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What your small business needs to know about COVID-19

Last updated: Mar. 17, 2020 

Last updated July 28, 2020. We will update blog posts when more information is released.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) a pandemic.

The World Health Organization says everyone must play a role to stop the spread of the disease. This includes businesses and employers.

In this article, we outline:

  • What government assistance is available to small businesses and employees
  • The symptoms of COVID-19 and how it’s spread
  • How you can keep yourself and your employees safe

What government assistance is available to people with COVID-19?

The federal government is waiving the 1-week waiting period for people who are in quarantine or self-isolation to claim Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits.

That way they can be paid for the first week of their claim. They’re also priority processing EI sickness claims for people under quarantine.

They’re waiving the requirement for a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits.

They’ve also introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. The taxable benefit will provide $2,000 a month for the next four months to workers who have lost their income due to COVID-19.

This includes:

  • Self-employed individuals who are sick, quarantined or who have been directed to self-isolate but don’t qualify for EI sickness benefits
  • Self-employed individuals who are taking care of a family member sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent or dependents, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits
  • Working parents who must stay home without pay because of sick children or who need care because of school closures, whether they qualify for EI or not

What government assistance is available to small businesses?

The federal government introduced several financial relief measures to help small businesses cope with the impacts of COVID-19:

RELATED: A guide to COVID-19 financial relief for small business.

What if I have an outstanding balance I owe the CRA?

Tax compliance and collection activities could be postponed if you’re impacted by COVID-19.

In addition, flexible arrangements could be made for businesses trying to meet payment obligations to the CRA.

You must call the CRA and have information ready on how COVID-19 is impacting your ability to pay your debts.

Will the government extend the tax payment deadline?

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) extended the payment deadline for current year individual, corporate, and trust income tax returns, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The deadline has been extended from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30, 2020 and includes tax instalment payments.

The CRA won’t charge you penalties and interest as long as you pay by the extended deadline of Sept. 30. This relief includes the late-filing penalty provided you file the return by Sept. 30.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to cold or flu symptoms.

Symptoms include a fever, cough, difficulty breathing and pneumonia in both lungs. In severe cases, infection has led to death.

Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19.

How is COVID-19 spread?

If someone with COVID-19 coughs or exhales, they spread droplets of infected fluid, which can fall on nearby surfaces and objects.

People can catch it by touching contaminated services or objects, and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth afterward.

If you’re standing within one metre of a person with COVID-19, you can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed or exhaled by them.

It spreads similar to the flu, and most experience mild symptoms and recover.

However, some experience more serious symptoms and require hospitalization.

People over 40, those with weakened immune systems, and people with pre-existing conditions are more vulnerable to hospitalization.

What are my responsibilities as an employer?

As an employer, you’re responsible for protecting the health and safety of your employees while at work.

We outline preventative measures you can take to protect employees from COVID-19.

How can I prevent the spread of COVID-19 in my workplace?

The World Health Organization has several recommendations for employers.

Communicate with your staff

Keep your employees informed about public health advisories on a provincial and federal level.

Provide your employees with details on self-assessment tools and health advice lines from health authorities.

Adjust and sanitize areas in your workplace

Are there areas in your workplace where employees have frequent contact with each other, or with customers?

Increase the distance between workstations (2 metres) and areas where your employees are interacting with the public.

All surfaces and objects (desk, tables, phones, keyboards) need to be wiped down regularly with disinfectant.

Promote good hygiene

To prevent infection, encourage all staff to follow the guidelines provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Regularly sanitize your personal workspace including computers, phones and desks

Place hand-sanitizer dispensers and disinfecting wipes around the workplace.

Display hand-washing posters in common areas and promote good hygiene at meetings.

Stop shaking hands, and offer a wave, nod or bow instead.

Advise employees to stay home

Canadians are being advised to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada.

Advise your employees to stay home and immediately self-isolate as recommended by the medical community if:

  • They travelled out of the country
  • Have been in contact with someone who has travelled out of country
  • Exhibit symptoms related to coronavirus

If it’s possible for your business, work from home. The government is advising Canadians to practice social distancing, limiting the number of people you come in close contact with and avoiding non-essential trips outside your home.

FBC will share more updates as soon as they become available.


Resources World Health Organization: Rolling updates on COVID-19

Government of Canada: COVID-19 health information

Government of Canada: Outbreak update

World Health Organization: Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19

Canadian Federation of Independent Business: Tools and resources for business owners

Trade Commissioner Service: Resources for Canadian businesses

Business Development Centre: Support for entrepreneurs

Fasken Law: Preparing employers to respond to coronavirus

McInnes Cooper: Employer FAQs

Vicus Partners: Protecting your office space from coronavirus

Farm Credit Canada: Updating your HR plan for COVID-19

Disclaimer: The material above is provided for educational and informational purposes only.