An employment lawyer explains what you need to know about temporary changes to the Canadian employment insurance program and sickness benefits.
Between March 15 and September 26, 2020, 8.9 million Canadians applied for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). However, after September 26, millions of Canadians were still without jobs, quickly spiralling into financial struggles. Since CERB funding ended, the province of Ontario saw two more lockdowns and more employment losses. Although CERB is now closed, Canada’s government has new recovery benefits to provide Canadians financial support. Employment insurance (EI), for example, looks a bit different now. Information is thrown at Canadians left and right, and it can get overwhelming; an employment lawyer is here to help.
Changes made to EI
Before COVID-19, as an employment lawyer, it was common to get inquiries about appealing EI decisions. Applying for EI can be complicated and frustrating. Understanding and meeting eligibility requirements and rules made it notoriously difficult to receive financial support.
After the termination of CERB, Canada’s government made temporary changes to the EI program to serve more Canadians. Previously, there was a one-week waiting period before you could receive your benefits; with the new changes, there is no longer a waiting period. In addition to waiving the waiting period, the required number of insured hours to qualify for EI is lower, and you no longer need a medical certificate.
Who qualifies for the new EI?
If you qualified for CERB and are still unemployed or working reduced hours, there’s a very good chance that you also qualify for the new EI. If you originally applied for CERB through Service Canada, your CERB application was automatically re-considered for EI. If you applied through the Canada Revenue Agency, you must reapply yourself.
There’s no harm in applying if you’re unsure about your eligibility; they will determine that for you. If you’re not eligible for EI, you may qualify for one of the other recovery benefits.
Tip from an employment lawyer: Always fill out your bi-weekly reports, and keep a record of employers you’ve contacted and your job searches. If you cannot prove that you are ready and willing to work or fail to fill out your reports, you may lose your benefits.
Other recovery benefits
If you do not qualify for EI, there are other recovery benefits that you can apply for. If you are self-employed, a fisher, living abroad, caregiving or sick, there are benefits specifically for you.
It’s also important to add that you should apply for sickness benefits instead of regular benefits if you’re sick with COVID-19 or quarantining.
It is illegal for your employer to force you to report to work if you tested positive for COVID-19 or displaying symptoms. If you were wrongfully dismissed or reprimanded for taking time off work due to COVID-19 illness or quarantining, contact an employment lawyer to look at your case.
An employment lawyer can help you appeal an EI decision.
Suppose you don’t qualify for any other recovery benefits and feel your EI application was wrongfully rejected. In that case, an employment lawyer could help you. The appeal process can be lengthy; however, legal representation isn’t always required. Having an employment lawyer to represent you may be a good idea if you must attend an appeal hearing.