Variable Best Weeks for Employers

Calculations to determine Employment Insurance (EI) benefit rates have generally been based on a client's average weekly insurable earnings in the 26-week period prior to the claim, excluding weeks with no earnings or earnings less than $225.

With the introduction of the Variable Best Weeks initiative, since April 7, 2013, EI benefits are calculated using the client's highest weeks of earnings over the qualifying period (generally 52 weeks).

What does this mean for me as an employer?

You are encouraged to provide the equivalent of 53 weeks of pay period information in Block 15C of the Record of Employment (ROE) form.

What if I issue electronic Records of Employment?

If you issue 53-week ROEs through one of Service Canada's electronic applications, you do not need to change your practices in any way.

What if I issue paper Records of Employment?

Currently, paper ROE forms only allow you to include 27 pay periods of your employee's insurable earnings.

If you have a weekly pay period and use paper ROEs, you can provide the information for pay periods 28 to 53 by attaching a separate sheet to each copy of the ROE or by using the weekly pay periods worksheet.

Information:

Looking for an easier way to submit 53-week ROEs?

Switch to ROE Web and issue your ROEs electronically. ROE Web makes the reporting process easier and saves time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Because of the way EI benefits have been calculated under the Employment Insurance Act, people living in areas where steady work is hard to find have sometimes received lower EI benefits than people living in areas where there are more jobs. The Government recognized this and in October 2005 began a pilot project in 25 high-unemployment regions across Canada. Claimants in these regions had their EI weekly benefit rates calculated using their highest 14 weeks of insurable earnings during the previous year.

In other regions of Canada, EI claimants have had their benefits calculated according to current legislation. This means that calculations have generally been based on the average weekly insurable earnings in the 26-week period prior to the claim, not counting weeks with no earnings or earnings less than $225.

Important:

No matter where in Canada they live, claimants should receive the same benefits as other claimants who live in regions with similar levels of unemployment.

For this reason, the Employment Insurance Act has been amended. Beginning April 7, 2013, the Variable Best Weeks benefit rate calculation used in the pilot project will be used across Canada. The number of weeks used in the calculation will vary from 14 to 22, depending on the employment rate. In regions of highest unemployment (more than 13%), 14 weeks will be used. In regions of lowest unemployment (6% or less), 22 weeks will be used.

How will this affect employers and payroll professionals?

Beginning on April 7, 2013, EI benefit rates will be calculated by using a claimant’s highest-earning weeks in the past year. This means that if you are an employer in a region that was not part of the pilot project and you are not already submitting electronic Records of Employment (ROEs), you will now have to provide longer pay period information on the ROE. Switching to the 53-week electronic ROE also makes the reporting process easier for employers. In 2011-2012, 57% of all ROEs were in a 53-week format and that number is rapidly climbing.

How will this affect employers or payroll service providers submitting paper Record of Employment?

If you or your payroll service provider is completing paper ROEs, you should complete Block 15C, even if there are no NIL pay periods, and provide data for the equivalent of 53 weeks of earnings.

If you or your payroll service provider have a weekly pay period and are using paper ROEs, you will have to:

  • attach a separate sheet (or payroll extract) to each ROE, or
  • use the weekly pay-period worksheet to provide the data for pay periods 28 to 53.

How will this affect employers submitting electronic Record of Employment?

There is no impact, since employers using ROE Web or ROE Secure Automated Transfer (SAT) already submit 53-week ROEs.

How will this affect software vendors?

Software vendors can help employers to submit 53-week ROEs by ensuring that their payroll software is compatible with ROE Web or ROE SAT. Learn more about making your payroll software compatible with ROE Web.

How will this change affect people on EI?

Claimants in regions that have been part of the “best 14 weeks” pilot project:

There will be no change, since their benefits are already calculated using the new method. These high-unemployment regions will continue to use the best 14 out of 52 weeks.

Claimants in regions that have not been part of the pilot project:

Claimants will be treated more fairly because their EI benefits will be calculated according to local unemployment levels. The number of weeks considered to calculate benefits varies as a region’s unemployment rate rises and falls. The exact number of weeks required in each region will depend on the unemployment rate.

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