Chapter 4: Program Administration

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Official title: Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2018 and ending March 31, 2019: Chapter 4: Program administration

In chapter 4

List of abbreviations

This is the complete list of abbreviations for the Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2018 and ending March 31, 2019.

Abbreviations
ASETS
Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy
ATSSC
Administrative Tribunals Support Service of Canada
B/C Ratio
Benefits-to-Contributions ratio
B/U Ratio
Benefits-to-Unemployed ratio
B/UC Ratio
Benefits-to-Unemployed Contributor ratio
BDM
Benefit Delivery Modernization
CANSIM
Canadian Socio-Economic Information Management System
CAWS
Citizen Access Workstation Services
CCAJ
Connecting Canadians with Available Jobs
CCB
Canada Child Benefit
CCDA
Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship
CEIC
Canada Employment Insurance Commission
COLS
Community Outreach and Liaison Service
CSO
Citizen Service Officer
CPI
Consumer Price Index
CPP
Canada Pension Plan
CRA
Canada Revenue Agency
CRF
Consolidated Revenue Fund
CUSMA
Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement
CX
Client Experience
EBSMs
Employment Benefits and Support Measures
ECC
Employment Contact Centre
EF
Enabling Fund
EI
Employment Insurance
EI PAAR
Employment Insurance Payment Accuracy Review
EI PRAR
Employment Insurance Processing Accuracy Review
EICS
Employment Insurance Coverage Survey
eROE
Electronic Record of Employment
ESDC
Employment and Social Development Canada
FLMM
Forum of Labour Market Ministers
FY
Fiscal Year
G7
Group of Seven
GDP
Gross Domestic Product
HCCS
Hosted Contact Centre Solution
HRSDC
Human Resources and Social Development Canada
IQF
Individual Quality Feedback
IVR
Interactive Voice Response
LFS
Labour Force Survey
LMDA
Labour Market Development Agreements
LMI
Labour Market Information
LMP
Labour Market Partnerships
MIE
Maximum Insurable Earnings
MSCA
My Service Canada Account
NAICS
North American Industry Classification System
NAFTA
North American Free Trade Agreement
NAS
National Apprenticeship Survey
NERE
New-Entrant/Re-Entrant
NESI
National Essential Skills Initiative
NIS
National Investigative Services
NOS
National Occupational Standards
NQCP
National Quality and Coaching Program for Call Centres
OAS
Old Age Security
OECD
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
PPEs
Clients who are Premiums Paid Eligible
P/Ts
Provinces and Territories
PPTS
Percentage points
PRP
Premium Reduction Program
QPIP
Quebec Parental Insurance Plan
RAIS
Registered Apprenticeship Information System
ROE
Record of Employment
RSOS
Red Seal Occupational Standards
SA
Social Assistance
SCC
Service Canada Centres
SDP
Service Delivery Partner
SEPH
Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours
SIN
Social Insurance Number
SIR
Social Insurance Registry
SME
Small and medium sized enterprises
SO
Scheduled Outreach
SST
Social Security Tribunal
STDP
Short-term disability plan
SUB
Supplemental Unemployment Benefit
UV
Unemployed-to-job-vacancy ratio
VBW
Variable Best Weeks
VER
Variable Entrance Requirement
WWC
Working While on Claim

4.0 Program delivery

This chapter provides an overview of the delivery of Employment Insurance (EI) services to Canadians during FY1819. It follows the steps of the EI process from a client perspective. It starts with general information gathering and through processing, to the end of the benefit period. It focuses on interactions with both employees and employers along the way. It also outlines avenues of recourse for claimants via the EI Requests for Reconsideration and Appeals process. This chapter outlines Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) role with respect to the Social Security Tribunal (SST). This chapter also touches on the reporting and quality measures used to monitor EI program delivery.

Information note

This chapter refers to both claimants and clients. Claimants include individuals who are submitting or have submitted an EI claim (whether successful or unsuccessful) as well as those currently receiving benefits. Clients include claimants, employers and other interested parties.

In addition, in the EI program, the fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31. This chapter uses "FY" with the last 2 digits of the specific year to indicate the fiscal year. For example, “FY1819" refers to the period starting on April 1, 2018 and ending on March 31, 2019.

This chapter uses “Budget” to refer to the Canadian federal budget. For example, Budget 2018 refers to FY1819.

The Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC) has 4 members representing the interests of government, workers and employers. The CEIC has a legislated mandate to monitor and assess the EI program. It has delegated EI administration and day-to day operational responsibilities to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Service Canada, which is part of ESDC. The CEIC retains a key role in overseeing the EI program, including reviewing and approving policies related to administration and delivery. For more information about the CEIC, see The Canada Employment Insurance Commission.

4.1 Introduction and context of Employment Insurance service delivery

In this section

Eligible workers count on EI benefits when their income is interrupted. Service Canada delivers the EI program for ESDC. There are different types of EI benefits:

  • regular and fishing benefits support workers while they look for a job or upgrade their skills
  • sickness, maternity, parental, and caregiving benefits support workers when they take time off due to life events
  • work-sharing benefits support workers when they work part-time due to a reduction of their employer’s level of business activity

Claimants and employers can interact with Service Canada through 3 channels: on the phone, online, or in person. The processing and payment of EI benefits occurs through a service delivery network. This network is made up of processing sites and EI specialized call centres located across the country. It addresses seasonal fluctuations in workload while adjusting to unexpected spikes due to economic conditions or major disruptions such as natural disasters.

For FY1819, no major incidents or events affected the EI operating context. Similar to the previous year, Service Canada focused on improving services to Canadians. Through small measures and large ones, Service Canada started, continued, or completed projects that resulted in tangible improvements to EI clients (see highlights).

Delivering improved services to Canadians did not happen without obstacles. The section below describes some of the challenges Service Canada faced in FY1819.

Service standards

ESDC aims to provide high quality and timely services to EI clients. In support of this goal, the Department is committed to meeting 4 service standards. ESDC publicly reports its service standard results each year.

Payment of Employment Insurance benefits

  • Our standard: For EI benefit payments or non-benefit notifications to be issued within 28 calendar days of filing
  • Our target: ESDC aims to meet this standard 80% of the time
  • Our performance in FY1819: ESDC met this standard 80.0% of the time

Accuracy of Employment Insurance payments

  • Our standard: For EI payments to be accurate
  • Our target: ESDC aims to meet an annual accuracy rate of 95%
  • Our performance in FY1819: ESDC met this standard 96.6% of the time

Access to an Employment Insurance call centre agent

  • Our standard: For EI calls to be answered by an agent within 10 minutes
  • Our target: ESDC aims to meet this standard 80% of the time
  • Our performance in FY1819: ESDC met this standard 67% of the time

Employment Insurance requests for reconsideration

  • Our standard: For EI request for reconsideration decisions to be finalized within 30 days of the request being received
  • Our target: ESDC aims to meet this standard 70% of the time
  • Our performance in FY1819: ESDC met this standard 70.8% of the time

The Department met most of the service standards. However, EI clients’ satisfaction with their service experience dropped from 83% in FY1718 to 80% in FY1819.

The Client Experience survey for FY1819 (see Section 4.7) showed that several elements impact clients’ overall satisfaction. Of these, the length of time it takes to get a decision has the strongest impact on overall satisfaction.

The graph below shows the association between the length of the client journey and overall satisfaction among EI claimants.

Chart 1: EI satisfaction by client journey duration
Chart 1: EI satisfaction by client journey - Text description follows
Chart 1 – Text version
Duration / days One day Between one day to 2 weeks Between 2 to 4 weeks Between 4 to 6 weeks Between 6 to 8 weeks More than 8 weeks
Satisfaction per client duration category 89% 92% 85% 73% 62% 41%
  • Source: ESDC Client Experience Survey FY1819

This drop in satisfaction points to the importance of timely processing of claims, including when inventories are higher.

EI call centres have both technology and capacity constraints that prevent them from achieving the target to answer 80% of calls within 10 minutes. They have received funding from Budget 2018 over 3 years, starting in FY1819. The funding is intended to achieve a target of 70% of calls answered within 10 minutes, with an accessibility of 70%. In FY1920, the Department is preparing to migrate the EI call centres to a new telephone platform. This migration is expected to address the technology constraint. EI call centres answered 67% of calls in 10 minutes with an accessibility of 66%. Factors impacting this result included systems outages due to aging technology and increased call volume.

It is important to note that call centres supported EI Processing by dedicating a small number of agents to processing activities. This enabled the Department to meet its Speed of Payment target in FY1819. This initiative did not negatively impact Call Centre Service Level results.

4.2. Information and tools for Employment Insurance

In this section

Canadians have access to information regarding EI benefits through multiple channels: on-line, by telephone and in person. This ensures that they access the information they need, when they need it, using their preferred method. Canadians also use these channels to complete transactions about their EI claim or to interact with Service Canada.

This section provides an in-depth analysis of the management of these channels. Chapter 2 of the EI Monitoring and Assessment Report outlines the various EI benefits available.

4.2.1 Online

Information

Canada.ca

EI information is available on Canada.ca, the main website of the Government of Canada. Clients use Canada.ca and ESDC’s secure applications to access information and make online transactions. EI tasks are among the most popular services used on Canada.ca. This reporting year, Canadians viewed EI pages 77 million times.

Similar to previous years, EI pages that clients viewed most were:

  • internet reporting service (for biweekly reporting) – 24.0%
  • Employment Insurance benefits landing page – 17.0%
  • access Record of Employment on the Web (ROE Web) – 8.0%
  • EI Regular Benefits – Overview – 6.0%
  • EI Regular Benefits – Apply – 4.6%
  • Contact for EI Individuals – 3.8%
  • EI Regular Benefits – Eligibility – 2.9%
  • EI Regular Benefits – Eligibility – How much could you receive – 1.9%
  • EI Sickness Benefit – Overview – 2.1%
  • Applying for Employment Insurance benefits online – 1.5%

In FY1819, the Department’s goal was to improve the overall web experience for EI clients. The Department simplified language on the EI pages. It also reorganized content to make information easier to find. This is demonstrated on the following benefits Web pages.

Caregiving Benefits

EI Caregiving Benefits support claimants caring for a family member who is critically ill, injured or needing end-of-life care.

There are 3 types of EI Caregiving benefits: Family Caregiver Benefits for Children, Family Caregiver Benefits for Adults, and Compassionate Care Benefits.

ESDC updated the EI Caregiving web pages in December 2017. However, testing showed that it was still difficult for clients to find and understand information.

As such, ESDC published a second round of improvements in August 2018. These included:

  • combining information for all 3 types of Caregiving benefits on one web page to make it easier to compare different options
  • simplifying content by removing repetitive text and using plain language
  • revising the page layout to ease navigation

Following these changes, testing showed that 84% of users were able to find the information they needed, compared to 59% before. As well, 79% of users showed that they were able to understand the information, compared to 51% before.

Maternity and parental benefits

In FY1819, ESDC also updated the EI maternity and parental benefits web pages. ESDC simplified the content and made information easier to find. The new pages also feature infographics and a more consistent look and feel.

Following these changes, testing showed that 90% of users were able to find the information they needed, as compared to 48% before. As well, 78% of users understood the information presented, compared to 28% before.

In addition, the pages include an interactive calculator (see Maternity and Parental Benefits Estimator) to assist claimants in estimating benefits.

ESDC is also working on updating the web pages for EI Sickness and EI Self-Employed. The pages will be published in 2020.

These changes will continue to be guided, over the coming years, by user testing, web analytics and ESDC’s annual Client Experience Survey.

Services

AppliWeb

AppliWeb is the online tool EI claimants use to submit applications on the internet. Claimants can access AppliWeb from anywhere there is internet access, including in Service Canada Centres. AppliWeb is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

AppliWeb is the method preferred by claimants to apply for EI benefits. In FY1819, 98.9% of EI applications were submitted online.

The FY1819 Client Experience Survey data shows that 85% of EI claimants found that completing steps online made the process easier. In FY1718, this stood at 82%. More than 7 out of 10 (72%) EI claimants applied online without visiting a Service Canada Centre. The majority of them (60%) did not require any assistance by phone.

My Service Canada Account

My Service Canada Account (MSCA) is an online service that Canadians can access through Canada.ca. This allows Canadians to interact with Service Canada from anywhere there is internet access.

MSCA has features and functionalities that enable EI claimants to take advantage of self-serve options. 24 hours a day, 7days a week, claimants can:

  • manage their accounts
  • check the status of their applications and transactions
  • receive information from Service Canada on changes to their account

As a result, the MSCA portal contributes to more accessible, accurate and timely services for Canadians.

Each month, approximately 400,000 users log into MSCA to access EI services such as:

  • viewing application status, payment information, current and past claims
  • signing up for email notifications (Alert Me)
  • viewing and printing tax slips (T4E)
  • viewing Records of Employment (ROEs) employers have submitted electronically
  • signing up for direct deposit
  • viewing and changing personal information (mailing address, direct deposit and/or telephone number)
  • registering for EI benefits for self-employed or cancel current agreement
  • visiting the Canada Revenue Agency portal (My Account for Individuals) within the same secure session

The EI services on MSCA are promoted through Canada.ca, on AppliWeb and in communications sent to claimants. In FY1819, the vast majority of EI claimants (79%) said they registered for MSCA. An average of 38% of EI claimants used MSCA, an increase of 2.8% compared to FY1718. EI claimants primarily used MSCA to view their payment information (58%), view their last claim status (52%) and access their Record of Employment (31%). The Department is looking at ways to improve the promotion of MSCA.

From the Client Experience Survey, EI claimants generally rated MSCA well:

  • three-quarters of respondants (76%) found it simple and easy to use
  • more than 8 out of 10 (82%) users used the MSCA to check the status of their application
  • two-thirds of the users (65%) received the information they needed from MSCA without having to call a specialized call centre for more information

During FY1819, 7,951 surveyed MSCA users indicated they had attempted an EI-related task. Overall, 76% of respondents indicated being able to complete their task during the session.

Service Canada continues to build upon clients' feedback to improve the overall client experience for conducting on-line transactions.

The following chart indicates the number of EI claimants who accessed the MSCA (in percentage) for the period between FY1314 and FY1819.

Chart 2: Percentage of EI Claimants who Accessed MSCA between FY1314 and FY1819
Chart 2: Percentage of EI Claimants who Accessed MSCA between FY1314 and FY1819 - Text description follows
Chart 2 – Text version
Region FY1314 FY1415 FY1516 FY1617 FY1718 FY1819
Atlantic n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Quebec n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Ontario n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Western n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
National 27.8% 31.4% 36.2% 36.8% 35.2% 38.0%
  • Source: My Service Canada Account administrative data.
Electronic reporting

To receive their payments, claimants for most types of EI benefits must complete EI reports every 2 weeks. Claimants answer a series of questions that help determine on a weekly basis whether they continue to be eligible for the type of EI benefits they are claiming. To do so, they may use the telephone or the internet reporting service. Both services are simple, fast, convenient and secure. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In FY1819, the internet service remained the preferred reporting method for claimants. It experienced an increase in usage from 77.9% in FY1718 to 79.1% in FY1819.

The internet service also allows claimants to submit details about their availability for work. This information is immediately transferred to EI systems.

Maternity and parental benefits estimator

In March 2019, ESDC launched online an estimator to better support clients in planning for their maternity and parental leave. The estimator is convenient, easy to use and provides the client with information tailored to their situation.

When claimants apply for EI parental benefits, they must choose from 2 options: regular or extended parental benefits. The option they choose cannot be changed once the payments start. Thus, it is very important that claimants clearly understand the financial impacts of each option before they apply.

Research had shown that claimants did not understand the impact that their choice of parental benefits would have on their payments. For example, when claimants choose the extended parental benefits option, they receive more weeks of benefits but lower payments than the standard option. In response, ESDC created the estimator. It allows claimants to compare scenarios to determine which option is better for their situation.

Mobile apps

Job Bank is the Government of Canada official web site to look for jobs. In February 2018, ESDC launched its Job Bank Mobile Application. EI claimants can search for jobs through their mobile device everywhere they are.

Job Bank highlights as of March 2019

Job Bank mobile application

ESDC’s Job Bank mobile application offers the following elements:

  • notifications: users can receive an alert on their device about saved searches and favourite job postings
  • sharing: users can instantly share jobs with other apps (for example, social media, email)
  • location (GPS): users can search jobs nearby based on the GPS location of their device
Job alert
  • Number of new subscribers: 441,529
  • Number of Job Alerts sent: 217,687,945

EI claimants can download the mobile app, which is one of the various job-searching tools Job Bank provides. Preliminary work is underway to synchronize the Job Bank website and mobile app. This would mean that auto-enrolled EI claimants could potentially receive their Job Alerts on their mobile devices.

The app was installed 168,000 times since its launch.

4.2.2 By telephone (call)

EI clients frequently contact 1 800 O-Canada for general enquiries related to EI. For more complex and client-specific enquiries, EI clients have the choice of calling the EI specialized call centre or logging into their MSCA.

Highlights

Between April 2018 and March 2019:

  • 1 800 O-Canada agents answered approximately 1.6 million calls, including 382,818 calls for EI
  • EI call centre agents answered over 4.6 million calls
  • Employer Contact Centre agents answered 411,666 calls

1 800 O-Canada

1 800 O-Canada supports Government of Canada communication activities, both in regular times and in crises. It often serves as the first point of contact for callers regarding Government of Canada programs and services, including Employment Insurance.

The 1 800 O-Canada line is available Monday to Friday in more than 60 countries, with service in both official languages. In Canada, the service is available from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in each time zone. Callers outside of Canada can reach someone from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Canadians can expect to be served within 18 seconds (or within 3 rings), 80% of the time. During FY1819, 1 800 O-Canada answered 78% of calls within 18 seconds. 1.58 million individuals called 1 800 O-Canada agents. This is a 4.8% decrease compared to the previous reporting year. 1 800 O-Canada agents answered 2.03 million enquiries (more than one enquiry may be asked per call). This included 401,922 EI specific enquiries, an increase of 4.5% from the previous year.

1 800 O-Canada can provide general information on EI programs and how to access them, including:

  • an overview of the benefits and eligibility criteria
  • application process and forms
  • general information on payment dates (not applicable for the EI benefits as payment information is case specific)
  • direct deposit information
  • referral of contacts to specific programs, including the pertinent EI web pages and links necessary to complete their service delivery journey

1 800 O-Canada agents advise clients with case-specific enquiries to use MSCA or to contact the EI specialized call centre or Employer Contact Centre as required.

Most EI-related enquiries require a referral to the EI specialized call centres or to the program’s website for more detailed, complex and client-specific information. During this reporting period, 79% of clients asking EI-related questions were referred to the program.

Employment Insurance specialized call centres

Clients sometimes have questions or require action that cannot be resolved by the general information on the website or by calling 1 800 O-Canada. The EI specialized call centres are available to respond to these case-specific enquiries. This section describes the service delivered by these specialized call centres.

The EI specialized call centre network is made up of 10 call centres. It is the main contact point for EI clients. Calls are distributed across the network based on availability of resources, regardless of from where in the country they are coming. Calls are triaged depending on the issue and level of complexity of the enquiry.

EI specialized call centres agents respond to enquiries about the application process for EI, eligibility for EI benefits, and enquiries specific to claimants’ EI files. They resolve enquiries by:

  • providing claim-specific information
  • performing transactions (for example, changing an address or direct deposit information)
  • adjudicating a wide variety of contentious and non-contentious issues (such as, claim calculation, reason for separation)

Call centres are equipped with an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. The IVR allows clients to self-serve for the majority of enquiries. These include application status, payment details and completion of bi-weekly declarations. The total EI call volume reached almost 24.7 million calls in FY1819, a reduction of approximately 0.8 million calls from the previous year. Almost 64% of the calls for the current reporting year (15.9 million) were resolved in the IVR without the need to speak to an agent. This is relatively consistent with the previous year (65%).

Specialized agents are available to help and guide clients through issues that clients do not resolve by self-service. For this reporting year, the top 5 main reasons clients requested agent assisted services were:

  1. enquiries regarding the status of a claim/decision (includes claims/decisions within or not the timeframes, as well as Initial, revised, renewals)
  2. enquiries about entitlement conditions for EI benefits, unrelated to a claim
  3. claimants declaring a condition that affects their availability
  4. guidance on how to file their application
  5. claimants requesting the status of their payment

Recent investments from Budgets 2016 and 2018 have increased the number of agents available to answer clients’ calls by more than 40%, compared to pre-Budget 2016.

Increased call centre staffing has in turn increased the volume of calls being answered. This year, call centre agents answered 40,552 more calls than the previous year, for a total of 4.6 million calls. This is 1.2 million more calls than were answered in FY1516. Thus, many more Canadians are able access the information and support they need, when compared to 3 years ago.

Agent accessibility is an important performance indicator for call centres. It represents the percentage of call attemptsFootnote 1 that are successfully placed in queue to wait to speak to an agent. Based on the investment of Budget 2018, EI call centres established a target to achieve 70% accessibility for FY1819. While this target was not achieved, clients did experience a significant improvement in their ability to access the call centre when compared to the previous year. Agent accessibility increased to 65.5% this reporting year, compared to 61.4% in FY1718. Of note, the EI call centre Interactive Voice Response (IVR) was nearly 100% accessible, consistent with recent years.

While more clients were able to connect to EI call centre agents, the current telephone system cannot be modified to accommodate the total volume of calls from clients wishing to speak to agents during peak times. It limits the number of clients that can access the queue to wait to speak to an agent. To enable all callers wishing to speak to an agent access to the queue, the aging telephone system must be replaced with a modern telephone system. Work has already begun to replace the call centre platform. This is anticipated to be implemented in FY1920 and will resolve the technological limitationsFootnote 2. Additionally, in consideration of its funding level, EI call centres may sometimes be required to limit access to an agent to avoid excessive wait times or possible end-of-day disconnections.

In FY1819, more clients were able to reach a call centre agent, continuing the trend from previous years: the number of calls limited from accessing an agent was reduced by 0.4 million from the previous year, to a total of 3.2 million.

While clients were better able to access an EI call centre agent, they did have to wait an average of 1.3 minutes longer for the call to be answered. It is important to note that even accounting for the increased wait time this year, clients on average waited 6 minutes less to speak to an agent than they did in FY1516. This means that they are waiting almost half as long to speak to an agent as they did before the Budget investments.

The published service level target for the EI specialized call centres is to answer 80% of calls within 10 minutes (once a caller is in the queue to speak to an agent). However, the Budget 2018 commitment was to improve service level to 70% of calls answered in 10 minutes. While this target was not achieved, EI call centres did continue to exceed the previous year’s target (65%) by achieving a 67% service level.

There was an increase in the rate of callers who chose to hang-up, rather than wait to speak to an agent (see Table 1). More than 90% of these callers chose to hang-up before Service Canada’s published service level target of 10 minutes had passed.

Table 1: Client attempts to contact a call centre agent
Fiscal Year FY1617 FY1718 FY1819
Call answered by an agent 3,961,890 4,607,964 4,648,516
Calls for which a client could not access an agent 6,870,008 3,597,707 3,189,609
Abandoned calls 1,086,340 691,907 979,761
  • Source: Employment and Social Development Canada.

The migration to a modernized telephone system is described in the Call Centre Improvement Strategy section (see Section 4.5.2). Once this migration is complete, Service Canada will review and adjust how it manages incoming calls to improve access to call centre services.

Once a client is connected to a call centre agent, the majority of clients' telephone enquiries are resolved at the call centre. Requests that are not well suited to be handled efficiently within a call centre environment are sent to the processing area for appropriate follow-up.

Specialized call centres track the volume of calls resolved at first point of contact. The call is considered resolved if the agent was able to address the client’s enquiry during the telephone interaction. Of note, it does not measure client satisfaction and is an internal organizational performance indicator. During this reporting year, the percentage of calls that were resolved by a call centre agent with no additional follow-up required increased by 0.8% to 81.5%.

EI call centres continue to demonstrate improved accessibility. This helps ensure that Canadians calling for assistance are able to more easily access and get assistance in a timely manner. Thus, it aids in ensuring they receive the benefits to which they are entitled.

Employer Contact Centre

Another critical component of the specialized call centre network is the Employer Contact Centre (ECC). Launched in June 2011, the ECC provides enhanced services to employers through an accessible, national, single point of contact. The ECC network consists of 3 call centres.

Employers contact the ECC to obtain information and assistance on a variety of service offerings. In FY1819, the following are the top 5 reasons employers called the ECC to speak to an agent for assistance:

  1. to order paper ROE forms
  2. to enquire about ROE Web registration and login
  3. to enquire about the status of an application for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
  4. to receive guidance about block specific information on ROEs
  5. to receive guidance on how and when to issue an ROE

The total number of calls made by clients to the ECC in FY1819 was 587,608 calls. This is an increase from 559,079 calls the previous year. This volume includes:

  • calls answered by ECC agents
  • calls for which the client needs were resolved by the self-serve option
  • calls for which the caller chose to abandon while waiting to speak to an agent
  • calls limited from accessing an agent

ECC agents answered 411,666 calls in FY1819, compared with 479,070 calls in FY1718.

On October 29, 2018, some informational self-serve options were introduced with the successful migration to a new call centre platform (please see Section 4.5.2). This was a key driver in reducing the calls answered by an agent.

On implementing the new platform, the ECC introduced an IVR system that allows clients to identify if they called the correct service. In FY1819, the percentage of the ECC’s total call volume that agents had to refer to other programs or Departments decreased significantly to 11.4% due to the addition of the IVR. This is down from 16.1% the previous year.

In the current reporting year, 93.8% of clients accessed an agent, 3.1% more than the previous year. Calls for which a client could not access an agent decreased to 30,583. This is a reduction of over 21,430 calls from the previous year. Of note, following the implementation of the new technology platform, the ECC has been able to achieve 100% agent accessibility.

The platform’s ability to allow more callers to speak to an agent increased the length of time it took to speak to an agent by just under 3 minutes. The ECC has the same service level target as the EI specialized call centres, which is to answer 80% of calls within 10 minutes. The ECC significantly exceeded its target by answering 86.8% of calls within 10 minutes, even with a reduction of 9.9% from the previous year. The number of clients who chose to hang up also increased to 51,747. This is an increase of 23,751 calls from the previous year.

Quality of call centre service delivery

Specialized EI and ECC call centres are committed to ensuring that clients receive consistent high quality service. Agents are supported in delivering on this commitment from the time they are hired, beginning with an extensive training program.

The initial training for call centre agents varies by program. EI call centre agents receive 10 weeks of onboarding training, whereas ECC agents receive a minimum of 7 weeks. The training takes various forms, including computer-based learning, classroom instruction, practical exercises, and reading materials. The training is followed by a post-training monitoring program to ensure that agents are supported as they begin to answer calls. Even once agents begin to work more independently, ongoing support is available through a dedicated agent assist telephone line. With this telephone line, agents can obtain advice and guidance from experts.

Call centre agents receive additional training when changes to programs or systems are introduced. They also have weekly time scheduled to review procedures and new information that doesn’t require formal training. This allows them to keep their skills and knowledge current. Call centre agents also have regular team meetings where technical information and strategies for handling calls can be discussed.

Beyond supporting agents through training, ESDC ensures the delivery of high quality service to clients through its National Quality and Coaching Program for Call Centres.

Through this program, agent calls are monitored on an ongoing basis and regular feedback is provided to ensure that agents provide accurate and complete information. Feedback may include coaching and the development of training plans tailored to individual needs. Additional monitoring can then be done as part of these plans to ensure continued performance improvements. National sessions are held on a regular basis to ensure that monitoring criteria are being applied the same way across all call centres.

Calls to the specialized call centres are evaluated in terms of specific elements of the call. These elements include the greeting, the authentication of the client, the resolution of the client's need, and the closing. Each element is categorized as meeting, partially meeting, or not meeting quality expectations. Of note, when an element is categorized as partially meeting expectations, the agent has addressed the fundamental criteria associated with that indicator, and only a need for minor improvement has been identified.

For FY1819, 84.4% of the reviewed EI calls had an overall call score of meeting or partially meeting expectations. For the specific element "Provides Accurate and Complete Information" which is a key indicator of the result achieved for the client, 87.9% of reviewed EI calls met or partially met quality expectations.

For the ECC, 85.6% of calls monitored had an overall call score that was categorized as meeting or partially meeting expectations. 92.1% of reviewed ECC calls met or partially met quality expectations for "Provides Accurate and Complete Information".

This National Quality and Coaching Program complements the Processing Accuracy Review, which assesses the accuracy of transaction processing (see Section 4.6.2). In FY1819, EI call centre agents had a processing accuracy rate of 92.4%, well surpassing the target of 80%.

Clients may also provide comments about the service received through the specialized call centre network. Each call centre agent has an ID number assigned to them. Clients can request this number during any call, and reference it when providing feedback.

4.2.3 In person (visit)

Canadians can also obtain information on ESDC services in-person through in-person points of service.

Points of service

As of March 31, 2019, Canadians were able to access services and information through the service delivery network at 611 in-person points of service across the country:

  • 317 Service Canada Centres (SCC)
  • 247 scheduled outreach (SO) sites
  • 15 Service Delivery Partner (SDP) sites
  • 32 Service Canada Centre- Passport services sites

SCCs are open up to 5 days a week, managed and staffed by Service Canada employees, and offer general information and transactional services. SCCs may be stand-alone or co-located with other organizations.

SO sites are points of service located outside an SCC but offer similar services. Service Canada staff travel to a pre-determined location, typically in rural or remote areas, that are otherwise underserved.

SDP sites are managed and staffed by a partner at the provincial and/or territorial level. They offer general information and referral services for federal government programs and services on behalf of Service Canada.

Service Canada employees in SCCs and SOs help claimants submit applications and complete them online. They also perform other support functions for the EI program, such as authenticating identity, validating supporting documents, and verifying information for completeness. SCCs leverage existing video chat capabilities in select sites to enhance the service experience of Canadians. This allows high volume centres to reduce client wait times by directing them to the next available “virtual agent” in small designated centres that have the capacity to help with select services. Video chat service delivery is increasingly becoming an accepted mode of meeting clients’ service needs.

In addition, since the fall of 2017, Citizen Service Officers (CSOs) in SCCs have been completing 2 EI transactions that were previously forwarded to EI processing centres or to call centres for action. One of these transactions is to extend EI claimants’ sickness benefits when they present a supporting medical certificate from a medical professional. In FY1819, CSOs completed over 36,000 of these transactions, resolving a claimant’s issue at the first point of contact. In addition, in FY1819, CSOs completed over 1,000 EI tax reduction rate updates at SCCs, allowing an immediate update to a claimant’s file.

Service Canada provides services to EI clients in English and French, as per the Official Languages Act. In addition, Telephone Interpretation Services in 81 languages are available in all SCCs and outreach locations.
This fiscal year, the Client Experience Survey indicated that 22% of claimants who applied for EI, went to a Service Canada Centre directly and without first trying to complete the application online (outside of the SCC ).

The main reasons EI claimants chose to apply in person instead of on-line, are because they felt confident that their applications were being handled properly (30%) and that they could get assistance if required, making the process easier (27%).

In FY1819, Service Canada in-person points of service staff completed over 2.4 million service requests related to EI. This represents nearly 31% of all service requests handled. In the SCCs, close to 1.4 million activities related to EI were recorded in the self-help zones on the Citizen Access Workstation Services, (CAWS)Footnote 3 representing more than 31% of all CAWS activities.

The breakdown of the types of In-Person services provided on the EI Program is as follows:

  • follow-up assistance: 49.4%
  • general information: 47.8%
  • assistance with applications: 2.6%
  • processing support: 0.1%

Community Outreach and Liaison Service (COLS)

Community Outreach and Liaison Service (COLS) is the delivery of outreach services on behalf of Service Canada. The COLS program provides expanded reach and scope to support access to programs, services and benefits, with a focus on populations facing heightened barriers.

COLS focuses on building relationships with communities, organizations and partners to develop networks with Service Canada. The intent is to bring those services to clients who otherwise may not have access.

COLS increases awareness and uptake of Service Canada programs and service offerings by providing:

  • EI information at mass layoff sites
  • EI application assistance
  • information for employers
  • Social Insurance Number clinics to help youth apply for their first job
  • other Government of Canada programs and services for citizens and community organizations

COLS is a solution from the Department’s service transformation initiatives (see Section 4.5.1). It provides Service Canada outreach staff with the tools they need in the field to offer full service to clients in remote communities across the country. When offering services outside of SCCs, staff have access to an online COLS toolkit. The toolkit contains the support material necessary to provide service in an outreach environment, including forms, how-to guides, handouts, presentations, and tracking tools.

In times of economic uncertainty (for example, trade disputes), Service Canada may adapt processes and create partnerships with other service providers to meet clients’ needs more effectively. Service Canada makes proactive calls to employers at risk of conducting a layoff to promote other options to mitigate the layoff, if possible. These options include the Work-Sharing or the Work-Force Reduction program. Information sessions for Work-Sharing are conducted for both workers and employers.

EI information sessions are delivered on-site by COLS staff when the Department receives news of a mass layoff.

Staff work with the employer to organize information sessions for employees, in partnership with provincial and territorial governments. The purpose of providing these sessions jointly is to help reduce the stress and worry of being faced with a job loss. They provide participants with important information on:

  • when, how and why they should apply for EI
  • how benefits can affect other monies received as a result of termination (in other words, severance, pay in lieu of notice)
  • other federal programs and services such as the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, the Job Bank, and My Service Canada Account

The provincial or territorial partner provides information on programs and services available to help them find suitable employment. This includes information on re-training, resume writing, job search techniques, and interview skills.

During FY1819, the following EI related information sessions were delivered:

  • 364 sessions to citizens facing layoffs, with a total of 7,202 participants
  • 70 sessions to workers on work sharing, with a total of 1,748 participants
  • 157 sessions to employers, with 278 companies and organizations participating

The number of sessions delivered was 33% lower in this reporting period than the previous fiscal year. These sessions are generally linked to the health of the economy. As such, the decreased number can in some part be attributable to the unemployment rate being at historic lows in FY1819.

Chart 3: EI information sessions to citizens by Service Canada region
Chart 3: EI information sessions to citizens by Service Canada region - Text description follows
Chart 3 – Text version
Region FY1314 FY1415 FY1516 FY1617 FY1718 FY1819
Atlantic 114 119 133 115 106 115
Quebec 425 586 395 277 274 197
Ontario 1,029 632 470 381 440 228
Western 202 282 177 152 217 156
  • Source: Mobile Outreach Tracking Tool (MOTT) Administrative Data.

4.2.4 Channel evolution

Canadians have the choice to access information on the EI program, to apply for benefits or interact with Service Canada using their preferred method: over the phone, online, in-person or by mail. Canadians expectations with respect to ESDC’s service delivery have evolved over time. The Department has strived to meet these expectations by modernizing its services in a cost-effective manner. Service improvement strategies such as Government online (1999), Modernizing Services for Canadians (2004), and Service Strategy (2016) have been put in place with the end-goal of:

  • putting clients first while delivering services
  • increasing online services to clients
  • providing clients with an integrated service offering

All 3 service transformation initiatives put a strong emphasis on expanding online services to EI clients. They also make service more efficient. They ensure EI claimants receive benefits payments faster while costing less to process. Online services are known to enable automated processing. This in turn results in faster payments to claimants.

EI clients have had access to several self-serve options and online services/tools over the last 2 decades:

  • automated telephone reporting service (1999): the automated telephone reporting service allows claimants to submit their EI claimant reports by telephone
  • automated voice response system (1999): the automated voice response system allows clients to get information in the telephone menu, without the need to speak with an agent
  • AppliWeb (2002): AppliWeb allows claimants to apply for EI benefits on the Internet
  • Benefit Finder (2002): the Benefit Finder helps Canadians, including EI clients, to discover benefits and services offered by federal/ provincial/ territorial governments
  • web optimization projects (2002): these projects improve Web sites so that EI clients can find information online more quickly and understand it better
  • My Service Canada Account (2004): My Service Canada Account (MSCA) is a web-based service that allows Canadians to view and update Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security information
  • Record of Employment on the Web (2004): the Record of Employment (ROE) on the Web is a web-based tool for submitting ROEs electronically to Service Canada. This tool is an important part of EI automation, as it helps speed up benefit payments for EI claimants
  • Internet reporting service (2004): the internet reporting system allows EI claimants to complete their reports over the Internet. It offers claimants an interactive experience and the advantage to complete reports at their own pace
  • Alert Me service (2017): Alert Me is an optional notification service that sends an email to alert clients when important new EI claim information is available in their MSCA
  • Job Bank mobile app (2018): the application helps Canadians search for jobs through their mobile device
  • EI Maternity and Parental Benefits estimator (2019): the estimator helps to better support clients in planning for their maternity and parental leave. Claimants can compare scenarios to determine which option is better for their situation

These services and tools have been undergoing continuous improvements to include additional features. These features permit EI clients to complete more transactions through automated systems over the telephone or online. For example, this fiscal year, for the first time, employers could submit a ROE for the fishing industry online.

There have been 3 significant waves of initiatives related to improvements to EI specialized call centres and developments in the delivery of telephone service. These waves followed a 5 year cycle on average.

The first wave took place from FY0405 to FY0910. At that time, the focus was to harmonize service delivery among EI call centres. Prior to this time, call centres in different regions were managed separately. In 2004, EI call centres were networked across the country. In so doing, a client could receive service from an available agent anywhere in Canada, regardless of the region from which the caller placed their call. Key changes to support this evolution include:

  • the launch of the Common Reference Tool. This is a standardized set of procedures for all EI call centre agents to ensure consistency of how a client’s call would be handled, regardless of which agent answers the call (2005)
  • the introduction of the National Quality Assurance Program in call centres to ensure consistent quality service to clients (2008). This program was then refined in 2010 based on 2 years of lessons learned

The second wave of call centre evolution took place from FY1011 to FY1516. It focused on call centre modernization. This period sought to align call centres to best practices in the private sector. Notable milestones during this period include:

  • expansion of first contact resolution to include calculation of specific claim cases in real time during a telephone call (2010)
  • the launch of the Employer Contact Centre to enhance service for employers by delivering employer service offerings through an accessible, national, single point of contact (2011)
  • wait time in the queue messaging so callers would know how long before they would be able to speak to an agent (2012)
  • various internal operational improvements allowing for more efficient agent training, scheduling and support (2013 to 2014)

Currently, the EI call centre network is in the third wave of its evolution. It began in FY1617 with the launch of the Call Centre Improvement Strategy. For more information on this strategy, please see Section 4.5.2 Call Centre Improvement Strategy, of this report.

1 800 O-Canada’s mandate has remained largely unchanged in the last 10 years. It continues to provide general information about the Government of Canada’s programs including EI. It also adopted some enhancements through its ongoing efforts to improve service delivery. This includes being able to email contacts on demand and proactively promoting self-serve options, where these are available. The service provides primary and alternate service delivery contacts based on the type of transaction the caller needs to perform within a program.

The in-person channel has also gone through some changes to improve services for EI clients. The capacity of Client Service Officers (CSOs) to resolve issues at first point of contact has increased. Since 2017, EI clients can be assisted by CSOs who are trained to complete specific transactions on their claims in Service Canada Centres (see Section 4.2.3). Also, EI clients living in rural and remote communities where access to Government of Canada services can be challenging can now benefit from the same level of service provided to the rest of the Canadian population through the Community Outreach and Liaison Service.

The promotion of online services/tools has changed the way EI clients obtain information about the program, apply for benefits, or deal with Service Canada.

Overall, the use of the Internet has become more and more popular with EI claimants. In contrast, the use of the mail channel has been experiencing a critical decline. There has been a significant increase in the use of the online channel to apply for EI. Following its launch in 2002, only 17% of EI claimants used AppliWeb. In FY1819, there were 98.9% claimants that used AppliWeb. The use of AppliWeb has been over 95% these past 10 years.

In terms of biweekly reporting, the use of the mail channel has considerably decreased. For FY1819, 100% of eligible claimants used the phone or the internet to complete their reports. Moreover, for FY1819, 79.1% of the reports were completed using the internet reporting service.

It should be noted, however, that the Internet channel is not accessible to all segments of the Canadian population. For example:

  • elderly
  • aboriginal people
  • people in rural and remote communities

The online self-services expansion has not reduced the call volumes in EI specialized call centres. However, the nature of the calls received has changed. For example, EI specialized call centres answer calls that they did not formerly receive: how to access MSCA or how to file an electronic claimant’s report. Further, when clients make an enquiry about a subject, they may have already consulted a self-service channel. As such, they may be enquiring about some of the information obtained in that manner.

4.3 Application intake and claim processing

In this section

4.3.1 Employer intake

Service Canada works with employers to ensure that the EI program is administered fairly and efficiently. To support employers, the Department offers guidance through the Employer Contact Centre and on Canada.ca.

Employers play an important role in EI claim processing by issuing Records of Employment (ROEs).

Record of Employment

The ROE is a paper or electronic form issued by an employer to provide information about a claimant’s work history. Service Canada uses the ROE to determine if a claimant is eligible to receive EI benefits, the benefit rate and the claim duration. Over 10.6 million ROEs were issued in FY1819.

ESDC actively encourages employers to use electronic ROEs (eROEs) to save time, reduce paper burden and improve the accuracy of information. eROEs are submitted electronically to Service Canada and are instantly available to EI systems. The use of eROEs reduces the time required for the Department to obtain information, resulting in quicker claims processing.

In November 2018, the ROE Web Application was updated to include fishing eROEs. Before this update, employers from the fishing industry could only issue paper ROEs.

The Department continues to reach out to employers identified as large paper ROE users, and to register employers for eROE when they call to order paper ROE forms. These efforts resulted in a 1.9 % increase in eROE submissions this year, from 90.4% (FY1718) to 92.3% (FY1819).

4.3.2 Claimant application intake

Claimants use the online form AppliWeb to apply for EI benefits. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Claimants can access AppliWeb at Service Canada Centres across the country.

In August 2018, ESDC updated the EI application to reflect the government’s commitment to promoting and protecting diversity and the rights and freedoms of all Canadians. The EI application now offers a non-binary gender “X” option. This new option improves self-identification for clients who do not identify as male or female. From August 26, 2018 to March 31, 2019, Service Canada received 1087 EI applications using the gender “X” option.

Claim volumes

In FY1819, 2,802,814 initial and renewal claims were received. In this reporting period, there was a 0.6% increase (15,985 claims) in claim intake compared to FY1718. The majority of this increase (8,336 claims) was in Western Canada and the Territories.

4.3.3 Claims processing

EI claims are processed by a national network of agents who triage, assess and adjudicate EI applications, with support from EI processing systems. These systems enable automated EI claim processing and workload management. In FY1819, 72.6% of EI claims were processed using partial or full automation.

Speed of payment

Speed of Payment is one of 4 EI service standards. It refers to how fast a payment or a non-payment notification is issued to an EI claimant.

Service Canada’s target for this service standard is to finalize 80% of claims within 28 days from the date on which the EI application is received. In FY1819, Service Canada met this standard for 80.0% of claims. In FY1819, as in FY1718, the average time for eligible claimants to receive a first payment was within 19 days of filing.

ESDC makes every effort to meet this service standard for each EI claim. However, there will always be situations in which this is not possible. For example, economic factors or events such as mass layoffs and natural disasters may influence the number of claims received and the availability of resources, affecting EI processing times.

In addition, while the majority of EI claims are now processed using partial or full automation, some applications still require manual intervention from agents. This can create delays in the delivery of EI benefits.

Issues requiring manual intervention include:

  • adjudicating issues that require judgement
  • obtaining missing Records of Employment (ROEs)
  • clarifying information with claimants
  • fact-finding with employer

4.4 Recourse

In this section

4.4.1 Employment Insurance request for reconsideration

If claimants or employers disagree with a decision related to an EI claim for benefits, they have the right to request a reconsideration. The formal request for reconsideration provides clients with a review of the decision and the opportunity to submit new or additional information.

The EI service standard is to finalize requests for reconsideration within 30 days of the request being received. Service Canada aims to meet this standard 70% of the time. In FY1819, Service Canada reached its target for 70.8 % of the requests. This is an increase of 3.5 percentage points, from 67.3% in FY1718.

The EI Act allows clients to seek recourse on almost any decision related to a claim for benefits. There are over 50 types of decisions or issues that can be subject to recourse. However, clients most frequently challenge the decision over 10 issues (see chart 4):

Chart 4: Requests for reconsiderations – Most frequent issues
Chart 4: Requests for reconsiderations – Most frequent issues - Text description follows
Chart 4 – Text version
Types of decisions Percentage
Voluntary leaving without just cause 28.5%
Unavailability for work 11.0%
Penalty imposed for providing false or misleading information 8.9%
Not meeting the eligibility requirements to establish a claim 8.8%
Dismissal for misconduct 8.0%
Allocation of earnings 5.7%
Antedate 4.6%
Claim procedure 3.9%
Sickness 3.6%
Earnings-Post Audit 3.1%
Other 13.9%
  • Source: EI administrative data.

The employee who made the initial decision never performs the reconsideration. A different employee considers all information on file and reviews applicable legislation and policies. As a result of the review, the initial decision is either maintained, reversed or adjusted. Once completed, Service Canada informs the client of the outcome of the review.

For FY1819, 52.6% of the initial decisions were reversed or adjusted following review. The most common reasons for reversing or adjusting a decision include identification of errors made by Service Canada, and provision of new or additional information by the client.

Chart 5: Percentage of initial decisions reversed or adjusted following review
Chart 5: Percentage of initial decisions reversed or adjusted following review - Text description follows
Chart 5 – Text version
Fiscal year Percentage
FY1415 45.0%
FY1516 45.9%
FY1617 50.6%
FY1718 49.9%
FY1819 52.6%
  • Source: EI administrative data.

4.4.2 Employment Insurance sickness benefits class action

Prior to 2013, claimants could not switch from parental benefits to sickness benefits unless they could show that they were otherwise available for work. Since March 24, 2013, new rules in the Employment Insurance Act allow parents to switch to sickness benefits if they fall ill or are injured while in receipt of parental benefits. They can then resume collecting the balance of their parental benefits, if needed, following receipt of their sickness benefits.

Mrs. Jennifer McCrea sued the Federal Government of Canada. She alleged that during the period from March 3, 2002 to March 23, 2013, officials with Service Canada and the Canada Employment Insurance Commission were negligent in denying sickness benefits to individuals who were in receipt of parental leave benefits, and were ill, injured, or in quarantine.

In January 2019, the Federal Court approved a settlement agreement to resolve a class action between the federal government and parents who, between 2002 and 2013, applied for EI sickness benefits while in receipt of EI parental benefits and were denied.

Under the settlement, class members will receive an amount equal to what they would have been paid had the legislation permitted the payment at the time. The total settlement amount is estimated at between $8.5 million and $11 million.

4.4.3 Employment Insurance appeals and the Social Security Tribunal of Canada

The Social Security Tribunal of Canada (SST) is an independent administrative tribunal that makes quasi-judicial decisions on appeals related to the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Pension Plan, and the Old Age Security Act. On April 1, 2013, the SST was created to review appeals of decisions from the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC) relating to the Employment Insurance (EI) program, and decisions from the Department of Employment and Social Development Canada (Department) pertaining to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) programs. The SST operates at arm's length from the Department and the CEIC. Its activities are funded by the EI Operating Account, the CPP Operating Account and the Consolidated Revenue Fund for OAS cases. The SST’s mandate is to provide Canadians with the client-centric appeals system they rightly expect through an appeals process that is fast, simple and transparent. There are 3 divisions at the SST:

  • the General Division - Employment Insurance hears appeals of EI reconsideration decisions
  • the General Division - Income Security hears appeals of CPP and OAS reconsideration decisions
  • the Appeal Division hears EI and Income Security appeals, based on restricted grounds, of General Division decisions. Members appointed by the Governor in Council hear those appeals and make decisions

For the purposes of this report, only Employment Insurance appeals to the General Division and the Appeal Division are examined.

SST – General Division, Employment Insurance section

A client has 30 calendar days to appeal to the General Division – EI a reconsideration decision made by the CEIC.

On behalf of the CEIC, Service Canada is responsible for providing the General Division-EI with the reconsideration file. The reconsideration file includes all relevant documents used in making and reviewing the initial decision. When requested, CEIC will also answer any questions or requests for additional information from the SST member and may participate in appeal hearings.

Service standards and performance

CEIC, through Service Canada, must provide the General Division-EI with all relevant documents and its representations on the issue under appeal within 7 days from the time it is notified of an appeal, according to the legislation. For this reporting period, 87% of reconsideration files were sent to the General Division-EI within the 7 days, as opposed to 99% in the previous fiscal year. The drop is likely due to one large group appeal that included 400 appeals. Although the SST granted Service Canada an extension to submit documents, the reporting system does not take approved extensions into consideration.

For the purposes of performance measurement, the SST manages and tracks EI appeals in 2 categories:

  • regular appeals
  • group appeals

A group appeal includes more than one claimant appealing decisions made in the same or a similar matter. For example, when multiple claimants of the same employer lose their jobs under similar circumstances and do not agree with the reconsideration decision, the SST considers the appeals together. Group appeals tend to be more complex and require more time to complete.

The SST has a service standard for cases referred to the General Division – EI: a final decision will be issued within 90 days of parties being ready for a hearing, 85% of the time. This service standard applies to regular (non-group) appeal cases.

At the beginning of FY1819, the service standard was met 13% of the time. However, because of various measures put into place, by the end of FY1819, the SST met that standard 83% of the time. The SST focused on improving how it processes appeals, and the result has been that, overall, it is working faster and it takes less time to handle appeals. In March 2019, it was taking 56 days to conclude a regular EI appeal from an average of 142 days for the entire FY1819, also down from 225 days for FY1718.

In addition, the number of cases that are waiting to be heard has gone down.

Table 2: EI appeals to the SST – General Division
Appeal information Number of files
Appeals in progress April 1, 2018 (includes 208 group appeals) 2,304
Appeals received (includes 567 group appeals) 4,040
Appeals concluded (includes 122 group appeals) 5,022
Appeals in progress at year end (includes 654 group appeals) 1,322
  • Source: EI administrative data.

The SST has published a progress report on its performance in FY1819 titled “Putting Clients First”. Please visit the 2019 Progress report for more statistics pertaining to the Tribunal’s performance and service standard.

Social Security Tribunal review

In FY1718, the SST underwent a review ordered by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. The review was in response to a series of reports that found that the appeals process took too long, particularly for EI claimants. The review examined the overall recourse process between 2013 and 2016 to assess its efficiency, fairness and transparency and to identify possible improvements.

The final Report of the SST ReviewFootnote 4, released in January 2018, made several recommendations that prompted the Government to develop a comprehensive action plan that focused on improvements that are important to Canadians and stakeholders: providing a recourse process that is client-centric, faster and simpler.

Improvements made since the review

In FY1819, The SST made a series of operational improvements to make it easier for appellants to prepare their cases with confidence, participate meaningfully in hearings, and better understand their decisions. These include:

  • simplifying the criteria to get an appeal started
  • simplifying forms
  • giving appellants their choice of form of their hearing
  • introducing a virtual videoconferencing option
  • publishing more General Division-EI decisions
  • compiling and publishing on the web site a directory of organisations that can help appellants for free
  • launching the review of all written material (letters, forms and web content) in plain language

For its part, ESDC adjusted the recruitment process for tribunal members by putting more emphasis on client-orientation.

All of these improvements have made the process faster for General Division-EI (excluding groups) from 227 days (at the time of the review) to 56 days (in March 2019). In addition, the number of cases that are waiting to be heard has gone down, from 2,304 at April 1, 2018, to 1,322 at March 31, 2019.

Chart 6: Processing times of Appeals before the SST General and Appeal Division
Chart 6: Processing ties of Appeals before the SST General and Appeal Division - Text description follows
Chart 6 – Text version
Fiscal year General Division-EI Appeal Division-EI
FY1516 154 367
FY1617 183 224
FY1718 225 186
FY1819 142 103
  • Source: EI administrative data.

In March 2019, the Budget announcement confirmed an investment of $253.8 million over 5 years starting in FY1920, with $56.7 million per year ongoing to make the EI, CPP and OAS recourse process easier to navigate and more responsive to Canadians. When it comes to EI, this will involve the replacement of the SST General Division by a new board of appealFootnote 5 that will be made up of members of the community (including employer and labour representatives). This change is expected to take place as of April 1st 2021.

Over the course of the next several years, ESDC and the SST will continue to improve the recourse processes.

The issues most frequently challenged in an appeal to the General Division-EI remain constant from year to year (see Chart 7).

Chart 7: EI issues most frequently appealed to the SST – General Division
Chart 7: EI issues most frequently appealed to the SST- General Division - Text description follows
Chart 7 – Text version
FY/Issue Voluntary leaving Labour dispute* Misconduct Benefit period not established Earnings Availability for work Other
FY1314 20% 0% 13% 7% 20% 6% 38%
FY1415 18% 11% 11% 8% 7% 8% 37%
FY1516 19% 11% 11% 8% 7% 8% 36%
FY1617 27% 0% 13% 8% 12% 6% 34%
FY1718 28% 0% 12% 7% 10% 8% 35%
FY1819 28% 0% 9% 6% 15% 9% 32%
  • Source: EI administrative data.
  • *The chart illustrates the issue of Labour Dispute only in FY1415 and FY1516. In later years, Labour Dispute was no longer among the issues most frequently appealed to the SST – General Division - EI.

Client representation at the SST

At each level of appeal, appellants can choose to either represent themselves or have a representative (formal or informal, such as a friend or family member) before the Tribunal to assist them during the appeal process.

Charts 8 and 9 below include the percentage of clients that had representation before the SST at the General Division and the Appeal Division respectively. From year to year, the percentage of represented clients remains relatively the same if group appeals are excluded.

Charts 10 through 13 indicate that the percentage of allowed appeals based on clients with or without representation for the General Division – EI and the Appeal Division.

Note on charts: Percentage allowed rate is based on merit decisions only. During FY1314, the volume of SST merit decisions for new appeals was minimal due to the start-up of the organization and work being done on legacy appeals. As a result, the allowed rates are extremely close or identical in the early years of operation.

Chart 8: General Division-EI intake – Appeals with representation
Chart 8: General Division EI intake – Appeals with representation - Text description follows
Chart 8 – Text version
General Division-EI Appeals including groups Appeals excluding groups
FY1314 30% 22%
FY1415 35% 24%
FY1516 27% 25%
FY1617 26% 22%
FY1718 25% 21%
FY1819 31% 20%
  • Source: EI administrative data.
Chart 9: Appeal Division - EI intake - Appeals with representation
Chart 9: Appeal Division –EI intake
– Appeals with representation - Text description follows
Chart 9 – Text version
General Division-EI Appeals including groups Appeals excluding groups
FY1314 65% 25%
FY1415 46% 31%
FY1516 67% 30%
FY1617 37% 35%
FY1718 55% 32%
FY1819 34% 27%
  • Source: EI administrative data.
Chart 10: General Division - EI allowed rate - Appeals with representation
Chart 10: General Division- EI allowed rate – Appeals with representation - Text description follows
Chart 10 – Text version
General Division-EI Allowed rate including groups Allowed rate excluding groups
FY1314 40% 40%
FY1415 49% 41%
FY1516 38% 44%
FY1617 53% 47%
FY1718 37% 41%
FY1819 47% 47%
  • Source: EI administrative data.
Chart 11: General Division-EI allowed rate – Appeals without representation
Chart 11: General Division- EI allowed rate – Appeals without representation - Text description follows
Chart 11 – Text version
General Division-EI Allowed rate including groups Allowed rate excluding groups
FY1314 20% 20%
FY1415 21% 22%
FY1516 28% 24%
FY1617 21% 20%
FY1718 21% 21%
FY1819 23% 24%
  • Source: EI administrative data.
Chart 12: Appeal Division-EI allowed rate – Appeals with representation
Chart 12: Appeal Division- EI allowed rate – Appeals with representation - Text description follows
Chart 12 – Text version
Appeal Division-EI Allowed rate including groups Allowed rate excluding groups
FY1314 100% 100%
FY1415 100% 100%
FY1516 66% 72%
FY1617 10% 72%
FY1718 7% 48%
FY1819 34% 40%
  • Source: EI administrative data.
Chart 13: Appeal Division-EI allowed rate – Appeals without representation
Chart 13: Appeal Division- EI allowed rate – Appeals without representation - Text description follows
Chart 13 – Text version
Appeal Division-EI Allowed rate including groups Allowed rate excluding groups
FY1415 91% 93%
FY1516 48% 58%
FY1617 19% 58%
FY1718 35% 41%
FY1819 41% 44%
  • Source: EI administrative data.

Outcomes at the General Division - EI

An appeal to the General Division may be concluded by a withdrawal or a written decision.

Chart 14 below shows the number of SST concluded appeals by possible outcomes:

  • concessions – Service Canada recommends that the Tribunal allows the appeal
  • late appeals denied – the Tribunal refuses the appeal filed beyond the 30-day deadline
  • summary dismissals – the Tribunal decides, based on the information in the file, that the appeal has no reasonable chance of success
  • withdrawn/Other – client either withdraws or abandons the appeal
  • allowed – decision is in the client’s favour
  • denied – decision favourable to the Commission / not in the client’s favour
Chart 14: Outcomes of the 5,022 regular EI appeals before the General Division
Chart 14: Outcomes of the 5,022 regular EI appeals before the General Division - Text description follows
Chart 14 – Text version
Result Number Percentage
Concessions 162 3%
Summary dismissals 96 2%
Dismissed 13 0%
Allowed 1,243 25%
Withdrawn/other 284 6%
Late appeals denied 74 1%
Favorable to the Commission 3,146 63%
Total 5,018 n/a
  • Source: EI administrative data.

SST – Appeal Division

When a party to the appeal—the claimant, the employer or the CEIC—disagrees with the decision made by the General Division - EI, it may dispute this decision before the SST’s Appeal Division.

With the exception of appeals summarily dismissed by the General Division, the first step at the Appeal Division is to file an application for leave to appeal. The Appeal Division will grant leave, or permission, to appeal if there is an arguable case. The grounds of appeal to the Appeal Division are limited to certain errors of fact, law, jurisdiction and natural justice

Service standards and performance

The Appeal Division committed to the following Service Standards for regular appeals:

  • decisions on leave to appeal will be made within 60 days, 85% of the time
  • final decisions will be made within 210 days of the leave to appeal, 85% of the time

The service standards were exceeded in FY1819, with 86% of leave to appeal decisions issued within 60 days and 88% of final decisions issued within 210 days of leave granted. On average in FY1819, it took 27 days from application to a leave to appeal decision and 144 days (or approximately 5 months) from the date the leave to appeal was granted to a final decision.

At the end of FY1819, the Appeal Division’s inventory included 4 group appeals (167 appellants) and 147 regular appeals.

Table 3: EI General Division decisions disputed at the Appeal Division
Applications and Appeals Status Number
Total applications for leave to appeal and appeals received 519
Total applications for leave to appeal and appeals completed 466
Applications for leave to appeal denied 249
Appeals withdrawn, dismissed or concluded for other reasons 139
Appeals allowed (decision favorable to appellant) 78
  • Source: EI administrative data.

Additional information on the Social Security Tribunal

For more information on the SST, please visit the Social Security Tribunal of Canada.

For Tribunal decisions, visit Tribunal and court decisions or the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII).

For the Tribunal’s Progress Report – Putting Clients First, visit the 2019 Progress report.

4.5 Service transformation to improve service delivery

In this section

4.5.1 Service Transformation Plan

In keeping with the government of Canada’s commitment to improve service to Canadians (see Section 4.2.4), ESDC launched an internal Service Strategy to support service improvement in October 2016.

The Service Transformation Plan supports the Service Strategy and provides a roadmap for delivering service improvements to Canadians. The Plan is designed to improve 4 dimensions of client service excellence.

  • experience: clients are provided with a world-class experience delivering benefits whenever they need them with an emphasis on digital self-service
  • quality: clients receive high-quality, accurate services and decisions, no matter where they live and, when possible, have their needs anticipated
  • timeliness: benefits and services are delivered to clients in a timely fashion and clients' issues are resolved at first point of contact
  • access: services, delivered by a well-equipped and knowledgeable workforce, are 100% accessible to clients with digital by choice everywhere

In FY1819, the Department delivered the following for EI clients:

  • launched the Job Bank Mobile Application to help Canadians search jobs at their fingertips (see Section 4.2.1)
  • upgraded the Benefits and Services Finder with the following new features to make it easier for Canadians (including EI claimants) to find out about the benefits they are eligible for:
    • the ability to provide feedback on the tool via email
    • the ability to email the results of a benefit search allowing users to reference their results at a later time or to share them with others
    • improved visibility on Canada.ca so more people can access the tool
  • continued to deliver the Community Outreach and Liaison Service solution to provide EI claimants in remote and rural areas with access to services comparable to what they would receive at Service Canada Centres in urban locations (see Section 4.2.3). The Department tested new ways of doing outreach in places without reliable cell phone or internet connections. The result was improved service for clients (for example, the time needed to issue a Social Insurance Number was cut from 20 minutes to 7 minutes). By increasing the availability of online tools and resources and improving connectivity, this solution makes it easier for Service Canada agents to help EI claimants when they visit rural and remote communities.

The Department continues to work on a long-term project, the Benefits Delivery Modernization (BDM) programme, to fundamentally change how the Department delivers services to Canadians. BDM has a Business component and a Technology component. It is building a more responsive service delivery environment by trying to simplify operational policy and business processes. It is also replacing a suite of systems and tools built over the last 40 to 50 years with a modern, integrated technology solution that is cost-effective and agile. BDM will evolve to meet the service delivery expectations of the future.

BDM is currently in the planning phase. Benefits to EI clients will be reported in future EI Monitoring and Assessment reports as these benefits are identified and developed.

4.5.2 Call Centre Improvement Strategy

As part of its ongoing response to the recommendations of the Service Quality Review, the Department continues to advance its Call Centre Improvement Strategy. This strategy is a transformation initiative that leverages industry best practices and implements ongoing business and technology improvements to increase accessibility and enhance services to clients. The Strategy includes a number of key components such as:

Call Centre Platform: ESDC is in the process of implementing a Hosted Contact Centre Solution (HCCS), a modern and supported technology that will enhance functionalities to support the Department’s future business requirements. On October 29, 2018, HCCS was implemented for the Employer Contact Centre (ECC) network.

With the new system, employers calling the ECC simply enter their business number and use a menu of options to indicate the type of assistance they need. Call centre agents are now able to see this information on their screen and are ready to provide service.

In addition, in its new IVR menu, the ECC has incorporated informational self-service options about ROE issuance and amendment. As the ECC plays a key role in promoting ROE Web to employers, specific promotional messages were incorporated in the new IVR system. Service Canada will continue to monitor call driver trends to see if promotion of electronic services reduces calls for ROE orders.

Furthermore, to reduce non-ECC related calls, a new ECC specific greeting message now advises callers that they have reached the Service Canada’s Employer Contact Centre. Non-employers calling for EI related enquiries are automatically redirected to the EI IVR. Additionally, non-employers calling for enquiries related to other programs or Departments within the Government of Canada are provided with the appropriate contact information. Hence, the volume of calls to be referred to other programs or Departments by ECC agents has decreased significantly.

ESDC continues its preparation work to roll out HCCS to additional call centres, including the EI call centre network.

Accountability Framework: The Accountability Framework is intended to improve service to Canadians by monitoring key performance metrics in 5 areas:

  • financial
  • productivity
  • client satisfaction
  • employee satisfaction
  • quality

It allows Service Canada to identify both successes and areas for improvement, with the goal of taking corrective measures as required to improve the client service experience.

Call Driver Root Cause Analysis: Service Canada reviews why clients contact the call centre on an annual basis, and recommends related service improvements. This year’s recommendations are similar to those from previous years, and focus on implementing a new call centre platform and increasing online self-service options. Work continues on implementing all recommendations. In particular, significant progress has been made in preparing to implement the new call centre platform, which will allow future service delivery enhancements.

Review of New Employee Training: In March 2018, a working group was created to review the New Hires Call Centre Curriculum for EI. This group’s mandate is to identify areas for improvement to training in order to increase the knowledge of call centre agents on the most common types of calls, and reduce the post training learning curve. Improved training will ensure that new agents are better equipped to answer clients’ enquiries. During the current reporting year, this working group revised and updated the training content, and developed a repository of additional training materials (tests, job aids, case scenarios) that facilitators could use to support different learning needs. For FY1920, the working group will support the implementation of these revised materials, and continue its review.

Post Training Transition Strategy: This strategy is intended to facilitate the transition of new employees from in-class learners to independent call centre agents, by optimizing the support for these agents. Improving this transition will enable them to answer clients’ questions more quickly and confidently. The strategy was piloted twice in FY1819, which led to various recommendations, including standardized support roles (for example, the team Leader). Considering this feedback, the strategy will then be revised in FY1920.

4.6 Service quality

In this section

Canadians expect sound stewardship and accountability from the EI program. ESDC has well-established activities, processes, and tools in place to prevent, detect and manage error, fraud and abuse so that the right benefits are paid to the right person, in the right amount. These efforts improve the quality of EI services, strengthen the integrity of ESDC programs and demonstrate effective and prudent stewardship of public resources.

Service Canada's policies, processes and Information Technology systems are designed to ensure that EI contributions are handled appropriately and that claims are handled correctly the first time.

Claimants receive assistance throughout the process of submitting EI applications to avoid unnecessary mistakes and delays. The program provides guidance at the start of the claims process and alerts claimants and employers to missing or incorrect details. For example, the EI Claimants Information Sessions (see Section 4.6.4) proactively provide potential claimants with information about their eligibility and tools to help them find new employment. These sessions guide claimants through the first phases of submitting an EI application. Similarly, Service Canada's Information Technology systems help reduce employer errors by creating automatic alerts when a required field is left blank on the electronic Records of Employment. The Department is actively encouraging the move from paper Records of Employment to electronic Records of Employment to reduce errors.

The Department also has mechanisms in place to ensure that the calculated amounts claimants receive are accurate. These mechanisms include:

  • the Employment Insurance Payment Accuracy Review
  • the Employment Insurance Processing Accuracy Review
  • the Individual Quality Feedback Review
  • the National Quality Coaching Program for Call Centres (see Quality of call centre service delivery)

4.6.1 Employment Insurance Payment Accuracy Review

With the goal to reduce errors, ESDC validates the information provided by the claimant at the start of the claim's process. It is also important to review claims once they are established; the Payment Accuracy Review program ensures that the benefits reviewed are paid accurately while the claimant is in receipt of benefits.

Using a Monetary Unit Sampling methodology, the EI Payment Accuracy Review (EI PAAR) estimates the accuracy of EI benefit payments. The Department reviews a number of files each year to identify undetected errors that result in mispayments.

ESDC has an established target accuracy rate of 95%Footnote 6 in benefit payments per yearFootnote 7. This rate includes claimant, employer and ESDC errors. Together, claimants, employers and the Department have maintained an accuracy rate of approximately 95.0% over the last 15 years. During this reporting period, the overall accuracy rate reached 96.0% (see Table 4). Annual results can be found in the financial audit of the EI account, reported each year in the Public Accounts of Canada by the Office of the Auditor General.

Table 4: EI PAAR: Estimated financial impact of errors and estimated error rate, by source

For accessibility reasons, the table has been simplified. Consult the PDF version for the full table.

Table 4A: EI PAAR: Estimated financial impact of errors and estimated error rate, by source (based on PAAR sample)
Fiscal year FY1718 FY1819
Total benefit payout 18.3B 17.5B
EI Payment Accuracy Rate 96.0% 96.0%
  • Note: Estimated financial impacts are the sum of overpayments and underpayments
  • Source: Employment and Social Development Canada.
Table 4B: EI PAAR: Estimated financial impact of errors and estimated error rate, by source (based on PAAR sample)
Estimated financial impact ($M)
FY1718
Estimated error rate
FY1718
Estimated financial impact ($M)
FY1819
Estimated error rate
FY1819
Errors by source $ 737.9 4.0% $ 693.9 4.0%
Client $ 379.1 2.1% $ 312.0 1.8%
Employer $ 220.7 1.2% $ 233.6 1.3%
ESDC $ 138.1 0.8% $ 148.4 0.9%
  • Note: Estimated financial impacts are the sum of overpayments and underpayments.
  • Source: Employment and Social Development Canada.

This year, the claimant error rate decreased from 2.1% to 1.9% (see Chart 15). Most claimant errors occur after the initial claim is established. For example, 41.8% of the claimant error rate was caused by the claimant not reporting the refusal of a job, quitting a job or being dismissed from a job while in receipt of benefits, while 32.1% of the claimant error rate was caused by claimants incorrectly reporting their earnings while in receipt of benefits. The Department continues to assess claimant errors to understand why they happen, the financial impact and how to avoid them.

Chart 15: 15-Year overview of claimant errors (based on PAAR sample)
Chart 15: 15- Year overview of claimant errors (based on PAAR sample) - Text description follows
Chart 15 – Text version
Fiscal Year FY0405 FY0506 FY0607 FY0708 FY0809 FY0910 FY1011 FY1112 FY1213 FY1314 FY1415 FY1516 FY1617 FY1718 FY1819
Service Canada error rate 2.0% 2.3% 2.8% 2.2% 1.6% 1.1% 1.9% 1.0% 0.9% 0.5% 1.0% 0.8% 1.3% 1.0% 0.9%
  • Note: Results are provided with a level of confidence of 95%.
  • Source: Employment and Social Development Canada.

The employer error rate increased slightly this year, from 1.2% to 1.3%. The most common employer error identified this year is due to incorrectly reported monies paid on separation (46.7% of the employer error rate).

In order to identify employer errors, the Department reviews all ROEs used in the PAAR sample to establish a claim. The percentage of eROEs (vs paper ROEs) reviewed in the PAAR sample continues to increase each year, from 65.1% in FY1314 to 89.9% in FY1819 (see Table 5). ESDC continues to encourage employers to move to eROEs. In addition, the Department is integrating more tools to eliminate possible sources of error during the first steps of information and application submission. ESDC continues to analyze employer errors to understand why these mistakes occur, the financial value, and possible ways to avoid them.

Table 5 - EI PAAR: Validation of ROEs
ROEs validated Count
FY1314
Percentage by ROE type
FY1314
Count
FY1415
Percentage by ROE type
FY1415
Count
FY1516
Percentage by ROE type
FY1516
Count
FY1617
Percentage by ROE type
FY1617
Count
FY1718
Percentage by ROE type
FY1718
Count
FY1819
Percentage by ROE type
FY1819
Number of E-ROEs validated 503 65.1% 589 73.7% 589 76.4% 621 80.6% 694 87.2% 701 89.9%
Number of paper ROEs validated 270 34.9% 214 26.7% 182 23.6% 149 19.4% 102 12.8% 79 10.1%
Total ROEs Validated 773 100.0% 803 100 % 771 100% 770 100% 796 100% 780 100%
Incorrect E-ROEs 37 7.4% 30 5.1% 61 10.4% 46 7.4% 57 8.2% 65 9.3%
Incorrect Paper ROEs 38 14.1% 21 9.8% 38 20.9% 26 17.4% 19 18.6% 8 10.1%
  • Source: Employment and Social Development Canada.
Chart 16: 15-Year overview of Service Canada errors (based on PAAR sample)
Chart 16: 15- Year overview of Service Canada erros (based on PAAR sample) - Text description follows
Chart 16 – Text version
Fiscal Year FY0405 FY0506 FY0607 FY0708 FY0809 FY0910 FY1011 FY1112 FY1213 FY1314 FY1415 FY1516 FY1617 FY1718 FY1819
Service Canada error rate 2.0% 2.3% 2.8% 2.2% 1.6% 1.1% 1.9% 1.0% 0.9% 0.5% 1.0% 0.8% 1.3% 1.0% 0.9%
  • Note: Results are provided with a level of confidence of 95%.
  • Source: Employment and Social Development Canada.

ESDC's efforts to automate processing contributed to maintaining low levels of errors (see Chart 16). Transcription and manual entry errors as well as errors related to additional fact-finding increased this fiscal year; however the Service Canada error rate only increased slightly, from 0.8% to 0.9%. The Department continues to explore opportunities for improvement, including increased automation.

4.6.2 Employment Insurance Processing Accuracy Review

The EI Processing Accuracy Review (PRAR) is a national program that evaluates the aggregate processing health of the EI program. File reviews are completed by Business Expertise Advisors in the regions.

Based on a random sample of 3,076 claims per year (769 per region), EI PRAR results measure the percentage of initial claims deemed to be in order by assessing the degree of conformity to national operational policies and procedures.

Historically, the processing of EI claims took place in the region in which clients reside and as such, EI PRAR accuracy rate were generally reflective of regional processing accuracy rates. However, with the introduction of automated claims processing a number of years ago, EI claims are now divided into smaller components known as work items and these work items can be transferred by the system to be processed anywhere there is capacity in the network. At that time, the PRAR reporting methodology was not updated and as such, results were no longer reflective of regional processing accuracy rates.

Over the last year and in response to feedback received from the regions, the methodology was updated. While it continues to report accuracy rates specific to where clients reside, it now also provides a regional processing accuracy rate by assessing whether the individual work items processed in each region were processed in conformity to national operational policies and procedures.

For example, of the 3076 claims reviewed during the fiscal year, 2,581 (83.91%) claims were deemed to be in order, while 495 claims were found to have one or more errors on file at the time of review. Of those 3,076 claims, 8,838 work items were reviewed and 8,185 (92.61%) were found to be in order (see Table 6).

Table 6: EI PRAR: Annualized processing accuracy results of Employment Insurance claims (based on PRAR sample)
Region Processing accuracy rates of claims reviewed based on where clients reside
Target: 80%
Processing accuracy rates for the work items reviewed based on where work items were processed
Atlantic 92.46% 95.56%
Quebec 84.01% 92.35%
Ontario 79.71% 90.87%
Western Territories 79.45% 91.85%
Canada 83.91% 92.61%
  • Source: Employment and Social Development Canada.

4.6.3 Individual Quality Feedback

The Individual Quality Feedback (IQF) program was initially launched in April 2016 with the intent to bring national standardization to disparate regional individual quality review programs and was designed to complement the Payment Accuracy Review and the Processing Accuracy Review. The IQF review is an internal Service Canada quality check assessing processing accuracy at the individual level. The results of these reviews help identify training or coaching requirements.

As part of departmental continuous improvement efforts and to address concerns raised by staff and management, the program was paused in July 2018 to allow for a comprehensive refresh of the program. Since then, business processes were streamlined, new tools were created and a modern IT system was developed to eliminate cumbersome manual process and increase efficiencies of the reviews. The new IT platform now includes an automated file upload process and random file selection tool, pre-defined error and observation codes, as well as increased reporting and analysis capability.

4.6.4 Administrative reviews and investigations

Integrity activities in ESDC focus primarily on detection activities using a variety of tools and processes to help identify and address error, fraud and abuse. The most significant of these activities are directed towards conducting administrative reviews and investigations.

During the reporting year, close to 324,000 administrative reviews and investigations were conducted into suspected error, fraud and abuse of the EI program. This includes employer investigations, such as missing record of employment (ROE), accuracy of ROEs, and employer non-compliance or misrepresentation. These efforts found that the most common type of unintentional error was made when claimants incorrectly declared their work and earnings, while the most common types of intentional error were when a claimant knowingly failed to declare their work, earnings, or self-employment income; failed to declare periods when unavailable for work; and/or failed to report absences from Canada.

Because of these administrative reviews and investigations, ESDC has saved $496.4 million from the EI Operating Account (see Chart 17)Footnote 8. The savings amount reflects a combination of overpayments, penalties, as well as, the prevention of future ineligible payments. These efforts benefit both employee and employer payers of EI premiums, as the savings reduce the overall cost of the EI program when overpayments are recuperated. ESDC uses several methods to recover funds from EI claimants who have been overpaid. This includes the automatic recovery of monies from active EI benefit claims (either the full amount or an agreed upon partial deduction), voluntary cash payments or the collection of the debt by the Canada Revenue Agency through an agreed upon repayment schedule. When the claimant is capable of paying but collection efforts have failed, ESDC can recover monies owing through an income tax refund or income tax reversal, a garnishment of wages and other income, or bank deposits. As a last resort, ESDC can seek federal court certification where the court converts the money owing from an EI overpayment into a civil judgment debt, recoverable by a seizure of assets.

ESDC's Transformation efforts, such as Benefits Delivery Modernization, represent an opportunity to use newer technologies within the integrity process. Through the design of a more proactive approach and the use of analytical tools, ESDC will further improve the accuracy of payments, and ensure stewardship.

Chart 17: Total net savings identified ($M) due to integrity activities
Chart 17: Total net savings identified ($M) due to intergrity activities - Text description follows
Chart 17 – Text version
Region FY1516 FY1617 FY1718 FY1819
Western 139.1 164.1 157.4 166.7
Quebec 104.5 105.5 116.4 118.8
Ontario 95.6 118.5 137.7 131.9
Atlantic 39.5 44.9 54.4 51.7
NIS* 33.3 28.7 25.6 27.3
  • Source: EI administrative data.
  • * NIS: National Investigative Services (NIS). Cases dealing with unreported absences from Canada while on Employment Insurance, and the Report on Hirings program are centrally managed through Integrity's NIS centre in Miramichi, New Brunswick.
  • Note: The numbers ($M) have been rounded to the nearest hundred thousand. The national amounts have been calculated using the raw data.

Claimant information sessions

In addition to administrative reviews and investigations, integrity activities also include outreach and prevention activities, such as Claimant Information Sessions. The purpose of these sessions is 2 fold:

  1. to provide claimants with information on programs and services available to help them find suitable employment, and
  2. to inform them about their rights and obligations regarding the EI program requirements and the consequences of abusing the system (namely, penalties or prosecutions)

The Department aims to conduct 10,000 Claimant Information Sessions per year. Over 102,000 EI claimants attended close to 10,800 sessions delivered by ESDC in FY1819. Both the number of claimants and sessions held declined by 7.25% and 1.88% respectively from the previous year. However the Department continued to exceed its objective. Claimants are identified and directed to a session based on the local job demand in their previous occupation and the availability of work.

Table 7: Number of Claimant Information Sessions over the last 4 fiscal years
Claimant Information Session FY1516 to FY1819 FY1516 FY1617 FY1718 FY1819
Number of Claimant Information Sessions 10,800 11,012 10,978 10,772
Percentage change in the number of Claimant Information Sessions from the previous fiscal year +6% +2% -0.31% -1.88%
  • Source: Employment and Social Development Canada.

Attendance at these sessions is mandatory; however, claimants have an opportunity to reschedule if needed. Should claimants not attend or fail to provide evidence of an active job search, their EI benefits could be suspended.

Integrity quality initiatives

The Department has a National Quality Management Program in place to ensure a high level of quality and consistency across investigative activities. This includes conducting in-depth quality monitoring activities to measure work performance as it relates to the handling of investigations. The results from these investigations determine the type of corrective measure to be implemented, which involves: amending the training material, national guidance, policy and system enhancements. Quality initiatives and results are tracked and reported both nationally and across each region and are used to indicate trends, patterns of errors and to identify best practices. For FY1819, the average quality rate for EI investigations was 87.17%, surpassing the national quality objective of 85%.

Identity management

The accuracy of the Social Insurance Registry (SIR) is fundamental to all programs and services that use the Social Insurance Number (SIN) to identify clients accurately, including the EI program. Online applications to the EI program are in part facilitated by the electronic validation of claimant identities with the SIR in real-time and amount to approximately 8 million validations annually. These efforts ensure not only an efficient application process but also that the individual requesting benefits is the correct SIN holder.

The SIN program maintains accuracy of the SIR through the use of strict identity and quality management practices designed to ensure that claimants applying for a SIN, or updating their SIN records are properly identified and that SIN records are accurate. The SIN program electronically validates the applicant's identity information with the issuing source when performing transactions. When validated, the risk of critical errors when processing SIN transactions is significantly reduced.

Risk management

ESDC uses various risk-based strategies to improve the overall integrity of the EI program so that resources are directed to higher-risk cases. Higher-risk cases have a higher probability of misrepresentation, abuse, payment errors, or fraud. Potential issues flagged in the early stages of the benefit life cycle allow the Department to allocate scarce integrity resources to higher risk cases, which helps to prioritize investigation activities.

Generally, the number of EI administrative reviews and investigations that are conducted annually is in line with the number of cases, which are considered high-risk; however, in any given year, the volume might vary slightly based on the changing nature and significance of identified risks.

ESDC also has a risk analysis function to assess program integrity risks quantitatively and qualitatively and to understand better the root cause of "mispayments". This activity includes developing appropriate mitigation strategies which may involve implementing additional controls where required to address any identified vulnerabilities.

4.6.5 EI strengthening initiative

Budget 2016 allocated $21 million over 3 years, starting in FY1617, to strengthen the EI program by reducing error, fraud and abuse in the program. Funding supported the development of advanced analytical models to better target resources to higher risk cases of mispayments. It also created a foundation for prevention to assess program risk and compliance. These activities resulted in 117,000 investigations and generated $101.5 million in savings, which surpassed the original objective of $68.5 million. Furthermore, it safeguarded the program by administering upfront controls and monitoring compliance throughout the delivery process by performing a Fraud Risk Assessment and a Program Compliance Review on the EI Program.

Based on the success of the past 3 years, the Department was permanently allocated $7.4 million in annual funding from Budget 2019 to continue with these activities beginning in FY1920. This permits the Department to continue to leverage data analytics, maintain current administrative investigations, improve its enforcement capacity, retain seasoned staff, and enhance its prevention activities.

This new funding will contribute to improved service quality and payment accuracy for Canadians, ensuring that benefits are awarded only to those who are entitled, enabling the Department to detect mispayments earlier, and mitigating the impact on vulnerable Canadians. Ongoing investments will preserve the sustainability of the EI Program for future generations and help maintain public trust in government institutions.

4.7 Client response

In this section

Client Experience Survey

The annual ESDC Client Experience (CX) Survey tracks key end-to-end client experience performance measures across 6 major programs, including EI.

The FY1819 CX Survey also gathered information to help the Department:

  • expand its understanding of clients’ needs
  • prioritize its areas of focus
  • support service transformation decision-making

A telephone survey was conducted in March 2019 and included 1,098 EI clients among the 4,401 Service Canada clients surveyed.

The surveyed EI clients had completed their client journey and received a decision on their application in the period of August, September or October of 2018. The CX Survey results for EI clients have a margin of error of +/-2.9%.

In FY1819, 4 out of 5 EI clients (80%) were satisfied with the service experience across their client journey compared to 83% in FY1718. Statistically, this is not a significant difference. Note that the sample for the FY1819 Survey was drawn at a different time of year where client volumes were higher.

The FY18-19 CX Survey results for EI show that:

  • 86% of EI clients find it easy to apply
  • 85% of EI clients rate highly the helpfulness of Service Canada agents - and this has a direct and strong impact on client satisfaction
  • 88% of EI clients have confidence that their personal information is protected. This is also a top performing aspect of EI service delivery, but has a lower impact on client satisfaction

Three aspects of EI service delivery were consistently rated lower and have a high impact on the overall satisfaction of EI clients:

  • 69% of EI clients found the duration of their client journey reasonable
  • 72% of EI clients agreed it was easy to get assistance
  • 74% of EI clients had confidence that problems or issues would be easily resolved

Client experience findings related to problems or issues encountered by EI clients

One in 4 clients (24%) experienced a problem, and 1 out of 6 experienced a problem that was not easily resolved (17%). The top problems or issues that EI clients encountered were that:

  • the application was too long or complicated (22%)
  • the online information was confusing (17%)
  • it took too long to provide them the benefit/decision (16%)

Three quarters (77%) of EI clients found that it was clear what to do if they had a problem or question.

4.8 Summary

EI clients experienced a series of improvements in the services the Department provided to them in FY1819. These improvements that were possible due to Budget 2018 investment will be carried over in the coming year:

  • to further enhance accessibility to Call centres for EI clients
  • to make the recourse process more responsive to their needs
  • to protect the integrity of the EI program

Also, the Department will continue to look at innovative and efficient ways to improve clients’ overall experience. Listening to clients to shape transformation initiatives that meet EI clients needs will continue to be key in that process.

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