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Everything you need to know about the new EI rules
Nothing has caused such uproar this year as the Conservative government’s sweeping overhaul of Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) system that includes among other things a new three-tiered system targeting frequent users. Whether you’re working or unemployed, a seasonal worker or not, it’s a good idea to wrap your head around these reforms, some of which just came into effect this January, while others are scheduled to come into effect this April. To give you an overview of these new changes we’ve put together a streamlined guide to the new EI rules. (See below).
Arguably, the biggest changes to the system revolve around the job search and what type of job claimants will have to take. As of Jan. 6, 2013, several factors will determine what is considered suitable employment. For example, you would not have to take a job if you will be making less money working than while receiving regular or fishing benefits, or if you were offered a job that you physically cannot do or that interferes with your health. Although claimants won’t have to relocate to Alberta or other places where jobs are plentiful, they will be expected to accept job openings within an hour’s travel from their home. EI claimants might have to travel even further in areas such as Toronto where workers routinely commute one hour or more for work.
Another controversial change is the adoption of a three-tiered claimant category system, which will mean that recipients who frequently draw unemployment (often seasonal workers) will be treated differently than those who rarely collect EI.
Long-tenured workers, those who received 35 or fewer weeks of EI over the last five years, can restrict their job hunt to positions that pay 90 per cent of their previous earnings and are in the “same” occupation. After 18 weeks, they will be expected to accept jobs that pay 80 per cent of their previous salary and that are similar to the job they normally perform.
Frequent EI users, those who have had three or more EI claims and have collected benefits for a total of more than 60 weeks in the past five years, will only have six weeks to find a job in a “similar occupation” that pays at least 80 per cent of previous earnings. After that, EI claimants will be expected to take “any work” that will pay at least 70 per cent of previous earnings.
Occasional claimants, all other recipients, can restrict their job hunt to positions that pay 90 per cent of their previous earnings and are in the “same” occupation for six weeks. They then must expand their search to jobs similar to the one they normally perform and that pay at least 80 percent of their previous earnings. After 18 weeks, they would be required to further expand their job search to include any work they are qualified to perform (with on-the-job training, if required) and to accept wages starting at 70 percent of their previous earnings.
Reasonable job search
The government has also clarified what is expected of EI claimants in terms of job seeking. As of Jan. 6, EI recipients will be required to look for a job every day they receive benefits, and the work being sought will have to align with the definition of suitable employment. According to the Service Canada site, you must “[d]ocument all of these job search efforts for the entire duration of your claim. This includes the date, names of employers you have contacted and their contact information, the type of work you were looking for and the results.” Service Canada may ask you to provide us with this information within six years of your claim. Also, keep in mind that if requested you must attend a claimant information session where you must provide documentation showing that you have performed at least five job search activities per week (resumé-writing, going on a job interview, etc.). If you do not show up or do not provide proof of your job search your EI claim will stop within 24 hours.
The government also plans to ensure that EI recipients receive job postings daily from multiple sources, including jobs in related occupational sectors in addition to those in their chosen occupation. “Even though claimants would not be required to accept jobs outside a reasonable commuting distance, they would also receive job postings from other areas of Canada to give them an idea of the current labour market across the country,” says the HRSDC site. The new system will also provide claimants with labour market information for relevant occupations. Currently, EI claimants receive at most a notice of three relevant job postings when they apply for EI and when they complete their online report every two weeks.
Working while on claim
Under the new Working While on Claim pilot project, the government will deduct half of your earnings up to 90 per cent of the weekly insurable earnings used to calculate the EI benefit amount. If you earn more than this amount, additional earnings will be deducted dollar for dollar from your benefits to ensure that the combined earnings and EI benefits are not more than the amount of earnings used to calculate the benefit amount
Right now, recipients who live in Oshawa or Windsor (as well as some other economically depressed places across the country), the method of calculating weekly benefit rates is based on the best 14 weeks of insurable earnings over the last 52 weeks of work. Beginning April 7, 2013, this pilot project approach will be applied across Canada; the number of weeks used in the calculation will range from 14 to 22, depending on the unemployment rate in the particular EI region.