Chapter 4: Program administration and delivery

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Official title: Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2020 and ending March 31, 2021: Chapter 4: Program administration and delivery

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, 2020 and ending March 31, 2021.

Abbreviations
AD
Appeal Division
ADR
Alternative Dispute Resolution
ASETS
Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy
B/C Ratio
Benefits-to-Contributions ratio
BDM
Benefits Delivery Modernization
CAWS
Client Access Workstation Services
CCDA
Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship
CCIS
Corporate Client Information Service
CEIC
Canada Employment Insurance Commission
CERB
Canada Emergency Response Benefit
CESB
Canada Emergency Student Benefit
CEWB
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
COLS
Community Outreach and Liaison Service
CPP
Canada Pension Plan
CRA
Canada Revenue Agency
CRB
Canada Recovery Benefit
CRCB
Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit
CRF
Consolidated Revenue Fund
CRSB
Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit
CSO
Citizen Service Officer
CX
Client Experience
EBSM
Employment Benefits and Support Measures
ECC
Employer Contact Centre
EI
Employment Insurance
EI ERB
Employment Insurance Emergency Response Benefit
EICS
Employment Insurance Coverage Survey
eROE
Electronic Record of Employment
ESDC
Employment and Social Development Canada
eSIN
Electronic Social Insurance Number
FY
Fiscal Year
G7
Group of Seven
GDP
Gross Domestic Product
GIS
Guaranteed Income Supplements
HCCS
Hosted Contact Centre Solution
IQF
Individual Quality Feedback
ISET
Indigenous Skills and Employment Training
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
NESI
National Essential Skills Initiative
NIS
National Investigative Services
NOM
National Operating Model
OAS
Old Age Security
PAAR
Payment Accuracy Review
PPE
Premium-paid eligible individuals
PRAR
Processing Accuracy Review
PRP
Premium Reduction Program
PTs
Provinces and Territories
QPIP
Quebec Parental Insurance Plan
R&I
Research and Innovation
ROE
Record of Employment
RPA
Robotics Process Automation
SAT
Secure Automated Transfer
SCC
Service Canada Centre
SDP
Service Delivery Partner
SEPH
Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours
SIN
Social Insurance Number
SIR
Social Insurance Registry
SST
Social Security Tribunal
STDP
Short-term disability plan
SUB
Supplemental Unemployment Benefit
TRF
Targeting, Referral and Feedback
TTY
Teletypewriter
UV
Unemployment-to-vacancy
VBW
Variable Best Weeks
VER
Variable Entrance Requirement
VRI
Video Remote Interpretation
WCAG
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
WWC
Working While on Claim

Information notes

This chapter refers to both claimants and clients. Claimants include individuals who are submitting or have submitted an Employment Insurance (EI) or an EI Emergency Response Benefit (EI ERB) claim, as well as those currently receiving benefits. Clients include claimants, employers and other interested parties.

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, “FY2021" refers to the period starting on April 1, 2020 and ending on March 31, 2021.

This chapter uses “Budget” to refer to the Canadian federal budget.

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.

4.0 Chapter 4 at a glance

With an ever-raging pandemic and its impacts on Canadians’ work and wellness, FY2021 was a challenging fiscal year for everyone. Service Canada witnessed those challenges firsthand as it delivered services to Canadians in need in unprecedented volumes.

Over the course of FY2021, Service Canada responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing and administering a service delivery model for the EI Emergency Response Benefit. Following the termination of that benefit, Service Canada deployed other temporary measures to ensure Canadians had ongoing support. These emergency measures were of such importance to Canadians during this challenging time that Service Canada processed 4.6 million more EI and EI ERB claims in FY2021 than in FY1920. 

Throughout FY2021, Service Canada ensured continued and broad access to its services for Canadians. It developed and leveraged the online eServiceCanada portal to serve as an access point for Canadians when Service Canada Centres were temporarily closed. To further increase access for Canadians and to ensure capacity to answer an enormous volume of calls, call centres expanded their ability to handle the increased requests through technological upgrades and via considerable hiring, which saw a tripling of the number of agents available to take calls. As a result, Call Centre agents were able to answer over 1.2million more calls than last year.

Alongside the measures taken to ensure business continuity, Service Canada also continued to engage in ongoing upgrades to the EI program. Some of these upgrades include the launch of the online Social Insurance Number application; the transition to a National Operating Model to support departmental efficiency; and the introduction of artificial intelligence and Robotics Process Automation, software solutions that take on repetitive and manuals tasks, freeing up officers to focus on complex issues.

All of these measures as well as others, including ongoing efforts to improve online and on-site access for people with disabilities, undertaken while Canada was in the grips of the global pandemic, points to the resilience of the EI program and its staff and their ability to remain agile, even during times of great upheaval. 

4.1 Service Canada’s major achievements during the COVID-19 pandemic

In this section

During FY2021, Service Canada worked to deliver EI benefits to Canadians when they needed it most. The Department’s response to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic unveiled the significant amount of work undertaken in a short period of time. This work has laid the foundation for important measures that are expected to have positive impacts on EI clients in the years to come.

4.1.1 Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Due to COVID-19, many Canadians have been unable to work, or have lost their jobs. To ease the economic impact of the pandemic, the Government of Canada introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in March 2020.

In order to be able to quickly issue CERB payments, the Government of Canada assessed that it was necessary to rely on existing systems. However, none of the systems used within individual departments were built to accommodate the expected high volume of claims. To avoid putting undue pressure on a single department, Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) co-delivered the Canada Emergency Response benefit through separate legislations and individual departmental systems, thereby enhancing the ability to promptly deliver benefits to Canadians in need.

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The EI Emergency Response Benefit was delivered by Service Canada for workers with insurable income who would generally be eligible for the EI program. This benefit was legislated by the Amendments to the EI Act. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit was delivered by the CRA for workers with no insurable income, such as self-employed individuals. This benefit was legislated by the CERB Act.

While 2 separate government organizations delivered the benefits, they were publicly advertised by the Government of Canada as a single Canada Emergency Response Benefit. A unique web portal offered information on eligibility requirements and helped clients assess their personal situation. The Government adopted a service excellence approach ensuring that clients did not experience delays. Clients could apply to either organization regardless of their situation, and have their applications processed. The objective was to ensure that Canadians applying for either income support were treated in a similar manner.

4.1.2 EI and EI Emergency Response Benefit

Working within a short time frame, ESDC quickly designed and implemented a service delivery model for EI Emergency Response Benefit (EI ERB). The Department assessed that the best way to swiftly provide benefits to Canadians was to process EI ERB benefits using the existing EI program systems. As a result, from March to October 2020, EI ERB temporarily replaced EI regular and sickness benefits. Therefore, the processing numbers reported in this chapter also include EI ERB benefits. In September 2020, the Government of Canada introduced measures meant to simplify and increase access to EI for Canadians who were still unable to work. ESDC dedicated efforts to streamline processes and make the necessary changes to support the transition from EI ERB back to EI.

4.1.3 Benefit processing

From March 15, 2020, to March 31, 2021, ESDC processed over 8.75 million EI and EI ERB claims. Chart 1 (below) indicates the number of claims processed during FY2021 and the 2 previous fiscal years.

Chart 1 – Total EI and EI ERB claims processed
Chart 1 – Total EI and EI ERB claims processed - Text description follows
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Total EI and EI ERB claims processed (millions)
FY1819 2.81
FY1920 3.33
FY2021 7.96
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Service Canada processed over 4.6 million more EI and EI ERB claims in FY2021 

As a result of the significant increase in claims needing to be processed, Service Canada quickly began to develop new initiatives to respond to the changing needs of its clients and alternative approaches to maintain service delivery. 

4.1.4 COVID-19 service delivery

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted even more that government services must be available to everyone and at any time. This level of availability is especially important for vulnerable clients, who, even under normal circumstances, experience barriers in accessing government services. In FY2021, the department made its services more accessible to vulnerable and remote populations by:

  • launching the Service Canada Outreach Support Centre on April 14, 2020, to provide support to clients who would normally be served through in-person outreach
    • the Outreach Support Centre employees have the same qualifications as Service Canada Centre (SCC) employees and provide services similar to those available in person at SSCs or during outreach visits
    • this toll-free service provides direct, personalized support to clients facing barriers, including Indigenous communities and clients who do not have access to the technology required to use other service channels
    • Support Centre staff assist clients by providing information and answering enquiries, as well as submitting benefit applications on behalf of clients, as needed
    • staff assisted clients by completing 30,013 EI service requests, including:
      • 3,543 applications for EI benefits
      • 5,841 requests for general information on EI or T4Es
      • 20,629 requests for follow-up information related to an EI benefit claim
  • leveraging the eServiceCanada portal as replacement to the in-person SCCs that were temporarily closed
    • The portal allows clients to submit an online request and to be contacted within 2 business days. As a result of this new approach clients were served both in person at SCCs and through Canada.ca in FY2021
  • engaging with Indigenous and remote communities, employers, and community organizations and partners to offer and promote alternate service delivery mechanisms and virtual information sessions
    • More than 4,800 contacts were made with 740 Indigenous communities. Of those communities, 687 received service through the Service Canada Outreach Support Centre and virtual outreach activities in FY2021
  • providing virtual information sessions for employers and workers affected by layoffs
  • delivering virtual information sessions to organizations that support vulnerable clients, to provide information on the emergency response benefits and to ensure they were aware of the new eService options
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Between April 14, 2020 and March 31, 2021 Outreach Officers had completed 41,126 calls. As a result of these calls, 49,274 service requests were completed. Of these:

  • 13.3% were for Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security
  • 2.4% for Social Insurance Number service requests.
  • 9.5% were for Canada Emergency Response Benefit
  • 13.8% were for other reasons
  • 61% were for EI. Of these:
    • 3,543 applications for EI Benefits
    • 5,841 requests for general information on EI or T4Es
    • 20,629 requests for follow-up information related to an EI benefit claim

The Service Canada Outreach Support Centre surpassed their service standard (90% of calls answered within 5 minutes) by answering 99.3% of calls within 5 minutes. 

Launch of online applications for Social Insurance Numbers - eSIN portal

Due to the closure of Service Canada Centres during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new issue arose related to applications for Social Insurance Numbers. In order to overcome this challenge, an online Social Insurance Number application (eSIN) was developed to allow clients to apply and submit digital copies of their documents.

The eSIN application was launched on April 6, 2020. In FY2021, ESDC received 746,245 eSIN application requests.

Since the inception of eSIN, several key program updates have taken place:

  • a complete review of the eSIN procedures and client-facing information was completed to provide recommendations for improvements to procedures and guidance
    • 10 system updates/releases improved the online client-facing platform as well as the frontline staff’s processing platform
  • 6 improved letters were developed to replace previous versions of rejection letters, which were found to not provide enough information to clients on the reasons for the rejection of their application
    • letters include a drop-down menu that allows Citizen Service Officers (CSO) to select the most appropriate reason for the rejection of an application
  • in order to reduce the number of rejected applications, additional guidance has been provided on Canada.ca and the intranet to advise clients and processing staff with regard to the proof of address requirements

4.1.5 Call Centre improvements

This year was unprecedented in terms of EI service delivery because of the support provided to Canadians in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Although a CERB call centre was established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it dealt only with basic enquiries and advice about the program. When questions were more complex or a specific CERB file needed to be accessed to help a client, the client was directed to contact the EI or CRA call centres, depending on their situation. The specialized knowledge of the EI call centre agents was instrumental in answering EI-specific enquiries.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was unparalleled for the EI Call Centre. The Call Centre received a record 53.3 million calls in FY2021. In fact, it received the number of calls it would typically expect to see in a year over 3 months (March 2020 to May 2020).  

After the CERB ended, the EI Call Centre redirected efforts in order to support enquiries related to the transition back to Employment Insurance.

Hosted Contact Centre Solution

In March 2020, just as the COVID-19 crisis was fully emerging in Canada and declared by the World Health Organization to be a global pandemic, the EI Call Centre completed migration to the new platform, the Hosted Contact Centre Solution (HCCS).

The HCCS system was designed to fully handle historical annual EI call volume. However, the onset of the pandemic immediately resulted in a surge in calls which far exceeded any historical demand. This massive influx in volume, which initially overwhelmed telephone service providers, also overwhelmed the new platform.

Despite the unprecedented increase in call volume, the EI Call Centre was able to leverage the HCCS to increase capacity to meet the demand. HCCS facilitated critical elements of the EI Call Centre response to the pandemic, which would not have been possible with the former legacy system.

HCCS enabled Employment Insurance and Employer Contact Centre (ECC) agents to answer calls from any location using any phone, which was critical to ESDC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as it permitted agents to telework. The implementation also allowed call centres to increase the capacity of both the Interactive Voice Response and the queue to speak to an agent. This happened as the COVID-19 pandemic started to have an impact on Canadians. In FY2021, ESDC continued to increase HCCS capacity in response to increasing EI call volumes.

As a result of the implementation of the HCCS, the Department:

  • quadrupled the system’s capacity for EI to handle calls in the Interactive Voice Response system and doubled the system’s capacity to handle calls in queue
  • created targeted messaging for the EI Call Centre advising clients of wait times and of specific periods of high call volume and promoted the use of other channels that might support clients’ needs in a timelier manner (for example, self-service on-line) 
    • This strategy supported client expectations around services ensuring they were aware of the wait times should they choose to speak to an agent
  • worked with Shared Services Canada to build functions into the system to manage the flow of calls that could enter the queue
    • These functions were used sparingly only to manage wait times and ensure equitable access to Call Centre agents across different geographical areas 
  • initiated a massive recruitment strategy to increase the call centres capacity from approximately 1,100 agents to 3,000 agents by the end of March 2021

4.1.6 Employee engagement and dedication

The new work reality brought by the COVID-19 pandemic made it more challenging and important to maintain cohesion and engagement within the work teams at Service Canada. A cohesive team made up of engaged employees is key to ongoing service excellence because an engaged employee is a dedicated one. Nurturing a dedicated workforce helps to maximize retention and business continuity.

Service Canada is developing a strong service culture that emphasizes employee engagement by providing employees with access to training, tools and expertise. This ensures that employees are able to provide high quality service to Canadians. Employees are encouraged to voice their opinions and engage in service improvements through multiple initiatives, including:

  • engagement sessions
  • social media
  • surveys
  • virtual events
  • email campaigns

While facing the unprecedented work situation during the pandemic, ESDC employees have risen to the challenge and have continued to provide quality services to Canadians:

  • in a short period of time, many employees had to adapt to their new virtual work environment as they were relocated from EDSC offices to their homes
    • even while dealing with pandemic-imposed personal challenges, ESDC staff successfully delivered benefits in a timely manner to Canadians
  • in order to support the delivery of EI and EI ERB, as well as other high priority services, thousands of employees from other areas were redeployed and went through accelerated training

4.2 Transformations to improve the future of service delivery

In this section

ESDC is supporting the Government of Canada’s commitment to improving services to Canadians by continuing its plans for service transformation. The Department is aligning its efforts under an Integrated Transformation Plan to achieve the Government of Canada and ESDC Service Strategy goals and commitments. This work builds on recent Service Transformation achievements and identifies gaps and opportunities to achieve the following:

  • progress on seamless digital experience 
  • improved service accessibility 
  • empowered ways of working 
  • aligned policy and service design to maximize results 

ESDC's business transformation responds to government priorities in a variety of ways by redesigning services. This is done by: 

  • understanding client needs in a way that is respectful of their time
  • empowering employees with digital tools
  • providing new ways of working together

4.2.1 Service transformation and the Benefits Delivery Modernization Programme

A key element of service transformation is the Benefits Delivery Modernization (BDM) Programme, ESDC’s multi-year approach to improve client service experience and address aging IT infrastructure. The BDM Program will transform service delivery by modernizing business practices, workforce management, workload management, knowledge management practices, and underlying technology.

Started in 2018, the definition phase of the BDM Programme is now completed. Significant groundwork has been done to define the future platform, including the selection of the Core Technology for benefits delivery. Implementation has begun and is organized around a series of four phases, extending from 2021 to 2030. The first phase will see the development of a common benefits delivery platform, as well as the onboarding of Old Age Security and some EI benefits. 

4.2.2 Transformations to the EI Program

In FY2021, the Department launched several improvements to further support EI and EI ERB processing.

Simplification of the EI Program

In September 2020, to continue supporting Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic and to help process applications for benefits, targeted EI simplification measures were put in place until September 25, 2021. For more on these temporary EI simplification measures, consult section 2.0.

System improvements to support transition from EI Emergency Response Benefits to EI

In fall 2020, the EI ERB transitioned back to EI. At this time, ESDC introduced an automated application process to ensure a smooth transition for claimants who were still receiving and were eligible for EI. The implementation of this process enabled the delivery of benefits without interruption and reduced the burden on claimants. With these changes, the Department was able to continue to support claimants with fast service and timely payments (consult annex 4.2.2a).

Launch of a National Operating Model

In FY2021, to better serve Canadians from coast to coast, the processing networkFootnote 1 began transitioning to a National Operating Model (NOM). This model will support the Department with making timely decisions in a more efficient manner. The NOM implies that regions are all accountable to meet national objectives and to ensure equal service to clients.

Launched in FY2021 , its key principles are:

  • one workforce: uniform hiring and training of employees
  • one process: standardizing processes and procedures
  • one workload: assigning work to the next available officer

Introduction of Robotics Processing Automation

ESDC implemented the use of Robotics Process Automation (RPA), a software solution to complete repetitive and manual tasks, such as data entry, allowing officers to focus on tasks that are more complex. RPA empowers employees to focus on value-added work that requires human judgement and decision-making.

Since its introduction, the RPA initiative enabled the department to deploy a number of automated processes, including meeting its obligation of having all T4E (Statement of EI and Other Benefits) forms mailed by the last day in February. Every year, the EI systems cannot issue T4Es automatically for various reasons. In FY2021, the volume of manually processed T4Es was over 60 times higher than normal. Prior to fall 2020, the Work-Sharing benefit reports were all manually processed. Using RPA, the Department is now automating a portion of these reports. Since the launch of this enhancement, 73% of the reports were processed without any human intervention, providing faster payments to claimants.

Artificial Intelligence to review records of employment

When issuing records of employment (ROEs) for their employees, many employers add free text comments to provide additional information. EI systems cannot automate claims with such ROEs because officers need to review the information in the comments, resulting in longer processing times.

Since June 2020, ESDC has used artificial intelligence to support the review of information added by employers in the ROE comment section. This reduces the need for human intervention, increases claims automation and improves the speed of payment, while reducing workload for the officers. Artificial Intelligence has addressed over 1.25 million comments, successfully automating an additional 47.9% of ROEs.

Launch of Document Upload for EI clients

Every year, the EI program receives millions of paper documents by mail or in person at the Service Canada centers. These documents need to be manually sorted and entered into the systems.

On March 6, 2021, a new document upload functionality was introduced for EI clients, which allowed them to upload supporting medical documents directly into their files. This new feature lessens the burden on claimants and reduces the need for manual intervention from officers. In the following months, the document upload functionality will be enhanced and will allow clients to directly upload additional documents related to their EI claims.

4.2.3 Call Centre improvement strategy

Given the need to focus efforts on supporting clients through the pandemic and on responding to the associated increased call volume, several of the call centre improvement elements described in previous reports were suspended during FY2021. However, the most significant improvement was completed in March 2020, with the EI Call Centre migration to a new modern technology platform with enhanced functionalities, which was a critical component in Service Canada’s telephone service delivery during the pandemic in FY2021. Consult section 4.1.5 for more details.

Other call centre continuous improvement activities that moved forward during the pandemic were:

  • reducing the training time for new employees
    • The EI Call Centre piloted a shorter 6-week training program (down from 10 weeks) with a targeted group of agents in June 2020 with the intent to prepare agents to respond only to regular benefit enquiries
    • Having a shorter training allows Service Canada the ability to hire agents and have those agents answering calls sooner
      • This approach employs the functionality in the HCCS to direct specific calls to agents based on the caller’s selections in the telephone menu and certain conditions on their claim. This means that agents receive calls for which they have the necessary training
    •  Agents can receive training on special benefits subsequently and then have the skills to answer additional calls
    • This approach continues to be evaluated on an ongoing basis
  • exploring the potential to automate tasks
    • During FY2021, the EI Call Centre began to explore the use of RPA
      • RPA has the potential to automate manual tasks and reduce repetitive actions for agents. The potential impact of this technology will be evaluated going forward

4.3 Accessing information and tools for Employment Insurance

In this section

The Department was able to provide uninterrupted, timely and safe access to Government of Canada information, services, and benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was accomplished by increasing the capacity to deliver its online and phone services which addressed health and safety concerns associated with in-person services. When its in-person offices started to re-open, the Department ensured safe access by limiting seating in waiting areas, managing physical distancing, providing hand sanitizer and masks, and enhancing cleaning protocols. These offices are often the most convenient option for vulnerable individuals to access government assistance.

Service Canada provides services to EI clients in English and French, as per the Official Languages Act. In addition, the Telephone Interpretation Service allows employees to serve clients in about 100 languages in all Service Canada Centres and outreach locations across the country.

4.3.1 In person (visit)

Service Canada Centres

In-person Service Canada Centres (SCCs) are managed and staffed by Service Canada employees and offer general information and transactional services. They are open up to 5 days a week. SCCs may be stand-alone, consolidated with Passport Services or co-located with other organizations.

SCC employees provide general program information and application intake support to clients. They help clients complete the application online by walking them through the various steps. Although SCC employees do not process claims, they perform support functions for the EI program, such as:

  • authenticating identity
  • validating supporting documents
  • verifying information for completeness, and
  • non-complex transactions: change of address, direct deposit (consult annex 4.3.1a), temporary access code issuance, change of tax code, and extension of sickness benefits

In FY1920, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to employment assistance was provided via a combination of online, telephone and in-person delivery structures where in-person services was one of the preferred channels. Service Canada Centres (SCCs) closed temporarily in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which severely impacted a key service delivery channel. During this time, clients were able to maintain access to essential Service Canada programs, services and benefits through eServiceCanada. The gradual reopening of the Service Canada Centres started in July 2020.

On March 31, 2021Footnote 2, Canadians were able to access our services at 350Footnote 3 in-person points of service (consult annex 4.3.1b) across the country. These included:

  • 310 SCCs
  • 25 Service Canada Centre - Passport Service sites (provided in-person service by appointment)
  • 15 Service Delivery Partner (SDP)Footnote 4 sites and Service Canada Community Offices

In FY2021, Service Canada in-person points of service staff completed over 700,000 service requests related to EI (consult annex 4.3.1c). This represents 35% of all service requests handled. The breakdown of the types of In-person services provided on the EI Program is as follows:

Chart 2 Breakdown of in-person services provided relating to the EI Program
Chart 2 Breakdown of in-person services provided relating to the EI Program - Text description follows
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Breakdown of In-Person services provided relating to the EI Program
In Person service % Share Total number
Follow-up assistance 55.4% 389,853
General information 35.9% 252,729
Help with applications 7.2% 50,464
Other 1.5% 10,841
Video chat

Video chat services, available in select sites, are designed to enhance the service experience of Canadians by allowing high volume Service Canada Centres (SCCs) to reduce client wait times. Over time, video chat service delivery has increasingly become an accepted mode of meeting clients’ needs. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the temporary closure of SCCs, the video chat service was not available during FY2021. ESDC focused on adhering to all the public health procedures for safe and effective service delivery in SCCs across the country. As pandemic responses shift, Service Canada will continue to adapt while ensuring that everyone can access the service they need. 

eServiceCanada

Following the temporary suspension of in-person service delivery in March 2020 due to the pandemic, the Department established eServiceCanada. The goal of eServiceCanada was to mirror the services typically provided within SCCs during their temporary closures. EI clients would receive personalized support with their applications and questions. eServiceCanada allowed for continued delivery of critical services while protecting the health of clients and employees during the COVID-19 crisis (consult annex 4.3.1d). In FY2021, EI clients who made a request through this channel were contacted within 2 days 85% of the time. 

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eServiceCanada

In FY2021, the eServiceCanada initiative allowed 2.2 million clients to keep accessing services that they would normally receive at in-person Service Canada Centres. Of these, over 60% or 1,332,595 were EI clients.

  • A total of 1,332,595 EI clients submitted 1,602,537 eServiceCanada EI requests
  • 666,094 EI clients made 703,887 EI requests in person

The breakdown of the types of eServiceCanada services requested on the EI program in FY2021 is as follows:

  • help applying online - 424,811 or 26.5%
  • submitting supporting documents - 232,330 or 14.5%
  • updating Direct Deposit/Address - 231,755 or 14.5%
  • amending an existing claimant report - 371,069 or 23.2%
  • adding information to an existing file - 342,572 or 21.4%

Scheduled outreach sites

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

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the outreach sites were closed in March 2020. These sites continued to remain closed throughout FY2021. Service Canada developed alternate service delivery mechanisms to reach and support Canadians that would have previously accessed services through the scheduled outreach sites. This included proactively reaching out to all scheduled outreach site partners to ensure and increase awareness of virtual services and alternate service channels.

Community Outreach and Liaison Service

The Community Outreach and Liaison Service (COLS) builds relationships and provides support to increase access to programs and benefits for Indigenous communities and vulnerable clients who face barriers to service. In addition, COLS provides responsive outreach to employers and workers facing labour market adjustments. COLS provides support by offering EI application assistance, EI information sessions for those affected by mass layoffs, and program information for employers.

Between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, COLS conducted 27,401 outreach activities to 90,079 participants. Of these, 3,909 activities to 26,627 participants were related to EI. Service Canada outreach staff made proactive calls to employers at risk of conducting a layoff to promote other mitigation options. These options included the Work-Sharing or Work Force Reduction programs.

In Budget 2018, the Government granted the Department 3-year funding to expand outreach efforts to all on-reserve, remote, and northern Indigenous communities. Each year since 2018, COLS has contacted all northern, on-reserve and remote Indigenous communities and offered them an in-person visit to provide services. These visits have proven successful in increasing awareness of and access to programs, services and benefits. In FY2021, the Department secured permanent funding for this initiative.

When the pandemic forced the suspension of in-person outreach, the Department contacted all Indigenous communities to ensure they were aware of the emergency response benefits and the alternative service delivery mechanisms that had been put in place to access services. More than 4500 contacts were made with the 740 Indigenous communities to promote the availability of the new service options. As a result of these engagement efforts and the activities of the Outreach Support Centre, 687 Indigenous communities received virtual services in FY2021. This is the highest number of communities served since Service Canada began conducting Indigenous outreach in 2016.

In the event of a mass layoff, outreach staff work in partnership with provincial and territorial governments and with the employer to organize information sessions for employees. The purpose of these joint sessions is to help reduce the stress and worry of employees facing a job loss and to provide participants with important information on:

  • when, how, and why they should apply for EI
  • how benefits can be affected by other monies received due to termination (such as severance or 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 provided information on programs and services available to help participants find suitable employment. This included also information on re-training, resume writing, job search techniques and interview skills.

During FY2021, of the 3,909 EI-related outreach activities Service Canada delivered, 3469 were information sessions to 25773 participants:

  • 826 EI information sessions to workers
    • 296 mass layoff sessions
    • 366 Work-Sharing sessions
    • 17,346 participants 
  • 2274 EI information sessions to employers
    • 184 mass layoff sessions
    • 1,947 Work-Sharing sessions
    • 4,301 companies and organizations participating 
  • 369 EI information sessions to other stakeholders
    • 58 mass layoff sessions
    • 17 Work-Sharing sessions
    • 4,126 stakeholder organizations participating. 

For more information on the Community Outreach and Liaison Service, consult annexes 4.3.1e-i.

Service Canada Outreach Support Centre

The Service Canada Outreach Support Centre was launched in April 2020. This Centre provided services to vulnerable clients, including clients with no reliable access to the internet or with other barriers to accessing services. Through this toll-free service, clients are immediately connected with a Service Canada representative to receive assistance, including for the EI program.

At the onset of this service, support for hearing-impaired clients was only available through the online eService option. The eService option required Service Canada to contact the client by phone, which did not work for hearing-impaired clients who were unable to communicate through regular telephone service.

The VOCALLS system was acquired for the Support Centre and offered clients the ability to communicate directly, and in real time, with Outreach Support Centre staff using a teletypewriter (TTY). This has proven to be a convenient and effective method for hearing-impaired clients to receive the support and assistance that they require.

4.3.2 By telephone (call)

1 800 O-Canada

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

In FY2021, the 1 800 O-Canada service supported the Government of Canada communication activities, both in regular times and in crises. 1 800 O-Canada officers provided up-to-date information on all COVID-19 special measures and their impact on Government of Canada programs and services, namely the availability of the CERB and how eligible EI applicants could apply.

During FY2021, the 1 800 O-Canada service provided timely service to Canadians answering more than 80% of calls within 18 seconds (or within 3 rings), during 8 months of the year. The exceptionally high call volumes experienced in April, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began, became more manageable by May, when wait times met service delivery targets once again. Pressure related to the pandemic returned from September to November. During these months, wait times were longer and monthly averages ranged from approximately 1 to 6 minutes.

As of March 31, 2021, 1 800 O-Canada agents had answered 2.051 million calls, which included 539,005 enquiries related to EI (consult annex 4.3.2a-b) .

Employment Insurance Call Centre

FY2021 was unparalleled in the way that the pandemic increased call volume and affected clients’ service delivery needs. Emergency benefit programs, such as the CERB, were partially delivered through the EI claim system and call centre.

In its normal role, the EI Call Centre network is the main point of contact for EI clients. The EI Call Centre spreads calls across the network based on availability of resources, regardless of from where in the country they are coming. The network increased from 1,100 employees at the beginning of the year to 3,000 employees by the end of the year (with an average of 2,300 full-time agents for FY2021).

EI call centre agents respond to questions 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
  • updating information on the claimant’s file (for example, changing an address or direct deposit information)
  • processing claimant reports for which a client requires an agent’s intervention in order to access the payment to which they are entitled
  • adjudicating a wide variety of non-contentious issues (such as claim calculation and reason for separation)
Call volume

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and an unprecedented increase in volume of calls, investments were made to improve accessibility to clients. The EI Call Centre initiated an unprecedented onboarding strategy that nearly tripled capacity as of the end of March 2021.

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Call volume 

The total EI call volume reached almost 53.3 million calls in FY2021, an increase of approximately 16.6 million calls from the previous year. This is more than double the 24.7 million in FY1819, the last full year before the pandemic, and the largest number recorded since call centres started networking nationally (FY0405). 21.1 million calls came in the month of April 2020. This shows the impact that the COVID-19 had on EI call volumes. Almost 40% of the calls from clients occurred within the first month of the fiscal year.

Interactive Voice Response system

The EI Call Centre is equipped with an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. The IVR allows clients to self-serve by:

  • authenticating themselves
  • updating their access code
  • checking their application status
  • getting details about their payments
  • completing their bi-weekly claimant’s reports

In FY2021, 54% of the calls (25.6 million) were resolvedFootnote 5 in the IVR system without the need to speak to an agent. This is 5.8 million more calls than were resolved in FY1920. Although a smaller percentage of calls were resolved in the IVR compared to FY1920 (59%), the total number of calls resolved calls increased. This is a result of the sheer volume of calls placed to the EI Call Centre this year (consult annex 4.3.2c).

Agents are available to guide clients through issues not resolved by self-service. For this reporting year, the top 5 reasons clients requested agent assisted services were regarding:

  1. Questions about the status of a claim/decision
  2. Support to complete an electronic claimant’s report started through a self-service option
  3. Questions about entitlement conditions for EI benefits unrelated to a claim
  4. Help on how to file their application
  5. Support to complete a claimant’s report not started through a self-service option
Calls answered

This year, call centre agents answered 5.6 million calls, which is 1.2 million more calls than last year (consult annex 4.3.2d). The significant increase in hiring new employees and the upgraded telephone platform contributed to being able to answer the unprecedented influx of calls.

Call length is affected by the nature and complexity of the calls received. It is also affected by the proportion of new staff, who generally have longer call lengths than experienced agents. In FY2021 the average call length was approximately 16 minutes, a little under 3 minutes longer than in FY1920.

Agent accessibility is another important performance indicator for call centres. It represents the percentage of call attemptsFootnote 6 that are successfully placed in queue to wait to speak to an agent. The agent accessibility increased to 50.1% this reporting year, compared to 40.8% in FY1920. This change in accessibility is attributed to the migration to the HCCS platform, supported by the significant onboarding of new call centre agents.

Given the extraordinary volume of calls this year, the EI Call Centre IVR was 88.7% accessible, although it has been virtually 100% accessible in recent years. However, most of the reduction in IVR accessibility was a result of the volume of calls at the beginning of the fiscal year, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the extreme increase in call demand, the EI Call Centre quickly improved accessibility by quadrupling the system’s capacity for clients to self-serve in the IVR system.

In FY2021, the average wait time to reach an agent was 62 minutes, which was 47 minutes longer than in FY1920. The longest wait times were at the beginning of the year when the average wait time was close to 2 hours, with some waiting up to 6 hours at the height of the pandemic. While the unforeseen volume of calls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges to system capacity, the actions taken by the Department resulted in lowering average wait times to 19 minutes by the end of the year.

In March 2020 the EI Call Centre network migrated to a new telephone platform, the Hosted Contact Centre Solution (HCCS). This meant that FY2021 was the first full year with the upgraded telephone platform. One of the features of the platform was a larger queue size, as well as an ability to further increase that queue. The Call Centre leveraged this feature in response to the high volume of calls due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in more Canadians being able to choose to wait to speak to an agent, which in turn increased the wait time. Another feature of the HCCS is the ability to support telework. This was a crucial function at the onset of the pandemic, as it enabled the rapid onboarding of more agents. If the EI Call Centre agents were not able to pivot to telework, the EI Call Centre would not have had the staff to be able to respond to the call demand.

The enormous call volume associated with the pandemic in FY2021 negatively affected service levelFootnote 7 (consult Service standards). Wait times were particularly impacted by the high volume of calls at the beginning of the pandemic, which also increased the rates of abandoned calls. From April 1, 2020 to May 31, 2020, there were 10,068,042 attempts to speak to an agent which accounts for 47% of the total for FY2021. During those 2 months there were 9,325,764 cases where the client either could not access an agent or abandoned the call. This represents 58% of the total calls for which an agent could not be accessed or for which the call was abandoned in FY2021. For more information on the rate of callers who chose to hang-up, rather than wait to speak to an agent, consult annex 4.3.2e

Factors affecting call centre performance

The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on the EI Call Centre, most notably in terms of call volume. Canadians called about their benefits, program changes, and the transition from the CERB to EI. Other factors also affected Call Centre performance throughout FY2021. This included system outages and increased enquiries resulting from the GCKey incidentFootnote 8 and the additional security measures implemented.

As noted above, the change to the new call centre platform also had an impact on Canadians’ service experience. The migration to this modernized telephone system is described in the Call Centre Improvement Strategy section (section 4.2.3). With this migration complete, ESDC continues to review and adjust how it manages incoming calls to improve access to call centre services.

Calls resolved at first point of contact

Once a client connects to a call centre agent, most of their telephone enquiries are resolved at the call centre. There may be cases where the call centre environment is not well suited to handle a request efficiently. If this is the case, the call centre agent sends the request to EI processing officers for appropriate follow-up actions.

The EI 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 7.6% to 84.9% (consult annex 4.3.2e). This increase is largely related to implementation of the CERB. In response to the pandemic, the CERB introduced the broad application of simple entitlement rules and a reduction in issues that could affect EI entitlement (for example, travel outside the country). Given that CERB was a streamlined, time-limited program, it is likely that this is an isolated increase related to the unique situation of the pandemic.

Employer Contact Centre

Another critical component of the 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 is comprised of approximately 72 full time agents.

Employers contact the ECC to get information and help on a variety of service offerings.

Calls volume

The total number of calls made by clients to the ECC in FY2021 was 861,035 calls. This volume includes:

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

In FY2021, there were 385,835 calls resolvedFootnote 9 in the IVR system, which was a decrease compared to 569,340 calls the previous year. The ECC answered 2,834 more calls than in FY1920. This is mostly due to the following:

  • the impact of COVID-19 (increase in record of employment and Work-Sharing related calls)
  • the impact of the GCKey incident and additional security measures implemented (increase in record of employment web, Grant and Contributions Online Services and non-employer calls)
  • the migration of EI Premium Reduction Program calls on September 28, 2020
  • the migration of Supplementary Unemployment Benefits calls on February 1, 2021
Calls answered

In FY2021, 90.3% of clients who selected to speak to an agent were placed in queue. This is an 11.6% increase from the previous year. Calls for which a client could not access an agent decreased to 44,825, which is a decrease of 57,643 calls from the previous year. This change is due to the significant call volume associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ECC has the same service level target as the EI Call Centre, which is to answer 80% of calls within 10 minutes. The ECC did not reach this target by answering 68.8% of calls within 10 minutes, a decrease of 20.3% from the previous year. The average length of time clients had to wait to speak to an agent increased by approximately 5.9 minutes to 9.6 minutes. The number of clients who chose to hang up after being placed in queue increased to 50,367 from 34,957 calls the previous year.

The service offerings about which clients called changed. Record of employment (ROE) orders are requests from employers to receive paper ROE forms, while ROE Web allows employers to complete and submit digital ROEs. In FY1920, ROE Order was the ECC’s main service offering, then in FY2021, ROE Web was the ECC’s main service offering. In fact, the ECC answered 48,927 additional ROE Web calls in FY2021. This shift in the distribution of calls is mostly due to the impacts of COVID-19 and the GCKey incident and response.

ECC agents answered 365,379 calls in FY2021, compared to 362,545 calls in FY1920. The following are the top 5 reasons employers called the ECC to speak to an agent for help:

  1. To enquire about ROE Web registration and login
  2. To order paper ROE forms (consult section 4.4.1)
  3. To receive technical support for ROE Web
  4. To receive help on how and when to issue an ROE
  5. To receive help about block specific information on ROEs
Training for call centre agents

The EI Call Centre and the ECC are committed to ensuring that clients receive consistent high-quality service. Agents are supported in delivering on this commitment from the moment 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 8 weeks. The training takes various forms, including computer-based learning, classroom instruction, practical exercises, and reading materials. A post-training monitoring program was then put in place 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. Call centre agents receive more training when the Department introduces changes to programs or systems.

This training material was supplemented to support the CERB delivered by ESDC. Further, agents received additional training to address the transition from CERB back to EI and the temporary measures that came into force in September 2020.

When agents transitioned to remote work, the training for new employees shifted to a completely virtual environment. Resources were put in place to support trainers and learners in navigating this change.

Quality of call centre service delivery

Beyond supporting agents through training, Service Canada ensures the delivery of high-quality service to clients. The Department does this through its National Quality and Coaching Program for Call Centres.

This quality and coaching program monitors agent calls on an ongoing basis providing regular feedback to ensure that agents provide accurate and complete information. Feedback may include coaching or developing training plans tailored to individual needs. Based upon the feedback, the program can then do more monitoring as part of these plans to ensure continued performance improvements. In order to ensure consistency across the network, the program holds national calibration sessions on a regular basis to ensure that the same monitoring criteria is applied across all call centres.

The National Quality and Coaching Program evaluates specific elements of calls to the call centres to ensure quality of service. These elements include professionalism, authentication, accuracy, and resolution of the client’s needs. The elements are categorized as meeting, partially meeting, or not meeting quality expectations. Of note, when the program categorizes an element as partially meeting expectations, the agent has satisfied the essential criteria of that indicator, but the program has identified a need for minor improvement or adjustments.

In FY2021, 85.5% of the reviewed calls to the EI Call Centre had an overall call score of meeting or partially meeting expectations. The specific element "Provides Accurate and Complete Information" is a key indicator of the result achieved for the client. For this element, 88.4% of reviewed EI calls met or partially met quality expectations.

For the ECC, 91.7% of calls monitored had an overall call score that the program categorized as meeting or partially meeting expectations, and 98.3% of reviewed ECC calls met or partially met quality expectations for the element "Provides Accurate and Complete Information".

Due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was suspended from March 2020 to January 2021. It resumed in February 2021.

In addition to the Department’s formal quality program, clients may sometimes provide feedback about their service delivery experience, either directly to a Call Centre agent, or to the Office of Client Satisfaction. Call Centre agents have an ID number assigned to them. Clients can request this number during any call and reference it when providing feedback.

4.3.3 Online

Canada.ca

Detailed information on the EI program is available on the main website of the Government of Canada. 

To support and adapt to the pandemic, ESDC updated its web content to reflect temporary changes related to the EI ERB and simplification measures. The Department made every effort to quickly provide Canadians with timely and accurate information on the EI program.

In August 2020, ESDC updated the web pages for the EI benefits for self-employed people. The goal of the project was to improve the client experience and increase satisfaction with the quality of information. The changes included:

  • simplifying content by using a client-centric approach and plain language
  • adjusting the page layout for easier navigation

EI online information and services were among the most popular content on Canada.ca. In FY2021, there were 137.7 million visits across all EI web pages.

EI regular benefits pages

The EI regular benefits pages had 15.6 million visits in FY2021, which is 16% more visits than in FY1920. Many of the visits were concentrated in the first few months of the fiscal year, but the increased demand driven by the pandemic smoothed out over the course of the year.

Those EI regular benefits pages had a 45% task conversion rateFootnote 10. Last year it was noted that the conversion rate for this service was unusually high at 56%. This trend continued in FY2021 indicating the continued contributions of the online channel to supporting EI claimants.

Maternity and parental benefits pages

Claimants have access to an estimator tool, which provides access to an interactive calculator that potential claimants can use to estimate how much they could receive when applying for maternity and parental benefits.

In FY2021 the data shows that:

  • 234,782 clients used the Estimator tool, generating 606,230 estimates 
  • there were 2.2 million visits to the EI Maternity and Parental benefits information pages and 7% of those visits went on to start applications for benefits
    • Last year this conversion rate was 19%. Even though this information was accessed 8% more in FY2021, the rate at which web visitors started claims reduced by nearly 3 times

EI sickness benefits pages

The EI sickness benefits pages had 3.3 million visits in FY2021, 36% fewer than in the previous year. About 6% of those visits went on to start applications. This is a more normal range for this benefit, which is indicative of the impact of redirecting clients impacted by COVID-19 to Canada Emergency Response Benefits.

Services

Clients use ESDC’s secure web applications to access information and make transactions. EI online tools are fundamental to the delivery of services.

With the numerous office closures caused by the pandemic, the availability of virtual tools has never been more essential to the delivery of EI benefits. This year, the Department’s ability to respond to the exceptional volume of requests is due in part to the availability of effective tools that already existed under the EI program.

AppliWeb

AppliWeb is the online tool EI claimants can use at any time to submit applications. Claimants can access AppliWeb from anywhere with internet access, including in Service Canada Centres (consult annex 4.3.3a). Information shared by claimants is automatically transferred to the EI systems and used to support claim processing automation.

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4.3.3 - AppliWeb

In FY2021, 98.5 % of EI and EI Emergency Response Benefit (EI ERB) applications were submitted using AppliWeb 

To align with the Government of Canada’s ongoing commitment to offer inclusive services to all clients, improvements were made to AppliWeb in March 2021. The online questionnaire was updated to provide a more gender-inclusive client experience. Regardless of their gender identity, non-binary clients can now interact with the EI Program without having to identify themselves as a man or a woman.

Electronic reporting

Every 2 weeks, claimants must complete EI reports attesting to their work situation. In their report, claimants provide responses to a series of questions. Their answers determine, week to week, if they are entitled to benefits.

Electronic reports can be completed using the phone or the internet reporting services. While both services are simple, secure, and always available, the internet reporting service offers additional electronic questionnaires. Instead of having to contact the call centre, claimants are prompted to provide required supplemental information directly in their reports. The information is then instantly transferred to the EI systems and results in faster payment processing for claimants.

In FY2021, the internet service remained the preferred electronic reporting method for both EI and EI ERB. It experienced an increase in usage from 80.9% in FY1920 to 90.7%. The remaining 9.3% of electronic reports were completed by phone.

My Service Canada Account

My Service Canada Account (MSCA) is an online portal that Canadians can access through Canada.ca. MSCA allows Canadians to access their information for:

  • EI and, exceptionally, EI ERB in FY2021
  • Canada Pension Plan (CPP)
  • CPP disability
  • Old Age Security (OAS)

MSCA is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from anywhere there is internet access and offers self-serve options. As a result, the MSCA portal contributes to more accessible, accurate and timely services for Canadians.

EI claimants can:

  • manage their account
  • check the status of their application and transactions, including payment information
  • update their mailing address or direct deposit information
  • receive new information from Service Canada about their EI claim on changes to their account
  • get their T4E tax slip
  • view previous EI claim information
  • submit or view supporting medical documents

The EI services on MSCA are promoted through Canada.ca, on AppliWeb, at Service Canada centres, and in communications sent to claimants.

For more information on the MSCA, consult annexes 4.3.3b-c.

4.3.4 Service delivery to persons with disabilities

Several actions have been taken to make ESDC’s outward facing programs and services, including EI, more accessible for people with disabilities in all service channels, for example:

In person

  • Counter loops, which project sound directly to a client’s hearing aid, and Video Remote Interpretation (VRI) were made available in 145 Service Canada Centres (SCCs) and are being expanded to the remainders of the SCCs
  • Wayfinding beacons, technology used to help enable indoor navigation, were installed in 7 sites, with plans to expand to an additional 55 SCCs in the next fiscal year
  • “Talk through” microphones for Plexiglas barriers were installed in all offices to reduce communications barriers

By telephone

The EI Call Centre and the Employer Contact Centre both offer TTY (teletypewriter) service to support clients with hearing or speech disabilities. Additionally, call centre officers have procedures to support them in answering calls received through a relay service, in the event that a client leverages such a service to contact the call centre.

Online

ESDC has adopted Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 for Web accessibility and exceeded minimums in some areas, such as:

To better equip public servants to design and deliver accessible programs and services, ESDC developed several tools, such as: 

  • guidance for front line staff on how to assist clients affected by the COVID-19 protective measures
  • the AccessAbility Playbook for providing guidance to design an accessible service
  • an accessibility checklist for assessing accessibility of services
  • planned updates to the training curriculum to increase awareness and understanding for all employees, as well as specific skills for client-facing staff based on functions

Work was done across ESDC’s call centres to improve accessibility throughout, for example:

  • voice-based services as an assistive technology were installed including:
    • chatbot pilots via Google Home and Alexa
    • publishing voice-ready content onto Canada.ca
    • search engine optimization for voice content
Online literacy

ESDC’s top 150 web pages (which generate over 90% of all visits to ESDC pages) are now meeting a grade 6-8 reading level. This includes the pages for EI sickness benefits and EI for the self-employed.

  • EI sickness benefits pages:
    • literacy level was reduced from grade 11.2 to 8.8 reading level (additionally, there was a 42.5% reduction in the number of words)
    • by designing user-friendly content, there was a 21 point increase in task completionFootnote 11 on the EI sickness service delivery content
      • The average rate of success in using the web content increased from 44% to 65%
  • EI for self-employed pages:
    • literacy level was reduced from grade 13 to grade 6 reading level (additionally, there was an 86% reduction in the number of words)

4.4 Application intake and claim processing

In this section

4.4.1 Employer intake

Record of employment

Records of employment (ROE) are electronic or paper forms issued by employers to provide information on an employee’s work history. ROEs are at the core of EI processing. When claimants submit EI applications, ROEs are used to:

  • determine eligibility to benefits
  • calculate the benefit rate
  • calculate the number of weeks of entitlement to benefits

Employers play a crucial role in EI claim processing. In order to avoid delays in the payment of EI benefits, employers must complete ROEs in a timely and correct manner. Failing to issue ROEs, issuing incorrect ROEs, or delays in issuing ROEs can impact payments for eligible claimants. This is because fact-finding with employers or manual interventions may be necessary in order to process these claims.

In FY2021, nearly 12.8 million ROEs were issued. Of these, 95.6% were electronic ROEs compared to 94.6% in FY1920 (consult annex 4.4.1a)

Electronic records of employment

Service Canada encourages employers to issue electronic records of employment (eROE) through the ROE Web application as it offers many advantages:

  • direct interaction between the ROE Web application and pay systems
  • reduction of errors from the manual input of paper ROEs
  • no need for employers to order, fill, and send paper ROEs
  • no need for employees to provide their paper ROEs to Service Canada
  • Service Canada instantly receives the information in its EI processing systems

In FY2021, these advantages supported employers faced with massive office closures caused by the pandemic. Of note, 84,699 additional employers registered to ROE Web, compared to 45,849 in FY1920. This is a significant increase of 84.7%.

For more on electronic ROEs consult annexes 4.4.1b-c.

4.4.2 Claimant application intake and processing

In FY2021, in addition to the EI program, Service Canada also delivered the Employment Insurance Emergency Response Benefit (EI ERB) using the same systems as those of the EI program. As the temporary EI ERB replaced the EI regular and sickness benefits for part of the year, these claims are included in the numbers below. A national network of officers process EI claims. They sort, review and make decisions about EI applications with support from EI processing systems. These processing systems automate the processing of EI claims and the management of the workload which, in turn, speed up the delivery of benefits.

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Claims received

In FY2021, 6,801,926 EI and EI ERB claims were received. This was a 52.5% increase (2,343,085) in claims received compared to FY1920.

Claims processed

In FY2021, the Department processed 7,958,457 EI and EI ERB claims compared to 3,325,534 in FY1920 In addition, the average time for eligible claimants to receive a first payment decreased from 19 days of filing an application to 16 days. 

For more on claims processed, consult annex 4.4.2a

In March 2020, at the end of FY1920, the high number of job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a sudden large increase in EI applications. Of note, a significant number of these claims were processed during FY2021. This explains the noticeable difference between the volumes of claims received and processed in FY2021.

As the Department had to process higher claim volumes, some employees from other areas were redeployed and more than 450 new employees were hired to sort, review and make decisions about EI applications with support from EI processing systems. To enable the onboarding of these officers the training material had to be redesigned for the virtual work environment.

4.5 Client service

In this section

4.5.1 Service standards at a glance

Payment of Employment Insurance, including Emergency Response 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 FY2021: ESDC met this standard 88.8%Footnote 12 of the time
  • Consult speed of payment for further details

Employment Insurance requests for reconsideration

  • Our standard: For EI requests for reconsideration decisions to be finalized within 30 days of the request being received
  • Our target: ESDC aims to meet this standard 80% of the time
  • Our performance in FY2021: ESDC met this standard 88.7% of the time
  • Consult EI request for reconsideration for further details

Access to an Employment Insurance call centre agent

  • Our standard: for agents to answer EI calls within 10 minutes (once a caller is in the queue to speak to an agent)
  • Our target: ESDC aims to meet this standard 80% of the time
  • Our performance in FY2021: ESDC met this standard 11.2% of the time.
  • Consult Calls answered and Factors affecting call centres performance for further details

Although clients were not served as quickly as is targeted by the service standard, most clients were still able to wait to speak to an agent to resolve their issues, which would not have been possible without the technology enhancements and the unprecedented onboarding, nearly tripling the number of EI call centre agents within a year (consult section 4.1.5)

4.5.2 Client Experience Survey FY2021

Context of the Client Experience Survey

The annual Client Experience (CX) Survey tracks clients’ ability to access the major ESDC programs, including EI. A public opinion research firm conducts the survey by telephone and assesses the ease, effectiveness, confidence and satisfaction with the client experience. This information comes from clients’ description of applying up to receiving an initial decision or benefit. It also assesses reported take-up of self-service and assistance. Clients are asked to provide attributes of their service experience using a scale of 1 to 5. Clients who rate their satisfaction as 4 or 5 out of 5 are reported as satisfied.

The FY2021 Survey results for EI clients reflect the service experience of claimants who received an initial decision between January 1 and March 31, 2021, inclusively. This wave is the fourth annual Service Canada-wide survey.

Client response

ESDC strives to meet Canadians’ expectations with respect to service delivery. The Department takes the pulse of clients via the CX Survey on an annual basis. This helps provide clients with the best services that are adapted to their needs.

EI sample, statistical information and statistical errors

For the current survey, ESDC selected a random sample of recent clients, organized by province and territory, from the EI administrative databases. The sample included new and repeat clients, whether granted or denied benefits including all benefit typesFootnote 13, Footnote 14. Clients living in remote areas and from Indigenous communities were sampled in sufficient numbers for analysis of service delivery issues across all ESDC programs.

Results (EI items)

Results from the Service Canada CX Survey 2020-21 found that 84% of EI clients were satisfied with the overall service experience. This survey was conducted with clients who had completed the process of applying for EI and had received a decision in the period of January to March 2021. This is a significant 7% increase compared to FY1920’s 77%.

The strongest drivers of satisfaction among EI clients in FY2021 were:

  • helpfulness of Service Canada representatives on the phone
    • 83% of EI clients found specialized call centre agents to be helpful and 84% found the agents that called them back (after completing a form online) helpful
  • timeliness
    • 80% of EI clients found the timeliness for going through the client journeyFootnote 15 reasonable.
  • ease of finding information timely either in person, by phone, or online,
    • 73% of EI clients found it easy to find information within a reasonable amount of time

EI clients’ satisfaction across various service channels also changed significantly (consult annex 4.5.2a):

  • satisfaction with the specialized call centre increased to 70% in FY2021 from 59% in FY1920
  • satisfaction with the online channel increased to 77% in FY2021 from 71% in FY1920
  • satisfaction with the in-person channel decreased to 77% in FY2021 from 82% in FY1920
Notable shifts
  • Timeliness
    • EI clients’ rating of timeliness increased significantly to 80% in FY2021 from 68% in FY1920
    • EI clients’ rating of being able to move smoothly through all the steps increased to 83% in FY2021 from 76% in FY1920
    • Previous waves of the annual Survey indicated that timeliness of the EI clients’ journey had been a top driver of satisfaction (otherwise known as the “effectiveness” service dimension)
  • Information
    • EI clients were more satisfied with receiving consistent information (82% in FY2021 from 76% in FY1920)
    • There were declines in the rating for the ease of getting help when needed (65% in FY2021 from 70% FY1920)
    • There were also declines in the rating for the ease of finding out the steps to apply (74% in FY2021 from 82% in FY1920)
  • Ease of self-service
    • Clients indicated that being able to complete steps online made the process easier (87% in FY2021 from 82% in FY1920)
    • More clients also found that it was clear throughout the process what would happen next (77% in FY2021 from 65% in FY1920)
Service channel usage

EI clients reported they were less likely to have used the in-person service channel at all stages of their client journey and were more likely to have only self-served at the application and the follow-up stages.

EI clients were also more likely to have used assisted self-service at the awareness or application stages. Telephone usage remains the preferred channel at the follow-up stage.

  • Compared to FY1920, the use of the in-person channel for EI clients in FY2021 declined in the awareness stage from 42% in FY1920 to 13% while use of the online channel increased from 71% to 83%
  • The use of the in-person channel in the application stage for EI clients in FY2021 declined from 44% in FY1920 to 7% while the use of online channels increased from 69% to 94%
  • EI clients continued to be most likely to use the telephone channel in the follow-up stage. 71% of EI clients that followed up used the phone compared to 75% in FY1920
  • 28% of EI clients followed up with Service Canada to check on the status of their application, compared to 41% in FY1920
  • 51% of EI clients reported completing their client journey using only self-service (without assistance by phone or in person) compared to 26% in FY1920
  • 15% of EI clients reported having used the in-person channel at some point in the client journey compared to 55% in FY1920

For more on overall EI satisfaction, consult annex 4.5.2b .

4.6 Service quality

In this section

Canadians expect sound stewardship and accountability from the EI program. Service Canada has well-established activities, processes, and tools in place to prevent, detect and manage error, fraud and abuse. This is to ensure 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.

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

  • the Employment Insurance Payment Accuracy Review
  • the Individual Quality Feedback ReviewFootnote 16 

4.6.1 Employment Insurance Payment Accuracy

While the Department has several controls and processes in place to ensure claimants receive the appropriate amount of benefits when the claim is initially adjudicated, ESDC also controls the quality of the claims once established. Specifically, through quality programs such as the Payment Accuracy Review (PAAR) program, ESDC can assess the EI program’s overall payment accuracy.

EI Payment Accuracy Review sample

Using a monetary unit sampling (MUS) methodology, the EI PAAR program estimates the accuracy of EI benefit payments. The Department reviews several files each year to identify undetected errors that result in possible mispaymentsFootnote 17. This categorizes them as either an underpayment or an overpayment.

In March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Quality Programs were suspended in order to redeploy staff to focus on direct services for Canadians. The EI PAAR program resumed in August 2020. In consultation with the Office of the Auditor General and Chief Financial Officer Branch, it was determined that the EI PAAR program would review 334 files for FY2021, rather than the 500 normally reviewed.

EI Payment Accuracy Review results

ESDC has an established target accuracy rate of 95%Footnote 18 in benefit payments per year. This rate includes claimant, employer and Service Canada errors. Together, they have maintained an accuracy rate of approximately 95% over the last 15 years. However, it is important to note that the PAAR program activities occur after the claim is processed. Errors identified and corrected during the intake and processing of claims are not included in the accuracy results. During this reporting period, the overall accuracy rate reached 96%Footnote 19 (consult annex 4.6.1a). The Office of the Auditor General reports these results each year in the Public Accounts of Canada.

Claimant error rate

This year, the client error rate decreased from 3% to 2.3% (consult annex 4.6.1b). Most client errors occur after the initial claim is established. For example, 78% of the claimant error rate was caused by claimants incorrectly reporting their earnings while in receipt of benefits. 20% of the error rate was due to clients not declaring the refusal of jobs, quitting a job or being dismissed from a job. The Department continues to assess client errors to understand why they happen, the financial impact and how to avoid them.

Employer error rate

The employer error rate increased slightly this year, from 0.8% to 0.9% (consult annex 4.6.1c). Incorrect information reported by the employer for each period of employment accounts for 100% of the error rate. In order to identify employer errors, the Department reviews all ROEs used in the Payment Accuracy Review sample to establish a claim. The Department also continues to analyze employer errors to understand why these mistakes occur, the financial value, and possible ways to avoid them.

Service Canada error rate

The Service Canada error rate decreased from 1.7% to 0.8 %. Service Canada’s continued efforts to automate processing contributed to maintaining low levels of errors (consult annex 4.6.1d).

4.6.2 Individual Quality Feedback

In March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Quality Programs were suspended in order to redeploy staff to focus on direct services for Canadians. In February 2021, it was determined that the similarly scoped Processing Accuracy Review (PRAR) and Individual Quality Feedback (IQF) programs would be merged. Planning is currently underway to implement this change. The IQF program will likely resume in third quarter of FY2122.

4.6.3 Administrative reviews and investigations

Integrity activities at ESDC focus primarily on detection with the most significant of these activities being directed towards administrative reviews and investigations. The Department uses a variety of tools and processes to help identify and address instances of error, abuse, and fraud.

The Department maintained a steady inventory of claims to review and/or investigate which addressed non-compliance and fraud stemming from claimants and employers. For FY2021, there were 271,494 cases in the inventory. This figure includes completed cases and those that were assigned or about to be assigned to investigative staff.

Typically, these types of administrative reviews and investigations uncover instances of unintentional error by claimants related to undeclared work and earnings. The most common types of intentional error are when a claimant knowingly:

  • fails to declare work, earnings, or self-employment income
  • fails to declare periods when unavailable for work
  • fails to report absences from Canada

In the context of increases in cases of identity theft, in FY2021 the Department has focused a great deal on identity verification to ensure that the legitimate claimant receives benefits owing to them.

These administrative reviews and investigations generate significant savings for the EI Operating Account. In the preceding 4 years (FY1617 to FY1920), integrity actions identified over $1.9 billion in savings (consult chart 3, below). In FY2021, savings of $55.9 million were generated from the conduct of 15,596 administrative reviews and investigations.

Chart 3 Total net savings identified ($M) due to integrity activities
Chart 3 Total net savings identified ($M) due to integrity activities - Text description follows
Chart 3 – Text description
Total net savings identified ($M) due to integrity activities
Region FY1617 FY1718 FY1819 FY1920 FY2021
Western 164.10 157.40 166.70 141.60 18.30
Quebec 105.50 116.40 118.80 111.70 14.80
Ontario 118.50 137.70 131.90 119.90 13.20
Atlantic 44.90 54.40 51.70 46.60 9.10
NIS 28.70 25.60 27.30 22.30 0.60
  • *NIS: National Investigative Services (NIS). Cases dealing with unreported absences from Canada while on Employment Insurance, and the Report on Hiring program are centrally managed through Integrity's NIS centre in Miramichi, New Brunswick.
  • Note: The numbers ($M) have been rounded to the nearest hundred thousand. The national amounts have been calculated using the raw data.

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. These include:

  • 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 collecting of debt by the CRA through an agreed upon repayment schedule

Disrupting wrongdoingFootnote 20

During the early stages of the pandemic, Departmental activities and resources were realigned to support the timely delivery of emergency benefits. At the same time, to address the increased threats, the Department undertook strategic and targeted measures to identify and disrupt instances of possible fraud. Furthermore, the past year has seen a significant increase in identity fraud as Canadians’ use of online services has increased. Integrity resources, instrumental in maintaining the integrity of the EI ERB program and ensuring the sound stewardship of public funds, include:

  • data analytics and partnerships with law enforcement and financial institutions were leveraged to detect and deter fraudulent activity in real time
  • stop pays were imposed on over 30,000 potentially fraudulent EI ERB applications and approximately $42 million in fraud was prevented
  • efforts to prevent future payments by blocking the auto-enrolment of high-risk claimants in the transition from EI ERB to EI

Additionally, the Department worked to stop “credential stuffing” attacks mounted on the GCKey service. GCKey is a credential service that allows Canadians to access online Government services, including My Service Canada Account and ROEs. ESDC revoked the access rights for affected accounts and put in place several measures, including the imposition of stop pays, and prioritized claimant identity verification. A multi-factor authentication process is now mandatory for clients using GCKey to access their My Service Canada Account.

Addressing wrongdoing

Pre-payment controls were in place to validate EI ERB applicants’ identity, but integrity efforts for the EI ERB program focus primarily on post-payment verification and investigation. Reviews and investigations of high-risk cases began in 2020. A multi-year plan is currently in place to conduct the bulk of EI ERB reviews and investigations from FY2122 through FY2425. ESDC and the CRA continue to work closely together to ensure alignment of integrity measures related to the emergency response benefits.

In addition to starting investigations of high risk EI ERB cases, Integrity actions (administrative reviews and investigations) on claims under the regular EI program mirrored those of previous years and encompassed the following:

  • claimant investigations into error, fraud and abuse
  • employer investigations
  • missing ROEs
  • accuracy of ROEs
  • employer noncompliance or misrepresentation

Claimant Information Sessions

In addition to administrative reviews and investigations, integrity activities also include outreach and prevention activities. These include mandatory Claimant Information Sessions for recipients of regular EI benefits (consult annex 4.6.3a). The purpose of these sessions is to:

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

Should claimants not attend or fail to provide evidence of an active job search, their EI benefits may be suspended.

ESDC identifies and directs claimants to a session based on the local job demand in their previous occupation, and the availability of work. In line with COVID-19 public health protocols governing in-person measures, the Claimant Information Sessions were temporarily suspended in FY2021.

4.6.4 The evolution of integrity in the Department

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.

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(s) to be implemented. This involves:

  • amending the training material
  • national guidance
  • policy and system enhancements

Quality initiatives and results are tracked and reported both nationally and regionally. They are used to indicate trends, patterns of errors and to identify best practices. Due to the realignment of resources in FY2021, Quality Monitoring activities have been temporarily suspended.

Identity management

The accuracy of the Social Insurance Register (SIR) is fundamental to all programs and services that use the Social Insurance Number (SIN) to identify clients accurately. The EI program is one such program that relies on the accuracy of SIR outputs to ensure program integrity. The SIN program maintains accuracy of the SIR following strict identity and quality management practices. These practices are 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 most transactions. When validated, the risk of critical errors when processing SIN transactions is significantly reduced.

Online applications to the EI program are facilitated in part by the electronic validation of claimant identities with the SIR in real-time. This amounts to approximately 35 million validations annually. These efforts ensure not only an efficient application process but also that the individual requesting benefits is the correct Social Insurance Number holder.

Risk management

ESDC uses various risk-based strategies to improve the overall integrity of the EI program and to ensure resources are directed to higher-risk cases. Higher-risk cases have an increased probability of misrepresentation, abuse, payment errors, or fraud. Detecting and flagging potential issues with higher-risk cases in the early stages of the benefit life cycle allows the Department to allocate scarce integrity resources to higher risk cases, thereby prioritizing 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 quantitatively and qualitatively assess program integrity risks and to understand better the root cause of "mispayments". This activity includes developing appropriate mitigation strategies which may involve implementing more controls, where required, to address any identified vulnerabilities.

4.7 Recourse

In this section

Any claimant, employer or any other person who is the subject of a decision by the CEIC may dispute the decision if he or she disagrees with it. There are 3 levels of recourse under the Employment Insurance Act:

  • a formal request for reconsideration
  • an appeal to the Social Security Tribunal, General Division
  • an appeal to the Social Security Tribunal, Appeal Division

4.7.1 Employment Insurance requests for reconsideration

If claimants or employers disagree with an EI claim decision, they have the right to ask Service Canada to reconsider the decision. A request for reconsideration provides clients with the opportunity to submit new or additional information, and to have the decision reviewed.

A reconsideration is never done by the officer who made the first decision. A different officer considers all information on file, as well as the legislation and policies that apply. As a result of the review, the first decision is either kept, reversed, or changed. Once the review is completed, Service Canada informs the client of the outcome.

ESDC’s service standard is to finalize requests for reconsideration within 30 days of the request being received. In FY2021, the target to meet this standard was increased from 70% to 80%. The Department was able to meet the standard for 88.7% of the requests, compared to 76.2% in FY1920.

This year, the CEIC received 22,250 requests for reconsideration, compared to 48,297 in FY1920. This decrease could be attributed to the fact that the EI ERB had a higher acceptance rate and that the subsequent simplification measures made it easier for claimants to qualify for the EI program. In addition, the average time to complete a request for reconsideration decreased from 27 days to 18 days.

In FY2021, 52.5 % of reconsidered decisions were reversed or changed following review. Typically, the reasons for reversing or changing a decision are the receipt of new or additional information from clients or errors made by Service Canada.

Chart 4 Percentage of initial decisions reversed or changed following review
Chart 4 Percentage of initial decisions reversed or changed following review - Text description follows
Chart 4 – Text description
Total net savings identified ($M) due to integrity activities
Region FY1617 FY1718 FY1819 FY1920 FY2021
Western 164.10 157.40 166.70 141.60 18.30
Quebec 105.50 116.40 118.80 111.70 14.80
Ontario 118.50 137.70 131.90 119.90 13.20
Atlantic 44.90 54.40 51.70 46.60 9.10
NIS 28.70 25.60 27.30 22.30 0.60

4.7.2 Employment Insurance appeals and the Social Security Tribunal of Canada

The Social Security Tribunal (SST) is an independent administrative tribunal that makes decisions on appeals related to:

  • Employment Insurance benefits
  • CPP disability benefits
  • other CPP benefits 
  • OAS and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) benefits

The Social Security Tribunal is separate and independent from the CEIC, ESDC, and Service Canada. The EI Operating Account, the CPP Operating Account, and the Consolidated Revenue Fund for OAS cases fund its activities.

There are 3 divisions at the SST:

  • the General Division, Employment Insurance
  • the General Division, Income Security
  • the Appeal Division

 Members appointed by the Governor in Council decide these appeals.

Text description follows
Image 8 – Text description

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 IS appeals, based on restricted grounds, of General Division decisions. 

The mandate of the SST is to provide Canadians with an appeal process that is simple, quick, fair and more client-centric. To support this, the SST recourse process between 2013 and 2016 was studied and a review published in January 2018. It made several recommendations. Based on those recommendations, the Government put together an in-depth plan to make the process better. The following initiatives were put in place:

  • simplifying the criteria to get an appeal started and proactively reaching out to appellants to complete their applications
  • giving appellants their choice of form for their hearing at the General Division by offering parties the option of joining a hearing by videoconference from their home or office, instead of in person
  • scheduling hearings as soon as permission to appeal is granted at the Appeal Division
  • publishing more General Division, EI decisions and publishing all Appeal Division decisions along with the related General division decisions
  • offering HTML forms and the option to email applications and documents
  • training staff and Tribunal members in plain language writing
    • Tribunal letters that were once at a university reading level have been rewritten to be clear and simple
  • training employees who work directly with the public over the phone on how to communicate clearly
  • partnering with an independent distress and crisis helpline to support appellants who demonstrate a need for immediate support
  • surveying claimants to evaluate and improve operations, publishing the feedback on the SST’s website
  • offering alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for suitable appeals at the Appeal Division
  • implementing navigator services

These initiatives have led to improvements in services. For example, processing times for the EI General Division went from 203 days in FY1617 to 36 days for FY2021. The Social Security Tribunal’s 2021 Progress Report: Justice is a service for everyone includes more information on some of these initiatives, as well as statistics on the Tribunal’s performance and service standards in FY2021.

This report includes information on EI appeals to the General Division and the Appeal Division.

Social Security Tribunal – General Division, Employment Insurance section

After the CEIC makes a reconsideration decision, a client has 30 calendar days to appeal the decision to the SST - General Division, EI section. In FY2021 the SST received 1832 appeals and concluded 1954. This resulted in a decrease of inventory from 709 active appeals in March 2020 to 587 in March 2021 (consult annex 4.7.2a).

On behalf of the CEIC, Service Canada is responsible for providing the SST with the reconsideration file. The reconsideration file includes all relevant documents used in making the reconsideration decision and reviewing the initial decision. When requested, CEIC will answer questions or requests for more information from the SST and may attend appeal hearings.

Service standards and performance

The SST manages and tracks EI appeals in 2 categories: Regular appeals and 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. Group appeals are more complex and require more time to complete.

An appeal that is filed at the tribunal that is not a part of a group case, is considered as a regular appeal.

The SST was able to meet its commitment to services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It continued to hold virtual hearings, in accordance with public health measures. Consequently, the inventory continued to decrease and the average number of days an appellant waited for their decision decreased. Through client satisfaction surveys , the overall satisfaction rate of our hearings went from 86% pre-pandemic to 92%.

The General Division’s goal is to complete 80% of decisions within 45 days from the date the appeal is filed with the Tribunal. For FY2021, SST also met this goal of 80% of the decisions within 36 days (consult annex 4.7.2b).

The General Division also improved its time from when a hearing occurs to the issuance of a decision. The goal was to issue decisions in 15 days at least 80% of the time, and in FY2021 the SST surpassed this goal by issuing decisions 8 days after the hearing.

Visit the 2021 Progress Report: Justice is a service for everyone for more statistics on the Tribunal’s performance and service standards in FY2021.

Outcomes at the General Division, Employment Insurance

An appeal to the General Division, EI may be concluded by a written decision or a withdrawal. In FY2021, 34% of cases were allowed, 52% were dismissed, 6% were withdrawn and the remaining were summarily dismissed or concluded for other reasons.

Chart 5 Outcomes of General Division-Employment Insurance decisions in FY2021
Chart 5 Outcomes of General Division-Employment Insurance decisions in FY2021 - Text description follows
Chart 5 – Text description
Outcomes of General Division-Employment Insurance decisions in FY2021
Outcome Dismissed Allowed Withdrawal Concession Summary dismissals Late appeal denied Appeals concluded for other reasons
% Share 52% 34% 6% 5% 2% 1% 0%

dismissed – decision not in the claimant’s favour
allowed – decision is in the claimant’s favour
withdrawn/other – claimant either withdraws or abandons the appeal
concessions – Service Canada recommends that the Tribunal allows the appeal
summary dismissals – the Tribunal decides, based on the information in the file, that the appeal has no reasonable chance of success
late appeals denied – the Tribunal refuses the appeal filed beyond the 30‑day deadline

Social Security Tribunal – Appeal Division, Employment Insurance section

When a party to an appeal disagrees with the decision made by the General Division, it may dispute this decision at the Appeal Division. Apart from 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 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 or fair process. For more information, consult annex 4.7.2c.

Service standards and performance

The Appeal Division has the following service standards:

  • leave to appeal decisions are made within 45 days, 80% of the time
    • As of July 1, 2020, the service standard was updated from 60 days 85% of the time to 45 days 80% of the time
    • The percentage met for FY2021 is a combination of Q1 at 60 days and Q2 onwards at 45 days
    • For more information consult annex 4.7.2d 
  • final decisions are made within 150 days of the Leave to Appeal decision, 80% of the time
    • As of July 1, 2020, the service standard was updated from 210 days 85% of the time to 150 days 80% of the time
    • The percentage met for FY2021 is a combination of Q1 at 210 days and Q2 onwards at 150 days
    • For more information consult annex 4.7.2e 
Alternative Dispute Resolution at the Appeal Division

The Appeal Division has adopted a form of mediation on appeals, which helps expedite the appeal process and assist with various issues, such as:

  • a potential Charter appeal
  • clarifying the requested documentation
  • clarifying the issue under appeal

This is called the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The SST uses ADR to consider whether an appeal could be resolved without going through the full appeal process.

ADR at the Appeal Division (AD) has allowed parties to connect sooner and complete files 26% sooner than regular appeals.

Text description follows
Image 9 – Text description

Alternative Dispute Resolution at the Appeal Division

This year, 15% of all AD cases were sent to ADR. 82% of these cases were resolved.

Outcomes at the Appeal Division

An appeal to the Appeal Division may be concluded by a written decision or a withdrawal. In FY2021, 11% of cases were allowed, 70% were dismissed, 13% leave to appeal was denied, 4% were withdrawn and the remaining were denied/concluded for other reasons.

Chart 6 FY2021 Appeal Division decision outcomes
Chart 6 FY2021 Appeal Division decision outcomes - Text description follows
Chart 6 – Text description
FY2021 Appeal Division decision outcomes (groups included)
Outcome % Share
Dismissed 70%
Leave to appeal denied 13%
Allowed 11%
Withdrawal 4%
Late appeal denied 1%
Appeals concluded for other reasons 1%
FY2021 Appeal Division decision outcomes (groups excluded)
Outcome % Share
Dismissed 20%
Leave to appeal denied 41%
Allowed 27%
Withdrawal 0%
Late appeal denied 5%
Appeals concluded for other reasons 7%
Other 3%

dismissed– decision unfavourable to the appellant
leave to appeal denied – the Appeal Division denies permission to appeal
allowed – decision is in the appellant’s favour
withdrawals – appellant withdraws the appeal
late appeal denied – the Appeal Division refuses the appeal filed beyond the 30-day deadline

Representation at the Social Security Tribunal

At each level of appeal, appellants can choose to either represent themselves or have a representative assist them during the appeal process. This can be formal representation or informal representation, such as by a friend or family member. The SST has collated a list of organisations that can help free of charge across Canada to assist appellants.

Appeals with representation include files with any type of representative:

  • professional
  • friend and family
  • advocacy group

This year indicates that at the General Division, cases where an appellant was represented had a slightly higher success rate than where the appellant was not represented. The same is true for applications for Leave to Appeal at the Appeal Division. However, there are many factors that go into a decision, and it is not possible to conclude that success on an appeal is due solely to having a representative. SST members make their decisions based on the law and the facts (consult annexes 4.7.2f-h).

4.8 Conclusion

FY2021 was an exceptional year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on Canada and Canadians. Service Canada saw unprecedented numbers of EI benefit applications and related calls. However, due to the resilience of the EI program and its staff, Service Canada was able to meet these challenges head on. It dealt with problems as they arose and continued to innovate ways to improve efficiency. Looking to the future, through initiatives such as the Benefits Delivery Modernization programme and other innovations, Service Canada will continue to improve and modernize the delivery of EI for Canadians when they need it most. 

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