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e-3789 (Employment and labour)

Initiated by Keith Klover from Strathroy, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • Employment Insurance (EI) claims are denied to Canadians based on their personal medical choices;
  • EI parental leave claims are being denied to parents due to insufficient hours resulting from restrictions; and
  • Increased demand for EI benefits has resulted in processing delays, leaving Canadians without benefits when they need them most.
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to adjust EI eligibility for Canadians impacted by COVID-19 measures and remove discriminatory conditions.

Response by the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): IREK KUSMIERCZYK

The Government of Canada thanks the petitioners for sharing their views and notes the request to adjust EI eligibility for Canadians impacted by COVID-19 measures. The Government recognizes the employment challenges that Canadians, including parents, have faced during the pandemic.

It is important to bear in mind that EI is an insurance-based program. Employers and workers pay premiums so that eligible workers may collect EI regular benefits because of job loss or EI special benefits when they are unable to work because of sickness, pregnancy, caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, or providing care or support to a gravely ill or critically ill family member. Under the eligibility requirements for EI, workers receive EI benefits only if they have contributed to the program by paying premiums in the past year, and if they meet qualifying and entitlement conditions.

A fundamental principle of the EI program is that claimants must lose their employment through no fault of their own to be eligible for EI regular benefits. A claimant is disqualified (or disentitled) from receiving regular benefits if they have been suspended or dismissed as a result of their own misconduct, or if they have voluntarily left their employment without just cause.

With respect to the personal/medical choice about vaccination, if an employer clearly communicated their vaccination policy and employees knew the consequences (such as the fact that they could be terminated, suspended or placed on leave without pay) misconduct could be found for not complying with the employer’s policy and the claimant could be determined to be not eligible under the EI Act to receive EI regular benefits.

While each EI application is assessed on a case-by-case basis, employees not complying with their employer’s mandatory vaccination policy would typically not be eligible to receive EI regular benefits unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g., valid medical exemption and employer unable to accommodate). This is not a change in policy or legislation, but reflects the existing legislative requirements to receive EI benefits. The Canada Employment Insurance Commission would determine if a client is entitled to EI benefits based on the facts provided by the employer and the employee.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada introduced temporary measures to facilitate access to EI benefits, including maternity and parental benefits, to recognize that many workers lost their jobs or had their work schedules reduced and may not have been able to qualify for EI as a result. These included a one-time hours credit that reduced the number of hours of insurable employment needed to access EI benefits to 120 hours (applied to the first EI claim established between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021) as well as a lowered threshold of 420 hours effective on September 26, 2021 for a period of one year. These measures have helped, and continue to help, more people across Canada access the EI benefits they need as the economy recovers. 

With respect to the processing delays, Service Canada received higher volumes of EI applications and enquiries to its Call Centre in 2021-22, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Every year, Service Canada’s EI volumes increase in December and January, corresponding to the winter peak of the EI program. During this period, it is possible that some clients may experience longer delays in the processing of their claim and wait times may be longer at the call centre. 

Despite having received more than 3.6 million applications in fiscal year 2021-22 (which is almost 500,000 claims more than the forecast), EI benefits continued to be delivered in a timely manner and Service Canada met its Speed of Payment service standard.

  • 85.4% of EI payments or notifications of non-payment were made within the 28-day timeframe (against the annual target of 80%). This is the second highest result in the last 15 years (was 88.8% in 2020-21).
  • Fewer clients waited beyond 28 days to receive their benefits (compared to previous years) and the average number of days it took for clients to receive their EI payments was 18 days, which is the second best result over the last 15 years.

During this same period, Service Canada also met its Speed of Service, service standard.

  • 83.7% of EI requests for reconsideration were completed within the 30-day timeframe (against the annual target of 80%).

Pursuant to Budget 2021, the Government of Canada has been consulting with Canadians and stakeholders on how to improve the EI program to ensure it aligns with the realities of today’s labour market and workforce. The consultations will inform a long-term plan to modernize EI and address issues including:

  • improving EI access by simplifying the rules for workers and employers
  • making EI more consistent and reliable for workers in seasonal industries
  • supporting self-employed and gig workers
  • improving support for Canadians during birth, adoption and other life events
  • reducing the cost of the Premium Reduction Program for workers and employers

The first phase of these consultations was completed on February 2022 and it is expected that the next phase will begin in Spring 2022. The long-term plan for the future of EI will be released after the consultations conclude.

Once again, the Government of Canada wishes to thank the petitioners. The views of the petitioners will be taken into consideration in our ongoing efforts to improve the EI program. 

Open for signature
January 19, 2022, at 4:24 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
March 20, 2022, at 4:24 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Lianne Rood (Lambton—Kent—Middlesex)
April 5, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00350)
Government response tabled
May 19, 2022
Photo - Lianne Rood
Conservative Caucus
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