each location, or can a Work-Share agreement apply to staff across multiple store locations?

    If the stores have separate ownership, e.g. if they have different business numbers, then they have to submit separate applications.  If they all fall under one business number, then one application can be submitted, with each of the Work-Sharing units documenting on a separate Attachment A.

  • What happens if an employee on a Work-Share needs to go into quarantine or self-isolation – how does that affect others in a Work-Share?

    If they have to go into quarantine or self-isolation, their status would change to sick, they would receive sick benefits and others in the unit would have to pick up the extra work.

  • Assuming that EI Work-Share benefits are not necessarily going to match the employee’s previous income, are Supplementary Unemployment Benefits (SUB) an option?

    No, this is not eligible with the Work-Sharing program. The utilization of Supplementary Unemployment Benefits (SUBs) in conjunction with WS benefits is not allowable due to the fact that WS participants are considered employed.

  • When employees who are part of a Work-Share agreement receive EI benefits to compensate for the wages the employer is no longer paying them due to their reduced hours, what is the maximum top-up allowed?

    When employees have work and work for the company, they are paid their full wages by the company.  On the days they do not work, they are entitled to 55% of their salary to a maximum of $573 per week pro-rated to the days they do not work.

  • What is EI Work-Share?

    EI Work-Share is a program to help employers and employees through tough times by allowing employers to have staff on reduced hours while the staff (there must be a minimum of 2 employees in a work share unit) are supported through the EI framework. EI Work-Share is based on an agreement between employees, employers and Service Canada. The maximum length of this form of support (i.e. of EI Work-Share agreements under COVID-19 special measures) has been doubled to over a year (76 weeks).

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