North Bay, ON – July 18, 2016 – The Government of Canada has kept its promise to provide economic security to middle class Canadians by improving the Employment Insurance (EI) system across the country and by extending regular benefits to the 15 identified EI economic regions that have experienced the sharpest and most severe increases in unemployment due to downturn in commodity prices.
“These changes were made so that the people of Northern Ontario, and Canadians right across this country have access to more help when they need it most,” said Anthony Rota, Member of Parliament for Nipissing – Timiskaming. “During challenging economic times, Employment Insurance must be available to help people in our communities get back on their feet.”
The changes include:
- Repealing the unfair rules enacted in 2012 which forced unemployed workers to commute further and take lower-paying jobs
- Ending the 910-hour eligibility penalty for workers entering or re-entering the workforce, thereby stopping the discrimination that makes it harder for our most precarious workers – such as parents returning to the workforce, younger workers, people who have left the workforce due to illness, and new Canadians – from accessing the benefits that help them get back to work;
- Expediting the extended EI regular benefits. Canadians living in the 15 identified EI economic regions that have experienced the sharpest and most severe increases in unemployment.
“Employment Insurance is an anchor of economic security for Canadian workers,” said Mr. Rota. We’re making a system that is reliable, will help grow Canada’s economy, and makes a real difference in the lives of people in Northern Ontario and across the country.”
Improving Employment Insurance for the Middle Class
Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) program provides economic security to Canadians when they need it most. For some, help is needed because they have lost their job through no fault of their own. For others, extra support is required because they are out of the workforce due to illness, to provide care to a newborn or newly adopted child, or provide care for a loved one. Whatever the circumstance, no Canadian should struggle to get the assistance they need.
To better make sure that Canadians get the help they need, when they need it, the Government is taking immediate action to improve Employment Insurance. This includes:
Expanding access to EI for new entrants and re-entrants
Many new workers—such as young Canadians and recent immigrants—find it difficult to access EI support. At present, new entrants and re-entrants to the labour market must accumulate at least 910 hours of insurable employment before being eligible for EI regular benefits. Budget 2016 proposed to amend the rules to eliminate the higher EI eligibility requirements that restrict access for new entrants and re-entrants to the labour market. With these changes, new entrants and re-entrants now face the same eligibility requirements as other claimants in the region where they live (between 420 hours to 700 hours of insurable employment). An estimated 50,000 additional claimants will become eligible for EI benefits as a result of this measure, which took effect on July 3, 2016.
Simplifying job search responsibilities for EI claimants
In 2012, changes were made to the EI program to specify the type of jobs that unemployed workers are expected to search for and accept. For some claimants, this has meant having to accept work at lower rates of pay and with longer commuting times. Budget 2016 proposed to reverse those changes that strictly define the job search responsibilities of unemployed workers, as of July 3, 2016. The Government will also ensure that there are fair and flexible supports to assist EI claimants train for and find new employment.
Extending EI regular benefits in affected regions
Dramatic declines in global commodity prices since late 2014 have produced sharp and sustained unemployment shocks in commodity-based regions. In response, Budget 2016 proposed to make temporary legislative changes to extend the duration of EI regular benefits by 5 weeks, up to a maximum of 50 weeks of benefits, for all eligible claimants in the 15 EI economic regions that have experienced the sharpest and most severe increases in unemployment.
As of July 3, 2016, extended benefits are available for one year, with the measure being applied to all eligible claims as of January 4, 2015. This measure will ensure that EI claimants in these 15 regions have the financial support they need while they search for work.
Budget 2016 also proposed to make legislative changes to offer up to an additional 20 weeks of EI regular benefits to long-tenured workers in the same 15 EI economic regions, up to a maximum of 70 weeks of benefits.
Extended benefits for long-tenured workers are also available for one year as of July 3, 2016, with the measure being applied to all eligible claims as of January 4, 2015. This measure will ensure that long-tenured workers, who may have spent years working in one industry or for one employer, have the financial support they need while they search for work, possibly in an entirely different industry and/or acquire the skills necessary to change career.
New Working While on Claim pilot project
The Working While on Claim pilot project helps individuals stay connected to the labour market by ensuring that claimants always benefit from accepting work. Under the current pilot, claimants can keep 50 cents of their EI benefits for every dollar they earn, up to a maximum of 90 per cent of the weekly insurable earnings used to calculate their EI benefit amount. Budget 2016 proposed a new EI Working While on Claim pilot project until August 2018. The new pilot will allow time for further assessment to ensure the program works for Canadians. Under the new pilot, in effect on August 7, 2016, all claimants will be able to choose between the rules of the current pilot or the rules of an earlier pilot applied to their claims, depending on what is most favourable to the individual.
Reducing the EI waiting period from two weeks to one
Under the EI program, claimants must currently serve a two-week waiting period. This waiting period acts like the deductible that must be paid for other types of insurance. Budget 2016 proposed to make legislative changes to reduce the EI waiting period from two weeks to one week effective January 1, 2017. Shortening the waiting period is expected to ease the financial strain for EI claimants at the front-end of a claim and will put an additional $650 million in the pockets of Canadians annually beginning next year.
Extending the maximum duration of Work-Sharing agreements
Work-Sharing helps employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business activity that is beyond the control of the employer. Work-Sharing provides income support to employees eligible for EI benefits who work a temporarily reduced work schedule while their employer recovers.
As outlined in Budget 2016, the maximum duration of Work-Sharing agreements for employers across Canada affected by the downturn in the commodities sector was extended from 38 weeks to 76 weeks as of April 1, 2016. Active agreements signed on, or after, July 12, 2015 will be eligible for an additional extension of up to 38 weeks, to bring the maximum agreement length to a total of 76 weeks.
Making EI service delivery more responsive
Between December 2014 and December 2015, EI claims increased 7.8 per cent and the number of EI beneficiaries increased 7.3 per cent nationally. To ensure that Canadians get timely access to the benefits to which they are entitled, Budget 2016 proposed to provide $19 million in 2016–17 to enable Service Canada to meet the increased demand for EI claims processing, and offer better support to Canadians as they search for new employment.
Enhancing access to EI call centres
EI Call Centre agents provide support to Canadians who require assistance to submit EI claim information or need to check the status of their EI claims. Budget 2016 proposed to invest $73 million over two years, starting in 2016–17, to improve access to EI Call Centres. This investment will increase the number of call centre agents, which will reduce waiting times and ensure that Canadians can access the information and support they need to receive their EI benefits as quickly as possible.
Strengthening the integrity of the EI program
Canadians expect sound stewardship and accountability of the EI program, which is funded through premiums paid by employers and workers. To ensure that benefits help those in need, Budget 2016 proposed to direct $21 million over three years, starting in 2016–17, to promote compliance with program rules.