On March 11, 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government is going to waive the mandatory one-week waiting period for employees to receive employment insurance (EI). For a quarantined worker to be eligible for EI, a doctor, medical health professional or public health official must have imposed or recommended the quarantine.

This announcement came as part of the government's statement that it is going to spend C$1-billion to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19). The plan includes measures aimed at lowering the impact the virus will have on employers and employees.

At the press conference, Prime Minister Trudeau said that the government wants to give Canadians the tools they need to prevent spreading COVID-19. One of these tools is the ability for workers who are sick to stay home and receive employment insurance. Since the one-week waiting period is waived, those workers can be paid for the first week of their claim.

Prime Minister Trudeau also encouraged employees to work with their employers to prevent spreading the virus by working from home, if possible, or commuting to work at off-peak times.

The government is also taking steps to help employers. Prime Minister Trudeau said that the government is working on introducing special measures under the Work-Sharing program to support employers who are experiencing a downturn in business due to COVID-19. The government also wants to help employers who may be facing a "cash crunch" through the Business Credit Availability Program.

While the government's priority is to prevent COVID-19 from spreading and to ensure that Canada's medical system is equipped to respond, the government is also taking steps to help the employment sector.

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© 2019 Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP.