According to the findings of our latest national survey on the impacts of COVID-19 on Canada’s LGBTQI2S communities conducted in partnership with Innovative Research Group, COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on LGBTQI2S people. The impacts are felt at alarming rates in areas of job security, health and wellbeing. Here are a few tips and resources to support employers and employees:
1. Review your diversity inclusion policy
This is a good time to add language to your internal [non-discrimination] policies and regulations that clearly read “gender”, “gender expression”, and “sexual orientation” as protected grounds within the business. Egale, as the leading gender and sexual diversity inclusion education provider, can help you review your policies and normalize the use of gender-affirming language in your organization. If you have already done so, ask your HR to publicize this information to reassure both your LGBTQI2S and non-LGBTQI2S staff of your commitment to everyone’s inclusion. Here are some quick resources that are a small example of the training that we provide!
2. Benefit from distance learning
Review your organization’s inclusion policies. Egale can facilitate a business-wide webinar to address the ways employees may understand and support a LGBTQI2S colleague. If you have already undertaken such training, make sure the lessons and recommendations are reflected in your policies and recruitment packages. Egale recommends a refresher of these inclusive practices be done, at a minimum, on an annual basis.
3. Review your employee benefits package
It is also a good time to review your benefits policy to ensure additional health coverage for your LGBTQI2S staff. Include additional health coverage, as well as domestic partnership, family planning and parental leave benefits for your LGBTQI2S staff who are at a greater risk. Offer as much health coverage as possible for psychotherapy, hormonal therapy, drugs, gender affirmation surgery and post-op counselling. Ensure parental leave benefit packages for LGBTQI2S staff mirror those offered to heterosexual employees. Adopt benefit policies that fully or partially cover in vitro, adoption, sperm and egg donor, and surrogacy fees. If you haven’t already done so, make sure your HR department or ERG shares this information with the staff.
4. Apply for government support
If your business continuity is severely affected by COVID-19, look for ways to come to an agreeable and/or temporary solution with your staff. For example, you may consider applying for various provincial and federal crisis relief supports such as electricity relief, health tax exemption, tax deferral, workplace safety payment deferral and others.
Canadian employers whose business has been affected by COVID-19 may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to cover 75% of employee wages for up to 12 weeks, retroactive from March 15, 2020, to June 6, 2020. This wage subsidy will enable you to re-hire workers previously laid off as a result of COVID-19, help prevent further job losses, and better position you to resume normal operations following the crisis.
The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) will provide forgivable loans to qualifying commercial property owners to cover 50% of three monthly rent payments that are payable by eligible small business tenants who are experiencing financial hardship during April, May, and June. CECRA will provide relief for small organizations paying less than $50,000 per month in gross rent that have either been forced to close due to the pandemic or have had their revenues severely impacted by at least 70 per cent.
5. Boost morale
With many Pride events and festivals being cancelled, seek out alternative plans that may encourage your employees to be engaged during Pride season. For example, you may celebrate Pride season by sharing a staff viewing party of Egale’s Sex, Scene & 69, a documentary commemorating the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada and then hosting a follow-up virtual panel discussion. Connect with us to arrange a viewing.
1. Know your rights
If you have been laid off, know your rights. Labour laws fall under the provincial legislation and you may find the latest information from your Provincial Ministry of Labour or another relevant ministry. Stay tuned for a list of national resources!
2. Rent and mortgages
If you can no longer afford your rent, negotiate possible solutions with your landlord such as reduced and/or delayed payment. All provinces have announced a temporary moratorium on evictions. Several provinces are providing temporary rental assistance benefits and have frozen the annual rent increases. For the latest information about your rights, please check in with your local Landlord and Tenant Board.
If you can no longer afford your mortgage payments, many banks are now offering mortgage relief including deferring mortgage payments for up to 6 months. These are not automatic; the requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Get in touch with your bank as soon as possible to explore options available to you.
3. Take care of your physical and mental health
If you feel unwell, contact your current service provider to learn about potential virtual care options. If you do not have a health care provider, learn how your provincial Ministry of Health is helping to keep you safe. Find out how to protect yourself and how to recognize symptoms. If you have been struggling to access your regular in-person counselling support, there are a myriad of free or sliding scale services that you can access online or by phone.
4. Stay updated so that you can access any available government supports.
EI: Check your eligibility and apply for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits as soon as you stop working. You can apply for benefits even if you have not yet received your Record of Employment (ROE). For most people, EI pays you 55% of your gross average insurable earnings, up to a maximum insurable earnings amount of $54,200, or a maximum of $573 gross per week on EI.
EI sickness benefits: If your employer does not offer you paid sick leave and you are unable to work due to being sick or quarantined, you can now apply for EI sickness benefits without providing a medical note. The regular one-week waiting period has also been waived. The payment amount is similar to regular EI benefits for up to 15 weeks.
CERB: If you have stopped working or have reduced work hours due to COVID-19 and are not eligible for EI benefits, you can apply for Canada Emergency Response Benefit. It provides a payment of $2,000 for a four-week period, or $500 a week for up to 16 weeks (4 months). You should get your payment in 3 business days after applying if you signed up for direct deposit.
Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC): is a one-time special payment to low and modest-income families by early May 2020. The average boost to income for those eligible will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples.
Canada Child Benefit (CCB): will be temporarily increased and eligible parents will receive $300 more per child with their regular May CCB payment.
Student loan payment deferral: If you have a Canadian Student Loan, you can stop making payments for up to six months interest free.
Provincial assistance programs: Several provinces are now offering emergency support to their residents affected by COVID-19. For example, Ontario has reduced electricity rates giving residents the lowest (off-peak) rate available all day for 45 days. Many utility and telecommunications providers have also announced flexible payment options and suspended disconnections for non-payments. Please check with your provincial authorities and providers for the latest information.
*CESB*: The federal government has announced the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) for post-secondary students and recent graduates who are ineligible for CERB or EI and unable to work due to COVID-19. CESB would provide $1,250 per month for eligible students from May through August 2020, and $1,750 for students with dependents and those with permanent disabilities. CESB will be delivered by CRA and more details will be communicated.