Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report 2014/15  Program overview

The Employment Insurance (EI) program contributes to the economic well-being of workers by providing assistance to individuals who are laid off or are unable to work due to specific life circumstances, and by helping unemployed people across the country find employment.

This chapter provides an overview of EI benefits under Part I and Part II of the Employment Insurance Act. The first section outlines accessibility requirements and the way entitlement to financial assistance under EI Part I benefits is determined. The second section summarizes the programming offered under Part II of the Employment Insurance Act, which helps workers to prepare for, find and maintain employment. The third section briefly discusses the relationship between Part I and Part II of the EI program. This chapter reflects the situation as of March 31, 2015 unless stated otherwise.

1. Employment Insurance Part IFootnote 1: Employment Insurance benefits

Part I of the EI program provides temporary income support to workers who have lost their job for reasons outside their control while they look for new employment or upgrade their skills. EI Part I also provides temporary financial assistance to workers who are sick, pregnant, caring for a newborn, newly adopted or critically ill child, or caring for a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death.

Did you know?

The Employment Insurance Act (previously the Unemployment Insurance Act) had a predecessor, the Employment and Social Insurance Act passed in June 1935. This legislation was found to exceed the federal jurisdictional authority. Therefore, with the consent of all the provinces, the British North American Act was amended and the Unemployment Insurance Act came into force on August 7, 1940. Collection of premiums began in July 1941, and the first benefits were paid in January 1942.

The Canada Employment Insurance Commission, a tripartite committee, has been overseeing the EI program since its creation as the Unemployment Insurance Commission (UIC) in 1940. In 1977, the UIC integrated into the new Department of Employment and Immigration under the Employment and Immigration Department and Commission Act and became the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission. It then became the Canada Employment Insurance Commission under the Department of Human Resources Development Act in May 1996.

1.1 Historical background

The reforms implemented in the Employment Insurance Act of 1996 established a new benefit structure. The program moved from a week-based to an hours-based eligibility system and instituted a new premium structure so that individuals pay premiums on all earnings up to an annual maximum. In addition, a number of other changes were implemented, such as the introduction of the family supplement provision, the increase in eligibility requirements for new entrants and re-entrants,Footnote 2 and the reduction in the maximum duration of regular benefits from 50 to 45 weeks. While there have been ongoing changes to the program since 1996, these reforms remain the foundation of the current EI program.

Annex 7 provides more detailed information on major changes to the EI program implemented during and after the 1996 EI reform.

Did you know?

Employers deducted employees' premiums and submitted payments combined with their premiums to the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. In turn, the Commission would issue unemployment insurance stamps to be inserted into the employee insurance book. This book was the employee's proof of insurable employment. It is the reason that the term ‘'stamps'' is still used as an equivalent to insurable employment.

1.2 Employment Insurance benefits

There are a number of types of benefits available under EI Part I: regular, fishing, special (maternity, parental, sickness, compassionate care and parents of critically ill children), and work-sharing benefits. As access and entitlement to EI benefits vary depending on the benefit being discussed, they are examined by benefit type. However, the calculation of an individual's weekly benefit rate is the same for all benefits and, therefore, will not be discussed separately.

Did you know?

The Unemployment Insurance Act, 1971 constituted the first major reform. The revised program extended coverage to almost all workers who were considered employees. It provided relatively easy access to enriched benefits and it required lower contributions. Benefits were geared to an employee's income. In addition, benefits were available not only for loss of employment earnings due to, for example, a lay-off, but also for sickness and pregnancy. A maximum of 15 weeks was payable for both types of benefits.

1.2.1 Regular benefits

EI regular benefits are available to individuals who lose their jobs for reasons outside their control—due, for instance, to a shortage of work or seasonal layoffs, or because they quit with just cause—and who are available for and actively seeking employment.

1.2.1.1 Access requirements
Table 1: Number of Hours of Insurable Employment Required to Qualify for Benefits
Regional Rate of Unemployment1 Required Number of Hours of Insurable Employment in the Last 52 Weeks
6.0% or less 700
6.1% to 7.0% 665
7.1% to 8.0% 630
8.1% to 9.0% 595
9.1% to 10.0% 560
10.1% to 11.0% 525
11.1% to 12.0% 490
12.1% to 13.0% 455
13.1% or more 420
  • 1The unemployment rates used for the Employment Insurance program are a moving average of seasonally adjusted monthly rates of unemployment produced by Statistics Canada, as per section 17 of the Employment Insurance Regulations.
  • Souce: Employment Insurance Act, section 7.

To qualify for regular benefits, individuals must have been without work and without pay for at least seven consecutive days. In addition, they must have accumulated the required number of hours of insurable employment in the last 52 weeks before their claim or since the start of their last EI claim (known as the qualifying period), whichever is shorter. As shown in Table 1, the required number of hours of insurable employment is based on the unemployment rate in the EI economic region where the individual resides, a feature of the EI program that is known as the Variable Entrance Requirement (VER). Annex 2.24 provides the monthly unemployment rates used for the purposes of the EI program in the 62 EI economic regions.

Claimants are required to undertake a reasonable job search for suitable employment in their region, but are not required to move or relocate to where jobs are available in order to remain eligible for EI benefits. The criteria used to define reasonable job search are: job search activities; intensity of job search; type of work being sought; and evidence of job search efforts. The criteria used to define suitable employment are: type of work; wages; commuting time; working conditions; hours of work; and personal circumstances.

In general, most individuals require between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment to qualify for EI regular benefits. However, for the period covered by this report, individuals who recently entered the workforce for the first time or those who are re-entering the workforce after an absence of two or more years—known as new entrants and re-entrants (NEREs)—require 910 hours of work to qualify, regardless of the unemployment rate in the region where they reside. NEREs are defined as those with fewer than 490 hours of labour force attachment in the pre-qualifying period, which is the 52-week period before the qualifying period (see Chart 1). For the purposes of the NERE provision, labour force attachment comprises hours of work of insurable employment, as well as time spent on EI, workers' compensation, disability benefits, sick leave and approved training. Each week of labour force attachment is considered to be 35 hours, with the exception of insurable employment, which are considered at face value. It should be noted that parents with fewer than 490 hours of labour force attachment in their pre-qualifying period, who received EI maternity or parental benefits in the 208 weeks prior to that pre-qualifying period, are not considered as NEREs and require 420 to 700 hours of insurable hours as per Table 1.

Chart 1: Pre-qualifying Period and Qualifying Period of New Entrants and Re-entrants
Text description of Chart 1

Chart 1 describes the number of hours of insurable employment required to qualify for EI regular benefits for NERE and non-NERE individuals. NERE are individuals with fewer than 490 hours of labour force attachment in the pre-qualifying period. To qualify for EI regular benefits, NERE individuals require 910 hours of work in the qualifying period while non-NERE individual require between 420 to 700 hours.

As per EI legislation, the maximum duration of regular benefits varies from 14 to 45 weeks, depending on the number of hours of insurable employment used to establish the claim and the unemployment rate in the region where the claimant resides (see Table 2). The higher the regional unemployment rate and number of hours of insurable employment worked by the individual, the higher the entitlement (up to the maximum of 45 weeks).

Table 2: Maximum Number of Weeks of Employment Insurance Regular Benefits
Number of Hours of Insurable Employment Regional Unemployment Rate1
6.0% and under 6.1%

7.0%
7.1%

8.0%
8.1%

9.0%
9.1%
– 10.0%
10.1%

11.0%
11.1%

12.0%
12.1%

13.0%
13.1%

14.0%
14.1%

15.0%
15.1%

16.0%
More than 16.0%
420–454 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 26 28 30 32
455–489 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 24 26 28 30 32
490–524 0 0 0 0 0 0 23 25 27 29 31 33
525–559 0 0 0 0 0 21 23 25 27 29 31 33
560–594 0 0 0 0 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34
595–629 0 0 0 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34
630–664 0 0 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35
665–699 0 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35
700–734 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36
735–769 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36
770–804 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37
805–839 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37
840–874 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38
875–909 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38
910–944 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39
945–979 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39
980–1,014 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40
1,015–1,049 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40
1,050–1,084 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41
1,085–1,119 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41
1,120–1,154 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42
1,155–1,189 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42
1,190–1,224 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43
1,225–1,259 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43
1,260–1,294 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44
1,295–1,329 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44
1,330–1,364 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45
1,365–1,399 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45
1,400–1,434 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 45
1,435–1,469 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 45
1,470–1,504 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 45 45
1,505–1,539 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 45 45
1,540–1,574 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 45 45 45
1,575–1,609 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 45 45 45
1,610–1,644 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 45 45 45 45
1,645–1,679 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 45 45 45 45
1,680–1,714 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 45 45 45 45 45
1,715–1,749 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 45 45 45 45 45
1,750–1,784 34 36 38 40 42 44 45 45 45 45 45 45
1,785–1,819 35 37 39 41 43 45 45 45 45 45 45 45
1,820 and more 36 38 40 42 44 45 45 45 45 45 45 45
  • 1The unemployment rates used for the Employment Insurance program are a moving average of seasonally adjusted monthly rates of unemployment produced by Statistics Canada, as per section 17 of the Employment Insurance Regulations.
  • Souce: Employment Insurance Act, section 12.

1.2.2 Fishing benefits

EI fishing benefits are paid to self-employed fishers. For the purposes of fishing benefits, a self-employed fisher is a person engaged in fishing, which includes making a catch or doing any work incidental to making or handling a catch (such as loading, unloading, transporting or curing the catch made by the crew of which the person is a member). It also includes those involved in constructing a fishing vessel for their own use or for the use of the crew of which the person is a member in order to make a catch.

1.2.2.1 Access requirements

To be eligible for fishing benefits, a fisher must be self-employed and unable to qualify for regular benefits. Eligibility for fishing benefits is determined by the claimant's insurable fishing earnings accumulated during the qualifying period, rather than the number of hours worked, as in the case of regular benefits. For fishing benefits, each dollar earned in self-employed fishing is insurable, based on the share arrangement of the crew. As illustrated in Table 3, the minimum amount of earnings fishers need to qualify ranges between $2,500 and $4,200, depending on the regional unemployment rate.

Table 3: Insurable Earnings Entrance Requirement for Fishers
Regional Rate of Unemployment1 Insurable Earnings
($)
6% or less 4,200
6.1% to 7.0% 4,000
7.1% to 8.0% 3,800
8.1% to 9.0% 3,600
9.1% to 10.0% 3,400
10.1% to 11.0% 3,200
11.1% to 12.0% 2,900
12.1% to 13.0% 2,700
13.1% or more 2,500
  • 1The unemployment rates used for the Employment Insurance program are a moving average of seasonally adjusted monthly rates of unemployment produced by Statistics Canada, as per section 17 of the Employment Insurance Regulations.
  • Source:Employment Insurance (Fishing) Regulations, section 8.

In addition, within the labour force attachment period (the 52 weeks preceding the start date of the fishing benefit qualifying period), a fisher must have done one or more of the following to be eligible for fishing benefits:

  • accumulated at least $3,000 from self-employment in fishing; or,
  • accumulated at least 490 hours of other labour force attachment related to fishing.Footnote 3

If the individual who is applying for fishing benefits just started working as a self-employed fisher or is returning to fishing after an absence of a year or more preceding the qualifying period, the fisher is considered a NERE. A fisher who is a NERE must have $5,500 or more in insurable earnings from employment as a fisher. However, fishers who received one week or more of maternity or parental benefits in the 208 weeks before the labour force attachment period are not considered NEREs.

Fishing claims have a 31-week maximum qualifying period and there are two separate qualifying periods per year. The earliest start date for the qualifying period for summer benefits is the week of March 1 and the earliest start date for the qualifying period for winter benefits is the week of September 1.

1.2.2.2 Maximum duration of benefits

Fishing claims have a maximum duration of 26 weeks. Note that a self-employed fisher can qualify for two fishing benefit periods within a given calendar year. The benefit period for a summer claim starts in or after the week of October 1 and must end no later than the week of June 15. The benefit period for a winter claim starts in or after the week of April 1 and must end no later than the week of December 15.

1.2.3 Special benefits

EI special benefits provide support to employees or self-employed persons who are sick, pregnant, caring for a newborn, newly adopted or critically ill child, or caring for a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death. These include maternity and parental benefits, sickness benefits, compassionate care benefits, and benefits for parents of critically ill children.

Maternity benefits are payable to the birth mother, while parental benefits can be shared by parents caring for their newborn or newly adopted child. Sickness benefits are available to individuals who are unable to work because of sickness, injury or quarantine. Compassionate care benefits are available to persons who take time off work in order to provide care or support to a family member who has a serious medical condition and face a significant risk of death. Compassionate care benefits are also available to those who are considered to be like family members by the person who has a serious medical condition, including a close friend or neighbour. Weeks of compassionate care benefits can also be shared with other members of the family that are providing care. Benefits for parents of critically ill children are available to eligible parents who take leave from work to provide care or support their critically ill or injured child (under the age of 18).

Since 2006, the province of Quebec has been responsible for providing maternity, parental and adoption benefits to residents of Quebec through the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP). QPIP also provides paternity benefits, a five-week benefit for new fathers that cannot be shared with the mother.

Did you know?

  • Fifteen weeks of adoption benefits became available as of January 1, 1984.
  • Further to a claimant appeal before the Federal Court of Appeal, paternity and adoption benefits were payable as of March 29, 1987 in the event the mother or the other parent died or became disabled.
  • Parental benefits became payable effective November 18, 1990. Ten weeks of parental benefits may be paid, which could be extended to 15 weeks if the child was six months of age or older when the child arrived in the claimant's home and the child suffered from a physical, psychological or emotional condition. They were then payable to either men or women. They could be divided between the parents. These benefits replaced the paternity benefits of 1988 and the adoption benefits of 1984.
  • Parental benefits were expanded from 10 to 35 weeks in 2000. Special benefits (maternity, parental and sickness) were made subject to a maximum combination of 50 weeks.
1.2.3.1 Access requirements

To be eligible for special benefits, the claimant's normal weekly earnings must be reduced by over 40%. In addition, individuals require 600 hours of insurable employment in their qualifying period which is the shorter of:

  • The 52-week period immediately before the start date of the claim or
  • The period since the start of a previous EI benefit period, if that benefit period started during the previous 52 weeks.

Self-employed fishers can also qualify for special benefits with fishing earnings of $3,760. In addition, self-employed individuals who opt in for special benefits can qualify if their self-employment earnings meet the minimum self-employment eligibility threshold in the calendar year preceding the claim. This threshold was $6,515 (2013 earnings) for claims established in 2014 and was $6,645 (2014 earnings) for claims established in 2015. Depending on the type of special benefits being requested, additional documents, such as a medical certificate, may be required.

Claimants can apply for maternity benefits before they give birth and can start receiving benefits eight weeks before their due date. Claimants cannot receive maternity benefits beyond 17 weeks after the expected or actual week of childbirth, whichever of the two occurs last. For biological parents, EI parental benefits can be paid starting from the child's date of birth. For adoptive parents, parental benefits can be paid starting from the date the child is placed with them for adoption. In both cases, the parental benefits can be collected during a 52-week period following the week the child was born or adopted. An extension to the eligibility period for parental benefits, up to a maximum of 104 weeks, is available to Canadian Forces members who are prevented from collecting all their parental benefits during the regular 52-week eligibility period because their parental leave has been deferred or interrupted by an imperative military requirement.

To qualify for sickness benefits, individuals must obtain a medical certificate signed by their medical doctor or approved medical practitioner that indicates the period of time they are unable to work due to illness, injury or quarantine. For compassionate care benefits, the claimant must provide a medical certificate signed by the medical doctor or approved medical practitioner of the person who has a serious medical condition that shows that the person needs care or support and is at risk of dying within 26 weeks. This means that the person, or their legal representative, must also complete and sign an authorization to have their medical certificate released. For benefits for parents of critically ill children, the claimant must provide a medical certificate completed and signed by a medical doctor who is licensed to practice medicine in Canada as a specialist. The medical certificate must state that the child is critically ill or injured and requires the care or support of one or more of their parents and set out the period during which the child requires that care or support.

Did you know?

Compassionate care benefits became available as of January 4, 2004. Six weeks of benefits were available to a claimant whose family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks. Benefits can be shared by eligible family members.

1.2.3.2 Maximum duration of benefits

Maternity benefits can be paid for a maximum of 15 weeks and parental benefits, which parents can share, for a maximum of 35 weeks. Maternity and parental benefits can be combined for a maximum of 50 weeks. Sickness benefits can be paid up to a maximum of 15 weeks.

Compassionate care benefits can be paid for a maximum of 6 weeks over a 26-week period, and family members, or persons considered to be like family members by the person who has a serious medical condition, can share them.Footnote 4 There may be situations where the person remains in the same condition after the initial 26-week window or later experiences a recurrence of the illness. When this occurs, the claimant(s) could file a new claim for a second block of 6 weeks of compassionate care benefits if they once again meet all of the access requirements. However, a claimant can only receive a maximum of 6 weeks of compassionate care benefits per 26-week window.

Benefits for parents of critically ill children can be paid for a maximum of 35 weeks over a 52-week period. The payments for eligible weeks can be taken in consecutive weeks or divided into periods within the 52-week window. The number of entitled weeks is based on the medical certificate. If the child requires care or support after the period identified in the initial medical certificate, it is possible to receive further benefits, provided another medical certificate is submitted, and the maximum 35 weeks have not already been paid.

1.2.4 Work-sharing benefits

The Work-sharing program is an adjustment program designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business activity that is beyond the control of the employer. It provides income support in the form of EI work-sharing benefits to eligible workers who work a temporarily reduced work week while their employer recovers. The goal is for all the participating employees to return to normal working hours by the end of the term of the work-sharing agreement.

The program helps employers retain skilled employees and avoid the costly process of recruiting and training new employees when business returns to normal levels. It also helps employees maintain their skills and job by supplementing their wages with work-sharing benefits for the days they are not working. Work-sharing agreements are approved by the employer, the employees and their representatives and the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. In a unionized workplace, the authorized employee representative(s) will normally be a member of, and a person designated by, the union.

1.2.4.1 Access requirements

Access requirements for work-sharing benefits are the same as those for regular benefits (see subsection 1.2.1.1 and Table 1).

1.2.4.2 Maximum duration of benefits

Participating in a work-sharing agreement does not reduce the number of weeks of regular benefits entitled for workers laid off following participation in the Work-sharing program. According to EI legislation, work-sharing agreements can last from a minimum of 6 consecutive weeks to a maximum of 26 consecutive weeks. The employer may request an extension for a period of up to 12 additional weeks. The maximum duration of a work-sharing agreement, including any extension is 38 weeks. Employers are subject to a cooling-off period (i.e., number of weeks equal to duration of previous agreement) before entering into new agreements with the same employees.

1.3 Waiting and benefit periods

Qualified claimants must serve a two-week waiting period before receiving any type of EI benefits. The waiting period serves a number of purposes. It follows the same practices of other insurance programs and is similar to the deductible portion of private insurance plans. This ensures that EI resources are focused on persons dealing with significant gaps in employment, and allows for the time needed to verify and establish a claim.

In addition, when a claimant qualifies for benefits, a benefit period of 52 weeks is established, which is the window of time within which all available benefits must be paid. This period includes the two-week waiting period. The benefit period ensures that El benefits are paid within a reasonable timeframe relative to the period when the claimant would have received the earnings that the benefits are designed to replace. However, the initial benefit period can be extended to a maximum of 104 weeks, if, during that initial benefit period:

  • no regular benefits were paid to the claimant;
  • more than one type of special benefits was paid and at least one of those special benefits was paid for fewer than the applicable maximum number of weeks payable for these special benefits; and,
  • the maximum total number of weeks payable for the types of special benefits requested is greater than 50.

1.4 Level of benefits

The level of EI benefits is tied to the amount of insurable earnings an individual has accumulated during the qualifying period (generally 52 weeks) before establishing the claim, up to the annual maximum, expressed weekly. Under the Employment Insurance Act, maximum insurable earnings (MIE) increase in line with the average industrial wage. The MIE was $48,600 in 2014 and $49,500 in 2015. The weekly benefit rate is 55% of the portion of average weekly insurable earnings that does not exceed the MIE limit. The maximum weekly benefit rate was therefore $514 in 2014 and $524 in 2015.

For regular and special benefits, the weekly benefit rate is calculated using the highest weeks of earnings over the qualifying period (generally 52 weeks). The number of weeks used ranges from 14 to 22 depending on the regional rate of unemployment (see Table 4). The total insurable earnings during those weeks is then divided by the number of required weeks and multiplied by 55% to determine the weekly benefit rate, without exceeding the maximum weekly benefit.

Table 4: Divisor Used to Calculate Weekly Benefit Rate Based on the Regional Rate of Unemployment
Regional Rate of Unemployment1 Number of Weeks for Regular and Special Benefits /
Divisor for Fishing Benefits
6% or less 22
6.1% to 7.0% 21
7.1% to 8.0% 20
8.1% to 9.0% 19
9.1% to 10.0% 18
10.1% to 11.0% 17
11.1% to 12.0% 16
12.1% to 13.0% 15
13.1% or more 14
  • 1The unemployment rates used for the Employment Insurance program are a moving average of seasonally adjusted monthly rates of unemployment produced by Statistics Canada, as per section 17 of the Employment Insurance Regulations.
  • Source: Employment Insurance Act, section 14, and Employment Insurance (Fishing) Regulations, section 8.

For fishing benefits, the weekly benefit rate is calculated by dividing the total fishing insurable earnings obtained during the qualifying period (generally 31 weeks prior to the claim) by the divisor associated with the claimant's regional unemployment rate (see Table 4), and then multiplying the result by the basic rate of 55%, without exceeding the allowed maximum weekly benefit.

1.4.1 Family supplement

The family supplement provision gives low-income families with children (under the age of 18) a benefit rate of up to 80% of their average weekly insurable earnings. However, under the family supplement provision, the weekly benefit rate cannot be higher than 55% of the MIE limit weekly equivalent ($524 in 2015). The family supplement rate is based on the family net income up to a maximum of $25,921 per year, as well as the number of children in the family and their ages. If the family net income level rises, the family supplement gradually decreases, so that if the income exceeds $25,921, no supplement is payable.

1.4.2 Working While on Claim

The Working While on Claim (WWC) provision is applied to adjust EI benefits when a claimant has employment earnings while on claim and its objective is to encourage work attachment by allowing claimants to accept available work while receiving EI benefits. It applies to the following benefits: regular, fishing, parental, compassionate care and parents of critically ill children.

Did you know?

EI pilot projects allow the Government of Canada to test and assess the labour market impacts of new approaches designed to assist the unemployed, for a defined period of up to 3 years and in designated EI economic regions, before considering permanent changes to the EI program.

There have been 24 pilot projects since their inception under the Unemployment Insurance legislation in 1994 (19 since the 1996 reform and 5 between 1994 and 1996). One of the first pilot projects allowed claimants to use the telephone to file their report cards. Now, the vast majority of claimants use the internet.

A national WWC pilot project (Pilot Project No. 18) was introduced on August 5, 2012. Under this WWC pilot project, a claimant's weekly benefits are reduced by 50% of his or her earnings while on claim, starting with the first dollar earned, until the claimant's earnings reach 90% of the average weekly earnings used to establish his or her benefit rate. At that point, the claimant's weekly benefits are reduced dollar for dollar until they reach zero, to ensure claimants do not receive more in earnings and benefits than they would have earned working full time. This pilot concluded on August 1, 2015. A new one-year WWC pilot project (Pilot Project No. 19) took effect on August 2, 2015 and has the same parameters as Pilot Project No. 18. This pilot is scheduled to conclude on August 6, 2016.

In the EI legislation, the provision allows claimants receiving EI benefits (except maternity and sickness benefits)Footnote 5 to earn up to $50 per week or 25% of their weekly EI benefit rate (whichever is higher) before dollar-for-dollar deductions begin. From 2005 to 2012, a series of pilots raised the allowance to $75 or 40% without a reduction to their weekly EI benefits to encourage EI claimants to accept more work, which were followed by the Pilot Project No. 18.

More information on Part I of the EI program is available on the Servie Canada web site at: http://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei.html.

2. Employment Insurance Part II: Employment benefits and support measures

The purpose of Part II of the Employment Insurance Act is "to help maintain a sustainable Employment Insurance (EI) system through the establishment of employment benefits for insured participants and the maintenance of a national employment service."Footnote 6 The programs delivered under Part II of the Employment Insurance Act are called Employment Benefits and Support Measures (EBSMs). EBSMs are labour market programs and services established to help unemployed Canadians return to work and to develop a labour force that meets current and emerging needs of employers. The programs are delivered mostly by provinces and territories, through Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs). EI Part II programming results for 2014/2015 are presented in Chapter III of this publication.

2.1 Historical background

In the mid-1990s, there was a growing consensus that temporary income support provided under the Unemployment Insurance Act was not sufficient to meet labour market challenges. Existing training and work experience programs under Unemployment Insurance Development Uses (UIDU) had achieved significant results. However, investment in active employment programs was insufficient to equip the unemployed with the skills they needed to overcome structural barriers and get back to work. Additional investment in active programming, such as work experience and training, was required to help individuals overcome structural barriers and quickly re-enter the labour market. Therefore, Part II of the Employment Insurance Act introduced in 1996 proposed a redesign of existing UIDU training and work experience programs to do the following:

  • improve access for the unemployed population (support to the non-insured population);
  • increase flexibility and streamline services at the local level;
  • equip individuals directly with the tools to develop a personalized transition strategy;
  • clarify the federal government's role in vocational training; and,
  • improve national and local labour market information.

In May 1996, the Proposal to Provinces and Territories for a New Partnership in the Labour Market offered provinces and territories two delivery options for the active employment programming delivered under Part II of the Employment Insurance Act: provincial/territorial delivery of EI-funded employment programs (option 1); or federal delivery of programs coupled with a federal offer to collaborate with the province or territory in their design, delivery and evaluation (option 2).

During the first phase of the implementation of the LMDAs, from 1996 to 2000, seven provinces and territories chose to accept full responsibility for designing and delivering employment programs (option 1). Between 2005 and 2010, the federal government completed the full devolution of the EBSMs, with the exception of pan-Canadian programming.

2.2 Guidelines

EBSMs are established under Part II of the Employment Insurance Act in accordance with the following guidelines:

  • harmonization with provincial/territorial employment initiatives to ensure there is no unnecessary overlap or duplication;
  • reduction of dependency on unemployment benefits by helping individuals obtain or keep employment;
  • cooperation and partnership with other governments, employers, community-based organizations and other interested organizations;
  • flexibility to allow significant decisions about implementation to be made at a local level; and,
  • availability of EBSM assistance in either official language, where there is a significant demand for that assistance in that language.

2.3 Programming design and delivery

EBSMs are flexible by design, allowing provincial and territorial jurisdictions to develop and deliver programs that respond to local and regional labour market needs. All provinces and territories are now fully responsible for designing and delivering programs similar to the EBSMs established under Part II of the Employment Insurance Act. The LMDAs provide the framework within which EBSM delivery takes place.

In support of these activities, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) transfers LMDA funding to the provinces and territories, and focuses on accountability, evaluation and ongoing policy development. ESDC delivers pan-Canadian programming and maintains, in partnership with the provinces and territories, specific projects and activities in the national interest under Part II of the Employment Insurance Act. For more information, visit Labour Market Development Agreements.

For more information on the different EI Part II programs delivered across Canada, please consult provincial and territorial services:

Newfoundland and Labrador
Visit New Foundland and Labrador Department of Advanced Education and Skills

Prince Edward Island

Nova Scotia

New Brunswick

Quebec

Ontario

Manitoba

Saskatchewan

Alberta

British Columbia

Northwest Territories

Yukon

Nunavut

2.4 Target population

EI-insured clients and non-insured clients are both eligible to participate in EBSMs; however, the type of assistance available differs for the two groups.

2.4.1 Employment Insurance-insured clients: Activation of Employment Insurance regular claimants

The EI-insured client group is composed of two client types, "active" and "former" claimants, who are eligible for all types of EBSM interventions. Active claimants are claimants who have established a regular EI claim, and who tend to have strong and recent labour market attachment. Therefore, they tend to be able to return to work faster than those with a weaker labour attachment.

Former claimants are individuals who established an EI regular claim in the previous 36 months, or who received maternity or parental benefits during a benefit period established in the previous 60 months. Former claimants do not receive income support under Part I of the Employment Insurance Act while they complete an EBSM intervention; however, they may receive Part II support while completing their return-to-work action plan.

2.4.2 Non-insured clients

Non-insured clients are those who have no substantive or recent labour force attachment, and include new labour force participants and individuals who were formerly self-employed. For example, Aboriginals, the disabled and immigrants have lower labour force attachment and labour market participation rates for which Part II programming is available. While these clients are not eligible for Employment Benefits, they can access Employment Assistance Services delivered under the Support Measures.

2.5 Employment benefits and support measures

2.5.1 Employment benefits

Section 59 of the Employment Insurance Act specifies that the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC) may establish employment benefits to help insured participants obtain employment. Employment Benefits are accessible by EI-insured clients only. These benefits enable EI-insured clients to gain work skills and experience through a combination of specific employment interventions. Employment Benefits include the following types of benefits.

Skills Development helps insured participants obtain skills for employment by providing direct financial assistance that enables them to select, arrange and pay for their own training.

Targeted Wage Subsidies help insured participants obtain on-the-job work experience by providing employers with financial assistance to pay the wages of insured participants whom they hire. This benefit encourages employers to hire unemployed individuals whom they would not normally hire in the absence of a subsidy.

Self-Employment provides financial assistance and business planning advice to EI-eligible participants to help them start their own business. This financial assistance is intended to cover personal living expenses and business-related expenses during the initial stages of the business.

Job Creation Partnerships projects provide insured participants with opportunities to gain work experience that will help them secure permanent employment. Projects under this initiative help develop the community and the local economy.

Targeted Earnings Supplements encourage unemployed persons to accept employment by offering them financial incentives. Quebec offers a similar measure—Return to Work Supplement—to help with expenses related to returning to work (for example, new tools, office materials or clothing).

2.5.2 Support measures

Support Measures are authorized under Part II of the Employment Insurance Act to assist unemployed persons or persons at risk of becoming unemployed in finding employment. Support measures include programming similar to Employment Assistance Services (EAS), Labour Market Partnerships (LMPs), and Research and Innovation (R&I). While EAS are delivered by provincial and territorial governments, LMPs and R&I initiatives may be delivered at the federal, provincial and territorial levels.

Employment Assistance Services offer funding to organizations to enable them to provide employment assistance to unemployed persons. The services may include counselling, action planning, job search skills, job finding clubs, job placement services, and the provision of labour market information, case management and follow-up. The provinces and territories may employ third parties to provide these services.

Labour Market Partnerships provide funding to help employers, employee or employer associations, community groups and communities improve their capacity to deal with human resource requirements and implement labour force adjustments. These partnerships involve developing plans, strategies and implementing adjustment measures.

Research and Innovation supports activities that identify better ways of helping people to prepare for or keep employment and to be productive participants in the labour force. Funds are provided to eligible recipients to enable them to carry out demonstration projects and research for this purpose.

2.5.3 Pan-Canadian programming

The objective of pan-Canadian programming is to enhance the Canadian economic union by promoting an efficient and integrated national labour market and ensuring enough skilled workers are available in the Canadian workforce. These activities are designed to address national labour market challenges and promote equality of opportunity for all Canadians, with a focus on helping underrepresented groups reach their full potential in the Canadian labour market.

Pan-Canadian programming includes initiatives such as responding to national emergencies, supporting interprovincial labour mobility, promoting and supporting national sectoral councils, and providing national labour market information and national labour exchange systems. Also included among the national initiatives are literacy and essential skills initiatives, youth employment initiatives, labour market programs for Aboriginal people, and national research and innovation projects designed to find better ways of helping people obtain and keep employment as productive members of the labour force.

2.5.4 National Employment Service

Part II of the Employment Insurance Act specifies that the CEIC shall maintain a National Employment Service (NES) to facilitate the labour market exchange function for the country. The NES provides information on employment opportunities across Canada to help workers find suitable employment and help employers obtain appropriate workers. Previously, these were delivered through the Job Bank and Working in Canada web sites, which were merged in March 2014 into a single source of jobs and labour market information. The Job Bank is designed to improve the way information about jobs and the labour market is disseminated by reducing duplication, improving the quality of information, and making online information more accessible and easier to use.

3. Relationship between Employment Insurance Part I and Part II

In summary, while Employment Insurance (EI) Part I benefits can be viewed as a "passive support" program, EI Part II constitutes an "active support" component. Part I subsidizes job search and career development by providing temporary income support to eligible unemployed individuals. Part II helps unemployed individuals by providing them with the skills, experience and knowledge necessary to find new and suitable employment and reduce future dependency on EI Part I. Together, Part I and Part II improve the matching function between available positions and workers in the Canadian labour market.

Did you know?

  • E-enabling the program: Since 2002, the EI program has made significant strides in moving from a paper based model to an electronic / paperless model that facilitates more timely processing of benefits. Today, 98.5% of all applications are received electronically (through AppliWeb) and 100% of eligible claimants submit their bi-weekly reports electronically (either through the Internet Reporting Service or the Telephone Reporting Service).
  • ROE Web: Did you know that Record of Employment on the Web (ROE Web) was first introduced in September 2000 as a pilot project to allow employers to submit ROEs in an electronic format instead of paper? In 2004, ROE Web was made available to all employers. Since then a series of enhancements have been implemented to improve the solution. To date, more than 45 million ROEs have been submitted by employers in an electronic format. The electronic submission of ROEs ensures the highest level of data completion and accuracy, and allows Service Canada to pay citizens in a more timely manner.

EI Part I benefits are delivered by Employment and Social Development Canada (through Service Canada) directly to EI claimants, while most of Part II is delivered by the provinces and territories via Labour Market Development Agreements funded by the Government of Canada. Eligible clients receiving temporary income support delivered under EI Part I can also access Employment Benefits and Support Measures available under EI Part II.

Upon completion of the online EI Part I application, clients are invited to visit the corresponding provincial/territorial web site for additional information about employment supports available in their jurisdiction. Each province and territory provides online employment services, which include the contact information for local services (see section 2.3 above for more information about provincial and territorial active labour market programming).

The EI-insured claimant can make an appointment to create a customized return-to-work action plan. This action plan may include Employment Assistance Services (EAS) and the necessary Employment Benefits to build the skills and experience necessary to find employment.

Although, non-insured clients may only access EAS under EI Part II, they can access additional employment programming under other federal-provincial/territorial agreements, such as the Canada Job Fund Agreements established with each province and territory.

When clients visit a Service Canada centre for active employment programming, they are directed to the closest provincial or territorial employment centres and online services.

3.1 Targeting Referral and Feedback

ESDC has developed a "Targeting, Referral and Feedback" (TRF) tool to help provinces and territories identify EI applicants, according to local labour market needs and available EI Part II employment programming.

TRF enables the provinces and territories to actively offer active labour market programming to address known shortages in the labour market, and to engage underrepresented groups or those who would benefit the most from early Part II interventions. Quebec implemented the initial model in 1999 and an automated process in 2006 with the advent of the On-line EI Application (AppliWeb). British Columbia implemented the now nationally available tool in the fall of 2015. Other provinces and territories have expressed an interest in implementing TRF.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: