Checklist: Preparing your team for the Work-Sharing program

The checklist below will help employers prepare their staff for the introduction of the Government of Canada’s Work-Sharing program. While there are several elements of your business that will require your attention and effort during the COVID-19 crisis, your people should remain a top priority. Be transparent, diligent and organized.

The steps below are not intended to be exhaustive, but rather a guide for making the Work-Sharing program function for your team.

The checklist below was graciously provided by Max Bailey, CEO of Spoonity, a MaRS-supported and MaRS IAF portfolio company.

 About Canada’s work-sharing program:

The work-share program is an adjustment program designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business activity that is beyond the control of the employer. The measure provides income support to employees eligible for Employment Insurance benefits who work a temporarily reduced workweek while their employer recovers.

Note, the work-share program should not include employees who are needed to help generate work and/or employees who are essential to the recovery of the business (for example, senior management, executive level marketing/sales agents, outside sales representatives, technical employees engaged in product development, etc. These individuals should be working full-time in support of the company’s recovery plan.

Step  Suggested action  Outcome 
❏ Engage your executive team. You hired smart people, so help them help you. Enable them to be part of the solution and come forth with projections and plans. Review the work-share program and ensure you understand the requirements.


Then engage the executive team in the final decisions and let them know what will be happening over the coming days.

Clarity in decision making and a course of action.
❏ Schedule touch points. Schedule an all-hands meeting to bring everyone together. Depending on the size of your team, you may want to hold numerous touch points.


Ensure that a specific individual is responsible for each of the required steps, including following up with employees and their employment insurance (EI) applications, helping employers with applications, tracking consents to the Work-Sharing arrangement and submitting the application.

Assigned owners of the process and a clear deadline for organizing the leadership team.
❏ Provide a transparent view of what is happening to your team. Outline what is occurring in the market, how it is impacting your business and how you expect your industry to behave moving forward. Emphasize that the team is the priority and that you have already gone through several cost-cutting measures to reduce your expenses. Don’t sugar-coat things; be transparent and clear that you need further adjustments to payroll in order to keep the company alive. Describe the Work-Sharing program as the leveraging tool the company needs to retain your team while acknowledging the financial impact COVID-19 is having on the company. Describe what the Work-Sharing program is, how it will affect employees and how the company will support them through the process. Introduce clearly appointed individuals and explain their roles in the transition. Be ready to answer questions. Team transparency and ultimate buy-in on decision.
❏ Set up one-on-ones to answer questions. People will be anxious and stressed. Give them time to appropriately consider their options and the situation at hand. Be empathetic and enable your team to think carefully about the experience of the employee.


Tip: Provide your team with links to all of the government aids being established to help Canadians cope with the repercussions of COVID-19.

Present, accessible support for employees.
❏ Send documentation to the team via a digital-signature application. There are three forms for the Work-Sharing program that must be completed:

●      The company’s application form

●      The form for team members opting in to the program (the work-sharing unit form)

Your employees will need to sign only one of those forms. However, for transparency, your team should be able to view your company’s application.


As you proceed with the application, you need to create amendments to employee agreements for your people that outline the work-hour reductions and changes. Touch base with your legal counsel on these before you send them to your employees.


The members of your team will need to apply for EI simultaneously in this process; be prepared with Records of Employment (ROEs) and documentation to help them.

Tip: Include a link to your province’s Employment Insurance Act so your team knows their rights.

Companywide readiness to submit appropriate documentation.
❏ Create a tracking system. Set up a simple shared Google Sheet with everyone’s name, the date when they completed each document and the date when they completed their EI application. An organized and efficient process.
❏ Establish new work schedules. Each of your managers can create revised work schedules with their teams based on the reduced hours you’ve agreed upon. Clear work expectations and schedules.
❏ Stay connected with your team. Continue to keep your team in the know and have regular touch points. Give them insight into future plans, business projections and how you are pivoting given the circumstances. Continued employee engagement.


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