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Emergency Funding for Ministries of The Presbyterian Church in Canada & Request Form

A Summary of Emergency COVID-19 Support Available to Presbyterian Churches

Employment Insurance and the PCC: Frequently Asked Questions

Image of arrow pointing downEmployment Insurance: Frequently Asked Questions
Image of arrow pointing downPayroll Considerations for Churches During COVID-19 Closures

Current as of March 26, 2020. Government policies, including support for employees, are evolving and subject to changes.

Under the current circumstances, questions about employment income have been at the forefront of people’s minds. In light of the current situation, it is a good idea to look into available employment insurance and benefit options in order to feel more financially secure. To help ensure that you are well aware of your worker rights, insurance and benefits, we have provided answers to frequently asked questions about employee support.

The Government of Canada website also has comprehensive information on Employment Insurance (EI) as it concerns the current situation.

Has the waiting period for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits been waived?

The Government of Canada recently eliminated the one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits claims due to forced quarantine or isolation and has assured that help will be provided to those who do not qualify for EI.

For Canadians who are sick, quarantined or forced to stay home to care for children but do not have paid sick leave (or similar workplace accommodations), the Government of Canada is:

  • Waiving the one-week waiting period for individuals placed in quarantine that claim Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. This temporary measure is in effect as of March 15, 2020.
  • Waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate in order to access EI sickness benefits.
  • Introducing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), as outlined below.

Will there be federal/provincial support for contract or hourly staff who are not eligible for EI benefits?

To address the need for support for workers, including those who are not eligible for EI benefits, who are no longer able to work due to COVID-19, the Government of Canada has introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which will provide eligible workers with $2,000 per month for up to 16 weeks. The CERB combines and replaces the previously announced Emergency Care and Emergency Support Benefits.

The CERB will be available to:

  • workers who lose their job due to COVID-19;
  • workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19;
  • working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures;
  • wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for EI; and
  • workers who are still employed but are not being paid because of disruptions to their work situation due to COVID-19.

Any resident of Canada in the above-noted circumstances who is 15 years of age or older, is not receiving income from employment or self-employment, and, for 2019 or in the 12-month period preceding the day on which they make an application, has a total income of at least $5,000 from employment or self-employment, will be eligible to apply for the CERB.

The CERB will be accessible through a secure web portal starting in early April, and those eligible can expect payments within 10 days of the date of application.

CERB payments will be issued every four weeks and will be available from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020.

What is the procedure for staff who are paid a stipend to be covered by EI?

Ministers in the PCC are called by congregations and inducted into their ministry positions by presbyteries. The terms of the call and guarantee of stipend stipulate the “first charge” on congregational revenue is payment of the minister’s stipend. Since ministry continues in other forms even when Sunday services are temporarily suspended, congregations are encouraged to honour the terms of the call by continuing to support their ministers financially and in prayer as their ministers continue to provide pastoral care and leadership under challenging circumstances.

Should a congregation anticipate it will be financially unable to provide the minister’s stipend during the period when Sunday services are temporarily suspended, but not wish to take steps with the presbytery to request the dissolution of the pastoral tie with the minister, the Session should inform the presbytery and seek permission to temporarily suspend payment of a percentage of the minister’s stipend for a specified duration. If 100% of the stipend is suspended, the congregation must notify the minister in writing that they have been temporarily laid off and issue a Record of Employment (ROE) for the minister who can then apply for EI benefits.

Congregations would still be responsible to provide group insurance payments in these circumstances.

Does a congregation have to pay their minister or other employees, should they become ill?

Congregations may consult the PCC sick leave policy that covers professional church workers for three months, during which stipend is paid by the congregation.

If an employee who is not covered by the above-noted paid sick leave policy is staying home and self-isolating because they have become ill as a result of COVID-19, and is unable to work during that time, the congregation should continue to pay them during the period of absence due to illness.

If an employee is unable to work for reasons other than personal illness (for example, because they are in self-isolation due to potential exposure to COVID-19 or because they have childcare responsibilities), they may be eligible for EI sickness benefits or the CERB.

Can a congregation force their minister or other employees to come in to work?

According to provincial occupational health and safety legislation in Canada, employers have a positive obligation to take reasonable care in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of their workers. Moreover, employees have the right to refuse to come in to work if they have reasonable grounds to believe that there is a dangerous condition in the workplace, or that their duties present a danger to their health and safety.

If an employee of a congregation exercises their right to refuse to work, it is the congregation’s obligation to investigate the situation and, if appropriate, adopt measures to eliminate or reduce the workplace danger. If the employee continues to refuse to work following the congregation’s investigation, the congregation must contact the applicable provincial ministry of labour to conduct another separate investigation of the workplace conditions.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 situation, federal and provincial governments have urged employers to be flexible and allow employees to work remotely if they have the ability to do so.

However, employers are not obligated to allow employees to work remotely, unless the workplace poses a confirmed danger to their health and safety.

Is the National Office of The Presbyterian Church in Canada making available any reprieve from pension and benefits payments (i.e., congregational assessment remittance or health and dental premiums) during this time?

The National Office is cognizant of the financial hardships that come as a result of the current situation, and we understand the impact these resulting difficulties have on a congregation’s ability to remit payments on time. At the present time, upon request, we are working with individual congregations to provide flexibility on payment deadlines for pension plan congregational assessments and health and dental payments. We are also offering to arrange payment plans where the deferred amounts can be spread over the remainder of the year or a set number of months that the congregations chooses, keeping in mind that all payments must be received in full by the end of the year.

We do ask that congregations continue to remit the minister’s and/or employee’s deductions for pension and group insurance during the period that they continue to be paid.

We are monitoring this situation closely and will communicate any other decisions as they are made available.

For information on payment deferrals or to arrange a payment plan, please email the Pension and Benefits office.

Federal Economic Assistance

The Government of Canada has other economic measures to help stabilize the economy during this challenging period. These measures apply to churches. Below please find the questions and answers for these new measures.

What is the Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers?

 The Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers is a three-month measure that will allow churches to reduce the amount of payroll deductions required to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) .

Which employers are eligible?

All congregations are eligible, as long as they stay active and are able to pay their minister and staff. If a congregation temporarily ceases to function and stops paying their minister and staff, then they would not be eligible.

How much is the subsidy?

The subsidy is equal to 10% of the remuneration you pay between March 18, 2020, and June 20, 2020, up to $1,375 per employee and to a maximum of $25,000 total per employer.

For example, if you have five employees, the maximum subsidy you can receive is $6,875 ($1,375 x 5 employees), even though the per employer maximum is $25,000.

How do I calculate the subsidy?

The subsidy must be calculated manually.

For example, if you have five employees earning monthly salaries of $4,100 for a total monthly payroll of $20,500, the subsidy would be 10% of $20,500, or $2,050.

How will I receive the subsidy?

Once you have calculated your subsidy, you can reduce your current remittance of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax that you send to the CRA by the amount of the subsidy.

Important: You cannot reduce your remittance of Canada Pension Plan contributions or Employment Insurance premiums.

For example, if you calculated a subsidy of $2,050, you would reduce your current remittance of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax by $2,050. You could continue reducing future income tax remittances, up to the maximum of $25,000, for all remuneration paid before June 20, 2020.

When can I start reducing remittances?

You can start reducing remittances of federal, provincial or territorial income tax in the first remittance period that includes remuneration paid between March 18, 2020, and June 20, 2020.

For example, if you are a regular remitter, you can reduce your remittance that is due to the CRA on April 15, 2020.

What if subsidies exceed the remittances?

If the income taxes you deduct are not sufficient to offset the value of the subsidy in a specific period, you can reduce future remittances to benefit from the subsidy. This includes reducing remittances that may fall outside of the application period for the wage subsidy (after June 20, 2020).

For example: If you calculated a subsidy of $2,050 on remuneration paid between March 18, 2020, and June 20, 2020, but only deducted $1,050 of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax from your employees, you can reduce a future income tax remittance by $1,000, even if that remittance is in respect to remuneration paid after June 20, 2020.

Will the subsidy affect deductions from my employees?

No. You will continue deducting income tax, Canada Pension Plan contributions, and Employment Insurance premiums from salary, wages, bonuses, or other remuneration paid to your employees, as you currently do. The subsidy is only calculated when you remit these amounts to the CRA.

What if I don’t reduce remittances during the year?

If you are an eligible employer but choose not to reduce your payroll remittances during the year, calculate the temporary wage subsidy on remuneration paid between March 18, 2020, and June 20, 2020. You can then ask for the subsidy to be paid to you at the end of the year, or transferred to the next year’s remittance.

What books and records do I need to support the subsidy?

You will need to keep information to support your subsidy calculation. This includes:

  • the total remuneration paid between March 18, 2020, and June 20, 2020;
  • the federal, provincial, or territorial income tax that was deducted from that remuneration; and
  • the number of employees paid in that period.

The CRA is currently updating reporting requirements. More information on how to report this subsidy will be released in the near future.

Is the subsidy considered taxable income?

Yes. If you receive the subsidy, you have to report the total amount as income in the year in which the subsidy is received.

What if my congregation is not functioning and not paying stipends or other remuneration?

If you did not pay salary, stipend or other remuneration to an employee between March 18, 2020, and June 20, 2020, you cannot receive the subsidy, even if you are an eligible employer.

What about remittances made to Revenue Québec?

This Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers allows eligible employers to reduce remittances made to the CRA only.

What is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

 On March 25, 2020, the Federal Government passed into law the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). For churches that have limited resources to deal with the current situation, it is a very difficult decision but eventually may have to face the reality and to temporarily lay off some workers (similar to the airline or travel industry). As soon as things are back to normal, they can be re-hired. Those workers can apply for EI or the new CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit).

The official Government of Canada news release is available to read here .

If you have any questions about payroll, please email Diana Kellington or Carol Nugent.

Also helpful for employers and employees:

Your Guide to the Benefits Available to Canadians Financially Affected by COVID-19 – CBC