More Alberta-based companies are looking to a federal government program to avoid layoffs.

The Work-Sharing (WS) program supplements the income of employees through Employment Insurance. The workers must agree to a temporary reduction in their work-week over a specified time until the employer recovers.

"By having people stay within the business, first of all, they're showing faith to their employees that they're doing everything in their power to keep them employed and that's going to be rewarded when the market does change," said Jason Elvy with JAB Recruitment. 

Companies see the program as a money-saver because they won't have to recruit and train new staff down the line, he says. 

"It's a huge cost and very time consuming to have to retrain people into those roles," Elvy said, adding the federal program can save a company 10-15 per cent in wages.

Work-Sharing numbers up

"It's kind of something that's outside of the box and it also sends a really clear message to employees that we're going to do something a little different because we recognize that you are loyal and valuable to us," said Edmonton recruiter Jessica Culo.

She says she's seeing more businesses apply during this downturn than back in 2009, which is reflected in Service Canada's numbers. The government says there has been an increase in the use of the program for Alberta-based businesses from 2013 to 2015.

In addition to Work-Sharing employers are also opting to impose mandatory holidays — paid or unpaid — as a way to hang on to valuable staff members, according to Culo.  

And Elvy points out that company loyalty works both ways, especially when the economy picks up.

"The market is very competitive and when the market does turn and they get a call from another organization that says, 'Hey come and work for us,' they're going to actually think twice about moving because of the, I suppose, the commitment that their employer has made to them," Elvy said. 

   Fiscal year

   Number of Work-Sharing Agreements

April 2013 –  March 2014

                                                    22

April 2014 – March 2015

                                                     23

April 2015 – June 2015

                                                   104