What is Furlough?
Furlough is defined as a mandatory suspension from work without pay that is of a temporary nature, where the employment relationship between the Employee and Employer continues, certain provisions such as Extended Health Benefits may continue, but the Employee does not perform any work on behalf of the Employer.
Furloughed employees are those who cannot work remotely and have no work at their place of employment. Thousands of businesses and organizations throughout Canada and around the world are using furlough. It assists those organizations in dealing with the financial fallout from the pandemic while ultimately retaining their workforce. In turn, the employee applies for government assistance to replace their lost wages.
How many people are getting furloughed or laid off?
At MacEwan, the initial number of impacted MSA members was approximately 40 – 50 from such areas as Custodial, Event Services, Parking Services, Sport & Wellness, Exam Services, Print Services, Theatre Services and the Childcare Centre. The second round of furloughs impacted approximately 100 members from all areas of the University.
Statistics Canada reported that in the month of March, more than one million Canadians lost their job. In April, almost two million jobs were lost. https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/canada-jobs-april-1.5561001
How do I apply for income assistance: CERB or EI?
Anyone who has stopped working because of COVID-19 should apply for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), whether or not they are eligible for Employment Insurance. This includes furloughed MacEwan employees.
The CERB is a federal income support program providing $500 per week for up to 16 weeks for those affected by COVID-19. An individual is eligible to apply for the CERB once they have been out of work for 14 consecutive days in any four-week period for reasons relating to COVID-19.
Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) deliver this benefit jointly. You can apply through one or the other, but not both. If you have already applied for Employment Insurance, you do not need to re-apply. Starting April 6, 2020, there will be a single portal to assist you with the application process.
Get started by answering the questions at the bottom of the government of Canada webpage. It will direct you to the correct application page for either Service Canada or CRA, as applicable.
If you are unable to access the information with your computer online, you can apply over the telephone by calling 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041. You will need your Social Insurance Number and postal code to verify your identity.
For additional questions about this program or for any other assistance that MSA can provide, please contact MSA at email@example.com or leave a voicemail at 780-497-5697. We will respond as quickly as we can.
What about my benefits?
While furloughed, MacEwan employees will continue to be covered for the benefits that that they are currently enrolled in. MacEwan University will continue to pay the employer portion of the benefit premiums as well as the employee portion of health and dental, Employee & Family Assistance Program, Basic Life, Accidental Death & Dismemberment and Short-Term Disability. Eligibility for Short & Long Term Disability Insurance will continue for at least the first 60 days. This means employees will be covered during that time if they get sick or hurt while on leave.
The employee will be required to pay the premiums for long-term disability and any optional insurances that they are currently enrolled in.
What about my pension?
LAPP contributions for the Employer and Employee will cease during furlough. Furloughed employees will continue to be registered with the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) as a “Leave Without Salary”. They will be given the option to buy back their pensionable services according to the rules of LAPP.
Do I still have access to my MacEwan email?
Furloughed employees continue to have access to their MacEwan email. They are encouraged to continue checking it, as well as the MacEwan University and MSA websites for updates.
Note: If you perform any work for MacEwan while on furlough, you must be compensated for it, BUT this will make you ineligible to receive the government CERB benefit. If you have questions about this, contact MSA.
The collective agreement Article 35.7.5 says I must use all my paid time before taking a leave without pay?
A Letter of Understanding that modifies that article for the period of the COVID-19 pandemic has been agreed to by MSA and the University. You can read the Letter of Understanding here.
How long will this last?
While MSA sincerely hopes the furlough will be relatively brief, we are unable to say how long it will last. However, we are in constant communication with the University and workforce planning will continue to be evaluated regularly.
Will I get my job back when this is over?
Yes. This is not an abolishment of the position. The expectation is that each employee put on furlough will be recalled.
Can I get temporary employment during this time?
Yes. There is no restriction from MacEwan University preventing you from receiving income from other sources during furlough. However, if you receive other income, you will not be eligible for the government CERB plan, and it will also impact eligibility for income support such as EI. Also, when MacEwan recalls you to your position (with 5 days notice), you must return as requested or provide acceptable reason (eg. illness). Failure to do so will be deemed to be job abandonment
What other assistance is available to me?
At this time, additional federal supports include increased Child Tax Credit, Extra Goods and Services Tax Credit and Mortgage Support, among others. We encourage all MSA members to stay up-dated, as more programs may be added. For more information on these federal programs, visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html
Provincially, the Alberta government has programs such as property tax deferral and utility payment deferral. Again, we encourage all MSA members to keep checking for updates, as more programs may be added. To get more information, visit: https://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-support-for-employers.aspx#toc-1
To access many of these programs, you do not have to be laid off or furloughed. Therefore we recommend all MSA members open a CRA and Alberta ID account, in the event that you require assistance. Get more information at: https://macewanstaff.ca/2020/04/03/opening-a-cra-account/
Individuals who require rent or mortgage relief during this time should speak to their landlord and/or lending institution. Governments have implemented restrictions on what a landlord or mortgage holder can do if people are unable to pay them during Covid-19. For further details, visit landlordandtenant.org and check out this article from CBC. As well we recommend staying updated with the above federal and provincial links, as more programs may be developed.
Any other recommendations for me at this time?
Our first recommendation for furloughed employees is to apply for income support through the CERB. Next, we encourage you to investigate what other government assistance programs you may be eligible for (see above links). Then we would recommend that you review your finances, prioritize your expenses and create a (new) monthly household budget. You can get assistance with budgeting through the Employee and Family Assistance Program. They have numerous articles you can read or you can talk to someone in person.
And finally, we recommend that you do not face this alone. This is a very challenging situation during a tumultuous time in our world. The stress on many Canadians is immense. Please reach out for supports. Trusted friends or family, the Employee and Family Assistance Program, psychological services provided in your benefit program and/or MSA. For additional supports, visit https://macewanstaff.ca/help-available/.