The Government of Canada delivers Employment Insurance fairness for the
self-employed in Quebec

MONTREAL, Nov. 3 /CNW Telbec/ - The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture), on behalf of the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, today announced that the Government of Canada has introduced the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act. This legislation would extend Employment Insurance (EI) sickness and compassionate care benefits to self-employed residents of Quebec. It would also extend EI maternity, parental and adoption benefits, in addition to sickness and compassionate care benefits, to self-employed workers in Canada's other provinces and territories.

"Our government knows that self-employed Canadians should not have to choose between their family and business responsibilities," said Minister Blackburn. "Extending access to these benefits is the fair and right thing to do. It is good family policy, and it represents one of the most significant enhancements to the EI program in the last decade."

For the past several years, the Government of Quebec has already been requiring self-employed residents to participate in a maternity, paternity, parental and adoption benefit plan through an agreement reached between the governments of Canada and Quebec in 2005. Today, the Government of Canada wants to extend special benefits to self-employed workers across the country.

"Self-employed residents of Quebec will continue to receive maternity and parental benefits through the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan," added Minister Blackburn. "However, if they so choose, they can also now access the sickness and compassionate care benefits being offered by the Government of Canada through the Employment Insurance program."

This measure responds to the Government's 2008 pledge to help provide improved economic security and support for all those who are self-employed. By introducing this legislation, the Government is delivering on, and in fact exceeding, its commitment. With these changes, self-employed Canadians would be able to voluntarily opt into the EI program and receive special benefits. Overall, the special benefits for self-employed individuals would mirror those currently available to salaried employees under the EI program.

"About 2.6 million Canadians are self-employed, including over 500,000 Quebecers. The majority of them have long asked for this support, and our government is responding to this strongly expressed need," said Minister Blackburn. "We think that the self-employed should have the option of getting the same income protection that salaried employees currently receive when it comes to major life events."

This measure demonstrates that the Government continues to make responsive and responsible choices to support Canadians through the EI program. It is just the latest in a series of improvements the Government has already made to the EI program.

Through Canada's Economic Action Plan, the federal government is helping those hardest hit by the economic downturn by providing longer EI benefits, more efficient service and support for training, while protecting jobs through Work-Sharing agreements. The Government has also frozen EI premiums for 2010 at the same rate as 2009.

Most recently, the Government introduced legislation to extend EI regular benefits for unemployed long-tenured workers, who are individuals that have paid EI premiums for years and made limited use of the program, and who now need additional support while they look for jobs in a recovering economy.

This news release is available in alternative formats on request.

    
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                                 backgrounder
                     Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
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Income protection for life-transition events, such as the birth of a child, adoption, illness, and the care of a gravely ill family member, is a key contributor to the financial security of all Canadian workers. The 2008 Speech from the Throne recognized the challenges facing self-employed Canadians as they deal with the dual pressure of being entrepreneurs and caring for their families. In Budget 2009, the Government proposed to examine ways to best provide self-employed Canadians with access to Employment Insurance (EI) maternity and parental benefits. The Government has introduced the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act, legislation that would fulfill and exceed this commitment.

Under this new legislation, self-employed residents of Quebec who choose to participate in the Employment Insurance program would be eligible to receive the same Employment Insurance sickness and compassionate care benefits as salaried employees:

    
    - sickness benefits (15 weeks maximum), which may be paid to a person who
      is unable to work because of sickness, injury or quarantine; and
    - compassionate care benefits (6 weeks maximum), which may be paid to
      persons who have to be away from work temporarily to provide care or
      support to a family member who is gravely ill with a significant risk
      of death.
    

With the exception of self-employed residents of Quebec, where the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan is in effect, this legislation would also extend EI maternity benefits (15 weeks maximum), parental or adoption benefits (35 weeks maximum), and sickness and compassionate care benefits to self-employed workers in Canada's other provinces and territories on a voluntary basis.

Self-employed residents of Quebec would continue to be required to contribute to the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan for maternity and parental benefits provided by the Government of Quebec. However, if they so desire, these workers would now also be able to access the sickness and compassionate care benefits being offered by the Government of Canada through the Employment Insurance program.

Should they decide to take advantage of the program, self-employed residents of Quebec would pay EI premiums at the same rates as salaried employees in Quebec, where the rates have already been decreased to take into account the existence of the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan. Self-employed residents would not be required to pay the portion that is usually paid by the employer since they would not be eligible to receive regular Employment Insurance benefits.

Under the proposed legislation, self-employed Canadians would be required to opt into the program at least one year prior to claiming benefits. They would also be responsible for making premium payments starting with the tax year in which they apply to the program. With a program start date of January 2010, claims could be made as early as January 1, 2011.

To access EI special benefits, self-employed individuals would need to have earned a minimum of $6,000 in self-employed earnings over the preceding calendar year.

Self-employed workers could opt out of the Employment Insurance program at the end of any taxation year as long as they have never received benefits. If they have, they would be required to pay premiums on their self-employment income for as long as they are self-employed.

Through the Economic Action Plan, the Government of Canada has also implemented measures to support all unemployed Canadians. These measures include providing 5 extra weeks of EI regular benefits, increasing the maximum duration of benefits from 45 to 50 weeks in regions of high unemployment, protecting jobs through the Work-Sharing program, and freezing EI premiums for 2010 at the same rate as 2009 to provide economic stimulus. For more information on these measures, please visit www.actionplan.gc.ca.

Most recently, the Government introduced legislation to extend EI regular benefits for unemployed long-tenured workers, who are individuals that have paid EI premiums for years and made limited use of the program, and who now need additional support while they look for jobs in a recovering economy. Further information on this proposed measure is available at www.hrsdc.gc.ca.

SOURCE Employment and Social Development Canada

For further information: For further information: (media only): Michelle Bakos, Press Secretary, Office of Minister Finley, (819) 994-2482; Media Relations Office, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, (819) 994-5559


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