COVID-19 And Claiming Home Office Expenses For Employees

As employees prepare their taxes, you may get some questions on expenses for those working from home during COVID.  The attached article, and calculator from CRA, may provide some assistance to you and your staff if questions arise.


Home office expense calculator for employees

https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/about-your-tax-return/tax-return/completing-a-tax-return/deductions-credits-expenses/line-229-other-employment-expenses/work-space-home-expenses/calculate-expenses.html


April 30 is fast approaching, and employers are facing an unprecedented number of questions from employees regarding claiming home office expenses. With the transition to working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees are wondering if they are eligible to claim home office expenses on their 2020 income tax returns.

https://www.mondaq.com/canada/financing/1049650/covid-19-and-claiming-home-office-expenses-for-employees

COVID vaccinations for those 60-64

We’ve had a few clients reach out about public COVID vaccinations and how they might get them.  In Ontario there are a few areas that are being set up for a private vaccination pilot. If you’re between 60 and 64, the details are below.

If you’re in another province or area, check your local regional government site for details.


Starting March 10, 2021, select pharmacies in the following public health units are booking appointments for AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for eligible people between the ages of 60 and 64 (at the day of vaccination or, if you will be or have been 60 to 64 in 2021):

  • Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington
  • Toronto
  • Windsor-Essex County

You must have an appointment to get vaccinated at a participating pharmacy.

https://covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations

Employer Requirements for Mandatory Policies, Training and Postings

Employers with employees in Ontario often ask us to confirm legislative requirements under various employment statutes, including mandatory postings, training, and policies under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Accessibility for Ontarian’s with Disabilities Act.

To make this information conveniently available, the Littler Toronto team has assembled these requirements into a single publication.  An updated version of this publication can now be accessed through the link below.

These apply to ALL Ontario Employers.  Make sure you are compliant.

Ontario Mandatory Postings

 

Time to Review Your Termination Clause – Even if You’re Not in Ontario

Recent legal cases have made many employment agreements null and void. It may be time for you to update yours and if you don’t have them in place, implement them now.

In order to help with this process Mainstay Insurance makes ConnectsUs HR available to all our clients at no charge.  They have made changes to their employment agreements in consideration of the Waksdale case.  If you’re already signed up, log in and find out more here. If you’re a Mainstay clients and not currently signed up, give me a call and we’ll get you set up.

If you’re looking for more on the case, see below


At this point, we’re all likely familiar with the Waksdale v Swegon North America Inc., 2020 ONCA 391 (Waksdale) case, in which the Ontario Court of Appeal held that termination clauses in Ontario employment agreements are read as a whole.

On January 14, the Supreme Court of Canada denied an application to appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal decision.

READ SUMMARY

EMPLOYERS UNABLE TO MANDATE COVID SHOT

I’ve seen several articles on an employers ability to dictate being vaccinated. I thought it might be useful to share this to help employers understand they may be required to accommodate employees that do not wish to be vaccinated. This can create a conflict with the requirement to maintain a safe workplace. I don’t think we’ve heard the end of the the issue and personally can’t wait til it’s my turn to get the shot and travel again (once safe of course).


FEBRUARY 25, 2021

EMPLOYERS UNABLE TO MANDATE COVID SHOT

Until provincial governments or their public health officers specifically direct that individuals are vaccinated against COVID-19, there is no specific legal authority to compel an employee or individual to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine, says Richard Press, a partner at DLA Piper. “In other words, you cannot require one of your employees to take the vaccine,” he said at its ‘Vaccines in the Workplace: Rights and Limitations on Requiring Vaccination.’ Absent legislation, employers are unlikely to be able to mandate vaccinations without facing a risk of either human rights or civil claims. It bears mentioning, he said, that across Canada, the health authorities have indicated there is no intention to legislate that employees must be vaccinated. However, not getting vaccinated could have consequences impacting the ability to work in certain settings. For example, employees who travel on business may need to show they have been vaccinated if they want to fly. Employers across Canada have a duty to take every reasonable precaution to ensure that the workplace is safe and most employers will be able to do so without mandating employees get vaccinated, he said. This can be done by allowing employees to continue to work remotely or modifying hours of work so the employees can work in an environment where physical distancing can be maintained. There is also an obligation to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19 through adjusting health and safety plans, screening employees, requiring workers and visitors to wear appropriate PPEs. Vaccines should be considered as well, he said.

https://bpmmagazine.com/news/

Ontario Government Provides Updated Guidance on COVID-19 Workplace Safety

The Ontario Government updated the COVID-19 Response Framework in November 2020. It requires all businesses to prepare a plan describing the procedures that will be implemented to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

The plan must describe how the requirements will be implemented and must also be posted in the workplace and be available to any person for review, including, an inspector or compliance officer during an inspection of the workplace.

The article below provides more detail.


In the January 2021 What’s New newsletter, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (“MOLTSD”) modified and added the following guidance to support employers in developing their COVID-19 safety plan and to provide guidance on how to make their workplaces safer. The newsletter includes an updated safety plan guide, updated construction sector guidance, new guidance on meal and break periods, new guidance on self-isolation and return to work and new workplace screening tools.

https://www.blaney.com/articles/ontario-government-provides-updated-guidance-on-covid-19-workplace-safety

 

Can Canadian Employers Require Employees to Join a Group Benefit Plan?

If you work with Mainstay Insurance Brokerage Inc, then you know that we structure all benefit plans as “contractually mandatory” enrolment. This means all eligible full-time permanent employees MUST be enrolled on the benefit plan.  We do this to protect our client partners and put the risk onto insurers rather than vice-versa.

Even with this contractual format, employees sometimes ask to opt out during periods like maternity leave when they are asked to continue their contributions.  I have had great success in getting the industry to make changes to protect women returning from mat. leave (more on that HERE) if they chose to opt-out, but it is still from perfect, so suggest maintaining coverage every time. Failing to stay enrolled can leave both the employer and employee (and dependants) in a very risky position. Call us before considering this in any situation.

The article below, provides more info on these situations. Please note that w “waive” due to spousal coverage is NOT the same as someone opting out of the plan, and is allowed if there is spousal coverage in place.


Can Canadian Employers Require Employees to Join a Group Benefit Plan?

 

 

New Health Measures for Travellers Entering Canada – COVID-19

Most people are aware of the testing required to re-enter Canada when travelling abroad, but this is a good reminder for family, friends or employees. I now know of several people that went away to warmer climates and tested positive when it was time to return and as a result they are not allowed to fly home.  They don’t know how long it will be until they test negative. Until then they will have to remain quarantined in their hotel rooms. No beaches, no restaurants or pools.


On January 6, 2021, Canada’s Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, announced that a negative COVID-19 test will now be required in order to enter the country by aircraft. Here is more information…

Read Article

Tax Tip – If your employees share the health and dental premium

As employers prepare T4’s, they can make like a bit easier for staff.  By reporting the employees contributions to the health and dental premium in Box 85, you are helping staff make sure they get the medical Expense Tax Credit (METC) where available.

This avoids employees being audited for proof of contributions (and you having to write out letters for them).  You can find more on the CRA site below or ask your accountant.

READ MORE