New Support for Workers and Business Takes Effect - Government of Canada doubles the length of Work-Sharing agreements

FORT MCMURRAY, AB, April 27, 2016 /CNW/ - The Honourable MaryAnn Mihychuk, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, today encouraged employers to take advantage of extended Work-Sharing agreements that will help them retain workers during difficult economic times while also keeping them on the job. The Minister made the remarks at Heavy North Construction Ltd. in Fort McMurray – a current participant in the Government's Work-Sharing program – and later hosted a roundtable discussion with various stakeholders in the Wood Buffalo area.

As of April 1, 2016, eligible employers across Canada impacted by the downturn in the commodities sector can benefit from an additional 38 weeks under the Work-Sharing program, for a maximum of 76 weeks. This program helps employers retain skilled employees and avoid the cost of recruiting and training new employees when business levels return to normal. It will also help employees to continue working and maintain their skills while supplementing their wages with Employment Insurance (EI) benefits for the days they are not working.

The extension of the maximum length of Work-Sharing agreements is one measure in a series of improvements to the EI program announced in Budget 2016, and will provide assistance to businesses and employees that have been directly or indirectly affected by the downturn in the commodities sector.

Quick Facts

  • The extension of Work-Sharing agreements is expected to benefit up to 33,000 additional workers across Canada, and help companies keep their workforce stable as commodity prices rebound.
  • Budget 2016 includes $2.5 billion for improvements to EI to help Canadians across the country
  • As of April 22, 2016, there were 347 active Work-Sharing agreements benefitting Alberta companies.


"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. Keeping our commitment to doubling Work-Sharing agreements is part of our plan to help the middle class in Alberta and across Canada." 
– The Honourable MaryAnn Mihychuk, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

"Heavy North Construction Ltd. has recently utilized the Government of Canada's Work-Sharing program as a part of our strategy to manage costs during the economic slowdown 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 lay-offs resulting in a loss of income.  This program has been a win-win for all parties involved."
Tom Wilson, Chief Financial Officer, Heavy North Construction Ltd.

Associated Links

Work-Sharing Temporary Special Measures

News release: Improving Employment Insurance for the Middle Class

Budget 2016


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The Government of Canada is taking action to support employers and employees impacted by the commodities sector downturn through Budget 2016. These measures include extending the maximum duration of Work-Sharing agreements:

  • For Work-Sharing agreements that begin or end between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017, the Government is extending the maximum duration from 38 weeks to 76 weeks.
  • Employers whose Work-Sharing agreement ended between July 12, 2015 and March 31, 2016 can immediately enter into a new agreement with a maximum duration of 76 weeks without having to wait between applications.

Work-Sharing is an adjustment program designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary downturn in business that is beyond the control of the employer. It provides income support to eligible employees who agree to work a temporarily reduced work week while their employer recovers. The goal is for all the participating employees to return to normal levels of working hours by the end of the Work-Sharing agreement.

Under a Work-Sharing agreement, the employer and employee must agree to a reduction in the employees' regular work schedule ranging from between a minimum of 10 percent and a maximum of 60 percent on average, over the life of the agreement. For the hours, days, or shifts that employees do not work, Service Canada arranges for those employees who are eligible for Employment Insurance to receive benefits, which helps to compensate for the lower wages they receive from the employer.

The deadline to apply for the temporary special measures is March 31, 2017. For more information on Work-Sharing, or to apply for a Work-Sharing agreement, visit the program's website.

Improving Employment Insurance

In addition to extending the maximum duration of Work-Sharing agreements, the Government of Canada – as outlined in Budget 2016 – is making a series of improvements to the Employment Insurance (EI) program to help middle-class Canadians and those who wish to join them, while also providing assistance to workers in regions hardest-hit by the downturn in the commodities sector.

These improvements include:

  • eliminating barriers that prevented Canadians, especially youth and newcomers, from accessing EI;
  • reducing the EI waiting period from two weeks to one week, effective January 1, 2017;
  • extending and expanding the current EI Working While on Claim pilot project until August 2018. This will help EI claimants stay connected to the labour market and ensure that they benefit from accepting work;
  • reversing the 2012 EI changes that forced workers to travel far from home for lower-paying jobs;
  • extending EI benefits in 12 EI economic regions that have experienced a sharp and sustained increase in the local unemployment rate without showing significant signs of recovery. For all eligible claimants in these 12 regions, this measure will provide an additional 5 weeks of EI regular benefits, up to a maximum of 50 weeks. An additional 20 weeks of EI regular benefits will also be available to long-tenured workers in the affected 12 regions, up to a maximum of 70 weeks;
  • improving service quality by investing $92 million over two years. This will help hire more EI call centre agents, improve employment searches and lead to other service enhancements; and
  • reducing EI premiums to an estimated $1.61 by 2017. Premiums are currently set at $1.88.


SOURCE Employment and Social Development Canada

For further information: Contacts : John O'Leary, Director of Communications, Office of the Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk, P.C., M.P., Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, 819-654-5611; Media Relations Office, Employment and Social Development Canada, 819-994-5559,

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