Laid off workers in Canada will soon get some relief with the new improvements to the employment insurance (EI) system made by the Liberal government.
Those changes made in Budget 2016, will help more Canadians access EI when they need it, improve service delivery, and ensure the program adapts to the labour market realities across the country, a top government official said.
As outlined in Budget 2016, changes to the EI program include measures to:
- Eliminate the EI eligibility requirements that restrict access for new entrants and re-entrants to the labour market, which will help an estimated 50,000 more Canadians access EI, when they need it;
- Reduce the EI waiting period from two weeks to one week, effective January 1, 2017;
- Extend and expand the current EI Working While on Claim pilot project until August 2018. This will give Canadians greater flexibility as they return to work, help them stay connected to the labour market, and ensure that they benefit from accepting work.
- Reverse the changes to EI – introduced in 2012 – that made some Canadians accept lower paying jobs, farther away from home;
- Meet the increased demand for EI claims processing and offer better support to Canadians as they search for new employment through proposed investments of $19 million in 2016-17;
- Improve access to EI Call Centres, through proposed investments of $73 million over two years, starting in 2016-17. For example, increasing the number of agents will reduce waiting times so that Canadians can access information and support they need to receive their EI benefits; and
- Promote compliance with program rules through proposed investments of $21 million over 3 years, starting in 2016-17, to strengthen the integrity of the EI program.
“The Government has listened to Canadians over the past several months who have said they need to have an EI system that can respond quickly to changing labour market needs,” said Dominic Leblanc, leader of the government in the House of Commons and member of parliament for Beauséjour. “This will ease the worry of those Canadians who have been laid off through no fault of their own and are trying to find another job.”
The Government of Canada will also assist workers and employers who have been hard hit by the recent economic downturn in certain parts of the country.
These include measures to:
- Extend EI benefits in 12 EI economic regions that have experienced a sharp and sustained increase in the local unemployment rate without showing significant signs of recovery. For all eligible claimants in these 12 regions, this change will provide an additional 5 weeks of EI regular benefits, up to a maximum of 50 weeks. An additional 20 weeks of EI regular benefits will also be available to long-tenured workers in the affected 12 regions, up to a maximum of 70 weeks; and
- Extend the Work-Sharing agreements from a maximum of 38 weeks to 76 weeks across Canada. This measure will help employers retain skilled employees and avoid the cost of recruitment and training. Employees can continue to work and maintain their skills while supplementing their wages with EI benefits for the time they are not working.
Leblanc said the government will continue to monitor the situation in these and other regions.