Want to qualify for federal benefits? Don't quit your job - InfoNews

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Want to qualify for federal benefits? Don't quit your job

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March 28, 2020 - 6:30 AM

Working in retail can be stressful and a little frightening in this time of COVID-19.

A Kelowna woman emailed us a question that we've seen from many others about what she can do if she doesn't feel protected while on the job.

“I work as a vendor for a very big company at a big box store,” she said. “As of last Wednesday, I stopped working there as I was using precautions, (but the) public was not, so I didn't feel safe. People were in my space, I kept backing up and leaving the area so I could not do the job anyway.”

The question is, if she walks off the job because she doesn't feel safe, is she still eligible for Employment Insurance or other benefits?

She’s in the process of applying for Employment Insurance but will likely have to wait until early April to apply for the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

The Canada Revenue Agency has given some clarity to the situation when someone actually quits their job as opposed to being laid off.

"The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is not available to workers who quit their employment voluntarily," an email from the agency states. "The CERB benefit covers workers who attest that they have been without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the four-week period for which they apply for reasons related to COVID-19."

The question our worker will have to face is whether "reasons related to COVID-19" include taking a voluntary leave out of fear of catching the disease.

An alternative route that's open to any worker is to go through WorkSafeBC.

For many years WorkSafeBC had — and still has — a little-known regulation that allows them to refuse to work in what they believe are unsafe conditions but there is a process to follow.

First, call WorkSafeBC (1-888-621-7233) to report the unsafe situation.

iNFOnews.ca made that call and according to an agent who answered on that line, an investigator would then have to get in touch with the worker and go to the site to advise the employer what changes have to be made if it is, indeed, unsafe.

An inquiry to the WorkSafeBC media department got no answers about how long such an investigation will take under current conditions (the agent on the phone said such calls made up 99.9 per cent of the calls).

The worker says her boss is very supportive, saying she can go on extended unpaid leave. In the meantime, she’s not showing symptoms and is waiting out her self-isolation period.

“I'm staying home, following all protocols,” she wrote. “I hope people are regarding these too as it is important for all of us and our families, listen to the experts, it's our best chance of beating this virus."

For more information on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and other government programs, go here.

It replaces what was initially called the Emergency Response Benefit

For more information on other support offerings, go here.

For more information on WorkSafeBC and COVID-19, go here

Do you have a question? Leave them in the comments below or email news@infonews.ca. We'll try our best to get answers.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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