The Critical Worker Benefit Program
On February 10, 2021, the Government of Alberta announced the Critical Worker Benefit, which is a joint federal-provincial program aimed at providing a one-time cash payment of $1,200 to approximately 380,000 “critical” employees in Alberta. This benefit is to recognize critical employees’ work on the front line during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Employees who may be eligible for the Critical Worker Benefit include those who deliver critical services to Albertans in health-care, social services, education, and those who work in the following areas of the private sector:
- Food and beverage stores (not including liquor and cannabis stores),
- Health and personal care stores (not including cosmetics, beauty and fragrance stores),
- Gas stations,
- Food manufacturing,
- Truck transportation of food and medical supplies,
- Courier and messengers (not including post offices, bicycle messengers or take out delivery),
- Warehousing and storage of food and medical supplies,
- Offices of physicians,
- Offices of dentists, and
- Offices of other health practitioners.
More information on the Critical Worker Benefit and the eligibility requirements is available through the Government of Alberta’s website.
Applying for the Critical Worker Benefit
In the private sector, employers are required to apply for the Critical Worker Benefit on behalf of their employees through an online application portal. Private sector employees must have worked a minimum of 300 hours between October 12, 2020 and January 31, 2021, and make $25 per hour or less to be eligible. Employers can apply for the benefit until March 19, 2021; however, an employer’s application may be refused if the program funding becomes fully exhausted. Therefore, employers are encouraged to apply for the Critical Worker Benefit as soon as possible.
Employers receive the benefit for eligible employees from the government and are then responsible to distribute it to their eligible employees. Private sector employers must certify that each eligible worker received the Critical Worker Benefit within four weeks from the date upon which the funds are received from the Government of Alberta. The Government of Alberta may audit applications and funds granted to employers for distribution to eligible employees.
Employee Privacy and Consent to Share Personal Information
As part of the application process, employers are required to submit personal information about employees including names, dates of birth and social insurance numbers. As such, employers need to be mindful of their employee’s privacy rights and be sure they act in compliance with Alberta’s privacy laws, such as the Personal Information Protection Act. Before applying for the Critical Worker Benefit on behalf of employees, employers must notify employees that their personal information is being used for the purpose of applying for the benefit. Additionally, employers are required to complete an electronic attestation in the online application portal, confirming that they have received employee consent to share the personal information required.
Our MLT Aikins Labour and Employment lawyers are available to help employers better understand the Critical Worker Benefit, or navigate their way through other COVID-19 related questions and issues.
Note: This article is of a general nature only. Laws and government programs may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.