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

  • 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.

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

    Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) Service Canada has created an inquiry unit for employers affected by COVID-19 that are seeking general information related to the Work-Sharing Program. Inquiries can be sent to edsc.dgop.tp.rep-res.ws.pob.esdc@servicecanada.gc.ca.

    For more information including telephone numbers and hours, view Work-Share website.

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

    Employers can combine the CEWS and the WS program. However, WS benefits received by employees will reduce the amount of CEWS on a dollar for dollar basis. For example, an employer eligible for $500 in CEWS with an employee who received $275 through WS benefits, would receive a subsidy of $225 ($500 – $275).

    For further information regarding the interaction between WS and CEWS you can find more information on the government’s site. View information.

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

    Yes, an estimate is fine.

  • 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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