Coronavirus: How to get help if you’re a part-time worker

Find out how to get financial help if you're out of work due to coronavirus.

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We’ll continue updating this page with resources and information as new details emerge on how Canadian leaders and businesses are responding to COVID-19.

It can be a worrying time if you’re a casual worker. Luckily, there are a few ways to get help. We’ve put together a list of what you need to know, especially if you need to take time off, become unemployed or your workplace temporarily closes.

Employment Insurance (EI)

If you lose your job or have shifts cut as a result of the coronavirus, you may qualify for EI depending on how many insurable hours you’ve worked over the past 12 months. If you don’t qualify, you may still be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (see below).

Insurable hours are hours for which you were paid as reported by your employer your a Record of Employment (ROE), which is submitted to the government. Because you took part of your earnings from those hours and put it into the EI program, your income from those hours becomes part of what determines how much money you’ll receive from EI.

The minimum number of insurable hours you have to work to be eligible for EI is based on the unemployment rate where you live. For example, as of March 24, 2020, if the unemployment rate in your region is 6% or less, you have to work at least 700 insurable hours to be eligible for EI. But if the unemployment rate is between 9.1% and 10%, you have to work at least 560 hours.

The maximum amount of EI you can get is 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount. As of January 1, 2020, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $54,200 (or $573 per week).

Recipients are required to file a report to the government every so often to confirm that they are looking for work and not simply using their benefits to take time off. (This reporting requirement may be waived depending on the type of benefit you’re receiving. For instance, you’re not expected to be looking for work while on sickness benefits, so you don’t have to file a report.)

To learn more about EI or to apply, visit the Employment and Social Development Canada website.

This information is current as of March 24, 2020.

Extra help for EI applicants with coronavirus

The government is prioritizing processing EI applications for people with coronavirus. If you become infected with coronavirus and get quarantined, the usual 1-week waiting period on receiving your first EI payment will be waived. Essentially, this means you don’t have to pay a deductible and will receive an extra week’s worth of EI benefits. If you’re in quarantine, call the government’s toll-free number to learn more.

See below to learn more about financial help available if your employment has been partially or fully affected by coronavirus.

Financial support if you lost your job or have had reduced hours due to coronavirus

Thanks to the efforts of the Canadian government, people who have been negatively impacted by coronavirus have a number of new and existing sources of financial support. Even if you are still technically employed but are working reduced hours or temporarily can’t work because of isolation measures, there is still help available.

Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan: See which benefits you qualify for and how to apply

  • The new Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months to:
    • Workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work.
    • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19.
    • Workers who must stop working due to COVID19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
    • Working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures.
    • Wage earners and self-employed individuals, including part-time workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.

    Application for this benefit is available as of April 6th 2020, and you’ll need to attest that you meet the eligibility requirements. You’ll need to re-attest every 2 weeks after that to reconfirm your eligibility.

    You can apply through your CRA MyAccount or by calling 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041. You’ll need your social insurance number and postal code to verify your identity over the phone. Funds will be delivered 10 days after your application by cheque or through direct deposit.

  • Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Benefits (long term support for people with disabilities)

You can get monthly payments out of your CPP prior to turning 65 as long as you’ve contributed to the plan for a certain number of years and have a severe and prolonged mental or physical disability that prevents your from working regularly. Payments can also be made to child of someone with a disability. Learn more about disability benefit options in our detailed guide.

  • Extended deadlines for income tax filing and tax payments

To help ease some financial stress, the deadline for filing individual taxes has been moved to June 1, 2020. The deadline for paying any amounts that become owing between March 18, 2020 and September 1, 2020 has been moved to September 1, 2020 – during this time period, no interest or penalty fees will be applied to taxes (including installments) that you owe the CRA.

Where there is difficulty in making payments, the CRA is very flexible in arranging payment plans. Affected taxpayers may also be eligible to receive relief by submitting Form RC4288 Request for Taxpayer Relief – Cancel or Waive Penalties or Interest; requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

  • Other government financial support
    The government is planning to offer a Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC) that will be payed out to low- and middle-income Canadians in early May 2020. This one-time payment will provide approximately $400 for single individuals and $600 for couples. Also in May 2020, families eligible for the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) will get $300 more per child.The rest of the government’s relief plan includes:

    • A 6-month, interest-free reprieve on federal student loan payments.
    • Monthly payments of $1,250 from May-August for students and recent graduates who make $1,000 or less per month. If you have a disability or are taking care of someone, you could get $1,750 per month. (Recipients must be current post-secondary students, planning on attending school in September 2020 or must have graduated as of December 2019.)
    • Doubling the homeless care program.
    • $305 million for a new Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation communities.
    • Seniors getting Old Age Security (OAS) will get an extra one-time payment of $300, and those getting the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will get an extra one-time payment of $200. Those eligible for both will receive a total of $500 extra. Disbursements will be made the week of July 6.
    • One-time increase to the GST/HST credit. The amount is based on information from your 2018 tax return.
    • People who qualify for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) will get a one-time, non-taxable payment of $600.
  • Food banks

In March 2019 alone, Canadians paid around 1.1 million visits to over 500 food banks located around the country. Roughly 1 in 8 visitors to the food bank are employed, and nearly half are from single-person households.

The Food Bank network in Canada offers nutritious food thanks to corporate support, individual donors and food producers that produce fresh and frozen products. Additionally, fresh fruits and vegetables are provided by community garden programs that also teach recipients how to grow their own food. Visit foodbankscanada.ca to find a location near you.

What’s the difference between casual work and part-time work?

Casual workers are hired to work over specific time periods that, collectively, don’t exceeding 90 working days in 1 calendar year. They are employed in a department or agency to which the Public Service Commission (PSC) has the exclusive authority to make appointments.

Part-time workers have an expectation of ongoing employment and work less than 30 hours per week. It’s possible for casual workers to be hired on a part-time basis in the sense that they’re working the same number of hours in a work week as a part-time employee.

Can casual workers be terminated without cause?

Yes. An employer may terminate a casual worker’s employment because of a lack of work, unsatisfactory work performance or for other causes requiring disciplinary measures. This means that casual workers can potentially lose their jobs due to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. However, government income supplements are available for workers who have been let go because of coronavirus (see above for more details).

An employer may terminate a casual worker without notice if the worker is provided with 2 weeks’ pay and if the worker is being let go without fault because of a lack of work or because of a discontinued work function.

Learn more about casual workers on the Government of Canada website.

Are casual workers eligible for EI support as students?

It’s possible for casual, part-time or occasional students, but you won’t likely qualify for EI if you’re a full-time student. You can get EI while studying as long as you can show that you don’t have a job and are both willing and able to work. You must also be actively looking for work. So, you won’t get benefits if you want to use them strictly to support yourself while studying (that’s what student loans are for).

Additionally, you must be able to show that your studies are not getting in the way of actively looking for a job or accepting suitable employment, should you be offered it. Its highly unlikely you’ll be able to qualify for EI while studying full time as this would take a huge amount of time away from looking for a job and working once you’ve found one. But if, say, you’re taking 1-2 courses during non-business hours, you may not have as hard a time qualifying.

Are casual workers entitled to paid sick leave or paid vacation?

Casual workers are not entitled to receive sick leave, annual leave or paid vacation time, however, an employer may choose to grant unpaid leave if he or she chooses. Casual workers instead receive a percentage of vacation pay as a payout on top of their usual earnings.

The only type of leave to which casual workers are entitled is up to 3 consecutive calendar days of bereavement leave (this includes the day of the funeral). This leave can be paid once the worker has completed 3 months of continuous employment.

What other steps can you take to protect yourself?

If you are anticipating that your income is going to be severely reduced you should plan ahead. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Cut down on excess spending. Eating out, buying things you don’t absolutely need. It’s a good idea to put money into an emergency fund.
  • Consider debt consolidation to pay off debt faster. Banks, credit unions and online lenders offer financing designed to eat up your existing debt with a new loan that has a lower interest rate and/or more favourable terms. This can help you save and pay down debt faster.
  • Negotiate with your utility companies and providers. Ask them about financial hardship plans and bill freezing or pausing. You may be able to negotiate some leeway with your regular payments.
  • See which expenses you can reduce quickly. Is there anything you don’t need? Something you could sell? If so, it might be worth doing.
  • Look for alternative work. If you have lost your job or have had shifts cut you might consider finding work in a new industry that has been less impacted by the pandemic. Check out this online job bank managed by the government to see if there any opportunities for you.

How to manage your finances during the coronavirus outbreak

What can you do about credit card debt?

If you’re worried about your ability to pay your monthly credit card payments, it might be worth looking into a balance transfer credit card. This type of card charges low interest for a certain period of time (usually between 6 and 10 months depending on the card). Saving on interest could help even a little while you get back on your feet.

Avoid payday loans

Try to steer clear of taking out payday loans or cash advances. While easy to get, these loans are incredibly expensive and will end up costing you far more than the original sum you borrowed. If you’re stretched financially, you might want to consider these alternatives to payday loans including installment loans, cash advances and credit counseling.

Take care of your mental health

There’s a lot of stress and anxiety in the world right now, and that can be made worse if you’re struggling financially. It’s important to know where to get help if you’re finding it hard to cope.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, check out the list of helpful resources (including how to find a therapist in your area) on mindyourmind.ca. You can also look for chat and text services available in your area on crisisservicescanada.ca.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566, which is available 24/7 every day of the year. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 911 to get help from emergency services as soon as possible.

Read up on the latest coronavirus news to stay on top of changing information.

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