OTTAWA, July 14, 2016 /CNW/ - The Government of Canada is keeping its commitment to helping the middle class and those seeking to join it by improving the Employment Insurance (EI) program. New measures are now in effect this month that will make more Canadians eligible for support, simplify job-search rules, and provide more help for people impacted by the commodities sector downturn. It will mean that EI is there for more Canadians that need it, when they need it.
The changes include the elimination of EI eligibility requirements for new entrants and re-entrants. Instead of having to accumulate 910 hours of insurable employment, claimants newly entering the workforce or returning after an absence of two or more years must now meet the same eligibility requirements as other claimants in the economic region where they live. This measure will provide access to EI support for many new workers, including young Canadians, women and new Canadians.
Job search responsibilities for EI claimants have been simplified. Rules enacted in 2012 forcing unemployed workers to commute farther or take lower-paying jobs have been reversed.
Canadians living in the 15 identified EI economic regions hardest hit by the commodities downturn and that have experienced a sharp and sustained increase in local job losses have started to receive extended EI regular benefits. This measure will ensure that eligible Canadians in these regions have the financial support they need while they search for work.
These three measures, which were outlined in Budget 2016, came into effect on July 3, 2016, and are part of the Government's plan to help Canada's middle class and those working hard to join it.
"We are delivering on our commitment to improve the Employment Insurance program so that it better serves workers and employers. These changes to the EI program give Canadians access to more help when they need it".
–The Honourable MaryAnn Mihychuk, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour
- Budget 2016 will provide $2.7 billion over the next two years for improvements to EI to help Canadians across the country.
- The elimination of the new entrant and re-entrant rules is expected to benefit approximately 50,000 Canadians who claim EI annually across Canada..
- Eligible claimants in 15 economic regions where EI benefits were extended are eligible for an additional 5 weeks of EI regular benefits, up to a maximum of 50 weeks. Up to an additional 20 weeks of EI regular benefits is also available to long-tenured workers, up to a maximum of 70 weeks. This measure will help provide approximately 235,000 workers with financial stability until they find new employment, with up to $13,000 per worker.
- The extension of Work-Sharing agreements, in effect as of April 1, 2016, is expected to benefit up to 33,000 additional workers across Canada, and help companies keep their workforce stable as commodity prices rebound.
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. The measure took effect 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. These benefits will be available to eligible claimants in the 15 EI economic regions that have experienced the sharpest and most severe increases in unemployment. As previously announced, the assessment concluded in May 2016 and no further regions will be added.
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.
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. The Budget Implementation Act of 2016 made 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.
The Government is also currently conducting the EI Service Quality Review, a nationwide consultation process with key stakeholders and the public to seek their input on ways to improve services to EI claimants.
In addition, Budget 2016 further committed the government to improving EI by making Compassionate Care Benefits more flexible, more inclusive and easier to access and providing more flexibility in parental leave benefits to accommodate unique family and work situations.
SOURCE Employment and Social Development Canada
For further information: Contacts : John O'Leary, Director of Communications, Office of the Honourable MaryAnn Mihychuk, P.C., M.P., Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, 819-654-5611; Media Relations Office, Employment and Social Development Canada, 819-994-5559, [email protected]