Employment Insurance

Res #: 35-11A
Number: 35
Year: 2011
Midterm: No
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

WHEREAS a previous SARM resolution sought to influence improvements to Federal Employment Insurance (EI); and

WHEREAS outside municipal employees that are laid-off during winter months and have a firm call-back date to return the next spring, may from time to time be recalled during the layoff period for top priority service snow clearing; and

WHEREAS snowfall amounts may vary greatly from year to year and by location; and

WHEREAS EI rulings may consider the employee to be no longer on layoff but in fact, performing full-time duties rather than part-time employment if hours are too high in a given reporting period, thus resulting in the employee having benefits interrupted; and

WHEREAS EI rules require proof of active job searching regardless of whether or not the employee has a firm recall date from the RM;

BE IT RESOLVED, that SARM again lobby the Federal Government to modify Employment Insurance rules such that;

1. The EI qualifying requirement to search for employment be waived for seasonal employees of municipal governments with a lay-off period of less than 18 weeks provided there is a firm call-back date from the municipality.

2. The EI rules allow for “high hours” part-time recalls of the employee for top priority service (snow clearance) and emergency service work without changing the laid-off status of the employee such that the worker would not be classified as having resumed full-time until the employer’s original call-back date is reached.

Response from Mireille Laroche, Acting Director General, Employment Insurance Policy Skills and Employment Branch:

It is important to bear in mind that EI is an insurance-based program. Employers and workers both pay premiums so that workers may collect benefits if they are unable to work, whether they are temporarily unemployed, sick, pregnant, caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, or providing care or support to a gravely ill family member. Under the eligibility requirements for EI, workers receive benefits only if they have contributed to the program by paying premiums in the past year and if they meet qualifying and entitlement conditions.

It is recognized that seasonal work presents unique challenges for many Canadians. Often these individuals face a limited working season, sporadic work durations and a lack of off-season employment alternatives.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that, in 2009, 81.4 per cent of seasonal workers targeted by the EI program were eligible to receive benefits, compared with 86.2 per cent for all unemployed individuals. In addition, seasonal claimants had a higher average weekly benefit than regular claimants ($376 versus $364) in 2008-2009.

You may be aware that Budget 2011 announced one-year renewals of the Best 14 Weeks and Working While on Claim pilot projects. The Best 14 Weeks pilot project, available in 25 EI economic regions, including Northern Saskatchewan, tests whether calculating a claimant’s benefit rate based on the highest earning 14 of the 52 weeks prior to claiming EI encourages claimants to accept all available work. The Working While on Claim pilot project, available nationally, tests whether allowing claimants to earn more income while receiving EI benefits provides an incentive to accept all available work. Specifically, this pilot increases the allowable earnings from the current threshold-the greater of $50 or 25 per cent of the claimant’s weekly benefit-to the greater of $75 or 40 per cent of weekly benefits.

In reference to waiving the EI qualifying requirement for seasonal employers to search for employment, the program is designed to replace earnings from work. Claimants must therefore meet minimum work force attachment requirements in order to qualify for benefits. In addition, there must be reasonable proximity in time between premiums paid and benefits disbursed, as it is the income from employment that EI benefits replace. The removal or waiving of the eligibility requirements or qualifying conditions, even for those individuals with extenuating personal circumstances, would be inconsistent with the role of the EI Act, and would change the insurance-based nature of the program.

I hope that this information will be helpful in addressing your concerns. Thank you for taking the time to write.