What to do if returning to work may cause a risk to your health: Ask BNN Bloomberg – BNN Bloomberg

With growing economic uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, the financial landscape is shifting every day.

Whether it’s dealing with sudden unemployment, ballooning debt, or expenses related to working from home, BNN Bloomberg wants to help Canadians navigate these uncharted waters.

That’s why we created Ask BNN Bloomberg, where you can have your personal finance questions answered by industry professionals.

Email or send your questions via video to askbnnbloomberg@bellmedia.ca, and we will aim to answer them weekly.

Questions and answers have been edited for clarity. Last names will not be used.


Figuring out your capital gains tax

Alberta in Burlington, Ont.:

When funds are withdrawn that result in capital gains tax obligation, is the taxation amount based on the existing percentage the government assigned in place at that date, or a new, possibly higher rate effective for the annual taxation filing? (June 24, 2020)

Barry Choi, personal finance blogger for Moneywehave.com:

You only pay tax on 50 per cent of any capital gains that you’ve earned. As for the actual amount of tax you’ll pay, it depends on your income for the year.

Basically, 50 per cent of your capital gains are added to your income so you would pay tax on your marginal tax rate for the year. (June 25, 2020)

Can my employer switch my job from part-time to full-time?

Lynne in London, Ont.:

If you were working part time hours before the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) (as in being a student working part-time) and an employer calls you back to work insisting you now have no option but to work full time, do you have to accept?

I suspect the employer is attempting to take maximum advantage of the 75 per cent wage subsidy among other things. (May 23, 2020)

Kelley Keehn, consumer advocate at FP Canada:

Can my employer switch my job from part-time to full-time?

Kelley Keehn, consumer advocate at FP Canada, answers a viewer question on whether employers can force a worker to change their schedule from part-time to full-time during COVID-19.

That’s a great question, one that I’m getting often.

So you want to be aware of Bill C-17. It has not yet received royal assent and what you want to know within that bill is that if you are offered a reasonable job offer and you reject it, you will be disqualified for CERB.

Now what is the definition of reasonable? That’s obviously a gray area. But you want to be careful, you don’t want to have to pay it back later on and Revenue Canada has said that come September they will be auditing some CERB applications. (June 25, 2020)

Applying for CERB while collecting pension

Gary from Kemptville, Ont.:

I retired from the federal public service in 2015 and currently receive a pension.

Every year since retiring, I have worked for the federal public service as a casual worker (three days per week, around 22.5 hours per week total) from April until November.

There was no offer of a casual contract this year because of the COVID-19 situation, but I have nothing in writing to say I was not offered a contract because of COVID-19.

I made approximately $30,000 in employment income from the last casual contract in 2019, which is addition to my monthly pension. Do I qualify for CERB? (May 24, 2020)

Chantel Chapman, founder of What The Finances:

Applying for CERB while collecting pension

Chantel Chapman, founder of What The Finances, answers a viewer question on whether they can collect the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit while collecting a pension.

Thank you so much for your question, I’m going to do my best to answer this for you based on my interpretation of the eligibility guidelines.

So number one. You are allowed to collect CERB while receiving pension income, even if it’s over that minimum $1,000 a month, which is great.

Number two, you do meet the criteria for earning a minimum of $5,000 through employment or self-employment income within the last 12 months.

Let’s get into the gray area together. You may not have it in writing that your contract wasn’t renewed due to COVID-19 but you do have some other evidence that may help your case for eligibility.

One of them is that you’ve had this contract for multiple years prior to COVID-19. So that history there is going to be helpful if your case does get reviewed.

The second thing is if you have heard from them that that’s why they weren’t renewing it but it’s not in writing, how do you feel about them being contacted if your case is reviewed? If you feel an integrity that yes, your work has been impacted due to COVID-19, I feel like you are applying in good faith.

Also, if you can show that you are actively looking for work or you do have some insight that your contract will be renewed next year with the federal public service, this is more to be able to add to your case about being able to prove your eligibility.

It really comes down to “Did COVID-19 impact your ability to earn?”. So, the government has said if you apply in good faith and it turns out that you do not qualify, you will not be unjustly penalized. They may however have you pay it back. I hope that’s helpful. (June 25, 2020)

Health hurdles for returning to work

Frida in Montreal:

I am 67-year-old educator working at a daycare in Quebec with a chronic illness and I am high-risk for serious complications if I contract COVID-19.

Am I obligated to return to work once the economy reopens? My employer said that she will say that I voluntarily quit and I won’t be able to collect CERB or employment insurance (EI). Is that correct?

I should also let you know that I’ve submitted a doctor’s note to my director stating that he does not want me to return to work due to my illness and the complications arising if I do contract COVID-19; even with the precautions the daycare will take to ensure the health of safety of the staff, yet my employer says that she will not accept the note. (May 17, 2020)

Kevin Coon, partner at Baker McKenzie and a specialist in labour law:

There are a number of laws that intersect and must be taken into account and it is not as black and white as it appears your employer is stating.

The employer has an obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace and the employee has the right to refuse to do work that is considered unsafe. Ultimately if the employee believes the work is unsafe, the provincial regulator will determine if it is safe.

In addition, if your medical condition is considered a disability or handicap under the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms laws, the employer is prohibited from discriminating against you due to the disability and will need to accommodate your condition. COVID-19 is unprecedented and all the evidence states that those with pre-existing chronic illness are higher risk.

Providing the medical note to support your underlying condition is the right thing to do and your employers threats to not accept the note and deemed you to quit is ill conceived, bad human resource practice and if they follow through, could be a costly mistake.

The threat that you will not be able to collect EI or CERB could be having an adverse effect on your mental well-being and seen as psychological harassment if the conduct is adding to your anxiety about your health and well-being.

You should consult a lawyer or legal clinic to protect your rights and health. Your employer should also get some proper advice. (June 29, 2020)

To have your personal finance question answered an industry professional, send an email to askbnnbloomberg@bellmedia.ca.

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