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Feds double length of time employees can benefit from work-sharing program

The federal government is encouraging Canadian employers to take advantage of extended work-sharing benefits announced in the 2016 budget. Credit / Getty Images

As a way to help employees get through the tough economic times, the federal government is encouraging Canadian employers to take advantage of extended work-sharing benefits announced in the 2016 budget.

The length of time eligible employees across Canada can benefit from work-sharing agreements has doubled to 76 weeks from 38 weeks. The extension was announced alongside extended Employment Insurance benefits, which Edmonton was excluded from.

As of April 1, eligible employees impacted by the downturn in the commodities sector – including agriculture, oil and livestock – can benefit from the additional 38 weeks.

Work-sharing is a program designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary dip in business. Work-sharing provides financial support to eligible employees who agree to work a reduced number of hours while their employer recovers.

READ MORE: Trudeau won’t say why Edmonton was left out of EI extensions in federal budget 2016

For the hours the employees do not work, those who are eligible can receive Employment Insurance benefits to help compensate for the lower wage they’re making.

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Under the program, the employer and employee must agree to a reduction in the employees’ regular work schedule ranging from a minimum of 10 per cent to a maximum of 60 per cent.

The federal government expects the extension of the program will benefit up to 33,000 additional workers across Canada.

“Work-sharing is good for workers and for businesses. It means fewer layoffs and more certainty for employees, and it helps businesses get through difficult times,” Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour MaryAnn Mihychuk said.

READ MORE: 5 things to know about changes to employment insurance program

As of April 22, 2016, there were 347 work-sharing agreements that benefit Alberta companies. According to Employment and Social Development Canada, 95 per cent of those agreements are directly impacted by the commodities sector, including Heavy North Construction Ltd. in Fort McMurray.

“This forward-thinking program has allowed Heavy North to temporarily reduce our overhead costs while maintaining our trained and qualified work force and ensuring our staff have not been affected by layoffs resulting in a loss of income. This program has been a win-win for all parties involved,” Tim Wilson, CFO of Heavy North Construction, said.

TIMELINE: Tracking the layoffs in Alberta’s oilpatch

The extension is temporary and the deadline to apply is March 31, 2017.

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For more information on work-sharing agreements and the eligibility requirements, visit the Government of Canada’s website.

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