Federal government announces Employment Insurance changes

    OTTAWA: The Government of Canada announced changes to the Employment Insurance (EI) program in the Strait area.

    On August 20, Jean Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, said the changes will address the serious challenges faced by workers in seasonal industries and fill gaps in support from the EI program in certain regions.

    To accomplish this, the government will invest approximately $189 million to implement a new pilot project to provide up to five additional weeks of EI support to eligible workers in seasonal industries in 13 targeted regions, including eastern Nova Scotia.

    Department of Families, Children and Social Development spokesperson Josh Bueckert told The Reporter that eastern Nova Scotia qualified because the region has a high proportion of seasonal claims and the unemployment rate is higher than the national average

    An additional five weeks of benefits will be available to eligible workers in seasonal industries who start a benefit period between August 5, 2018 and May 30, 2020.

    Bueckert said the pilot project applies to any worker in seasonal employment that meets the criteria.

    “A worker is considered a seasonal claimant if they meet both of the following: in the previous five years, had at least three claims in which they received regular or fishing benefits; and at least two of those claims have started around the same time of year,” Bueckert explained. “Around the same time of year is defined as the eight weeks preceding and eight weeks following the week in which the current claim starts.”

    The government said it will also provide up to $41 million over two years to all provinces and territories through Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs) to provide skills training, wage subsidies and employment supports for workers in seasonal industries.

    Through Budget 2017, the government expanded eligibility to help more Canadians access skills training and employment assistance under amended LMDAs, including: investing an additional $1.8 billion in LMDAs over six years, from 2017-18 to 2022-23; broadening eligibility for Employment Benefits (skills training, wage subsidies) to include unemployed individuals who have made minimum EI premium contributions in at least five of the last 10 years; expanding eligibility for Employment Assistance Services (employment counselling, job search assistance), previously only available to unemployed Canadians, to also include employed Canadians; and increasing flexibility for provinces and territories to support employer-sponsored training under Labour Market Partnerships (to help employers who need to upskill or retrain their workers in order to adjust to technological or structural changes in the economy).

    The government said it is committed to reviewing and modernizing the EI system to reduce the number of workers left without an unemployment safety net.

    The government recently introduced other changes to EI, including: eliminating the EI requirements that restricted access for workers who were entering or re-entering the labour market; simplifying job search responsibilities for EI claimants through the reversal of the 2012 changes that specified the type of jobs that unemployed worker were expected to search for and accept; and making permanent the 50-cents-on-the-dollar Working While on Claim rule and extending it to maternity and sickness benefits (which came into force on August 12).