On June 24, 2021, the Province of Manitoba announced the Healthy Hire Manitoba Program (the “Program”), a new wage subsidy program that will reimburse local employers outside of the public sector who hire or rehire vaccinated employees.
Update: The Province has released more information on the eligibility and general requirements of the Program, which has been expanded to include new employees who can attest they are unable to be vaccinated. In addition, employers can now apply for the Program as of July 13, 2021. A summary of the eligibility and Program requirements and more information on employee attestation are set out in this blog.
Under this Program, employers can apply for up to $50,000 in provincial support to help cover wages of newly hired or rehired employees who can attest they have been vaccinated, will be vaccinated or are unable to be. Eligible employers will receive a grant equal to 50% of wages for a maximum of 10 employees, up to a maximum of $5,000 per employee.
Employer Eligibility Criteria
Employers are eligible to apply for the program if they:
- are an active and permanent Manitoba-based business or organization operating in Manitoba as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, co-operative, non-share corporation, not-for profit or registered charity;
- physically operate in the province;
- possess an active and valid CRA issued Business Number/Charity Number;
- are in good standing with the Manitoba Companies Office at the time their application is assessed (not required for sole proprietors or registered charities);
- have a valid bank account with a Canadian financial institution;
- have an active email address and maintain communication with the program; and
- declare they have supported public health protocols in the workplace, including providing new hires with public health vaccine information.
The Province indicated that eligible employers participating in other government support programs may qualify to receive funding from the Program.
Employers not eligible for the Program include the following:
- federal or provincial government departments, crown corporations and special operating agencies;
- an incorporated municipality or band council;
- political parties;
- a Manitoba government reporting entity that is controlled by the Manitoba government;
- employers that have an unpaid fine for violating a COVID-19 regulation;
- employers that have an outstanding Manitoba Business Start Loan Guarantee or a loan under the Manitoba Industrial Opportunities Program;
- employers that are in arrears for taxes owing to Manitoba on March 20, 2020 (i.e., before the original state of emergency due to COVID-19), and have not since rectified this amount in arrears. This does not include businesses that have deferred taxes as a result of COVID-19 relief programs to defer tax remittances; and
- employers without a bank account associated with the Business Number submitted.
Employee Eligibility Criteria
Employers are responsible for ensuring employees meet the eligibility requirements. To be eligible under the Program, an employee must:
- be a current Manitoba resident eligible to work in Manitoba;
- be directly employed by the applicant employer in ‘insurable employment’ for the purposes of establishing entitlement to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits; and
- be a new hire that started working for the employer no earlier than June 10, 2021 or be a rehired employee from a previous year or who was laid off as a result of COVID-19
Temporary foreign workers legally entitled to work in Canada are also eligible for the Program.
The following employees are not eligible under the program:
- an immediate family member or an individual who lives with someone who has a direct financial interest in the business (owner, major shareholder), board member, director, executive member of the applicant organization or any person who is involved in the hiring or supervision of employees;
- employees hired that result in the lay-off, reduction of hours or dismissal of any current employees;
- self-employed individuals, independent contractors or sub-contractors;
- individuals with a financial interest in the applicant business/organization;
- owners are not eligible to receive reimbursement for wages paid to themselves;
- individuals not legally entitled to work in Canada; and
- individuals that do not attest that they have been vaccinated, intend to be vaccinated or are unable to be vaccinated.
The Province indicated that under the Program, an eligible employee is required to sign an attestation that they have been vaccinated, will be vaccinated or are unable to be vaccinated. An attestation cannot be used as a condition of employment under this Program and employment must be finalized prior to asking an employee to sign an attestation.
In regards to participation in this Program, an employee is not required to:
- specify their vaccination status in the attestation;
- provide an update to their employer on their vaccination status after signing the attestation; or
- ever prove that they were vaccinated or unable to be vaccinated.
To note, an employer cannot terminate an employee’s employment if they are unwilling to sign an attestation unless the employer can demonstrate that signing the attestation is a bona fide occupational requirement, pursuant to The Human Rights Code of Manitoba.
Eligible wages used to calculate the grant include:
- regular wages
- overtime wages; and
- statutory holiday pay.
The following forms of payment are not eligible:
- remote pay;
- meal allowances;
- travel allowances; and
- mandatory employer related costs (e.g., vacation pay and EI premiums).
Eligible employers can request to receive advance payments equal to $750 per eligible employee hired under the Program, to a maximum of 10 advance payments (i.e., $7,500). Advance payment requests must be made online by August 15, 2021 to be eligible.
Summary of Program Requirements
When submitting its final claim, an employer will need to demonstrate that it has complied with the Program requirements, otherwise it will need to pay back any advance payments it received.
Final claims will be accepted starting August 16, 2021 until October 30, 2021.
Under the Program, an employer is required to:
- obtain and provide a series of documents to the Province demonstrating the employees meet eligibility requirements;
- comply with Manitoba employment standards;
- remit all applicable payroll deductions to the CRA;
- issue pay stubs showing hours worked, gross pay by sub-category, vacation pay, deductions and net pay to all eligible employees participating in the program;
- obtain proof of payment for wages paid to the eligible employees; and
- comply with all public health orders related to COVID-19 and pay COVID-19 related fines.
The online application process opened on July 13, 2021 and employers have until September 30, 2021 to apply. The wage subsidy will cover the period June 10, 2021 to October 15, 2021.
More information on other key dates, required supporting documentation and other Program requirements can be accessed here.
MLT Aikins will continue to monitor the situation. Employers interested in learning more about how the Health Hire Manitoba Program could impact their business, and any risks that may be associated with the Program, should contact a member of our labour and employment team in Winnipeg.
Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws 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.