Federal Government Announces Changes To EI and New Benefits

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Today the federal government announced four new initiatives to support workers and employers as they continue to face business uncertainties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will continue for an additional 4 weeks to allow for the transition to the Employment Insurance (EI) benefit program.
  2. Employees will receive assistance in meeting EI eligibility requirements through a one-time top-up of insurable hours as follows:
    • for regular EI benefits, employees will be given a credit of 300 insurable hours
    • for special EI benefits (maternity, parental and sick), employees will be given a credit of 480 hours. This means that employees will need only 120 hours of insurable hours during the qualifying period. This top-up will be retroactive to March 2020.
  3. Three new benefits will be available for workers who are not eligible for EI benefits:
    1. “Canada Recovery Benefit“ for self-employed workers in the amount of $400 per week to a maximum of 26 weeks per year;
    2. “Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit“ for employees who are unable to work due to child or other dependent care responsibilities (due in part to potential school and daycare closures) in the amount of $500 per week to a maximum of 26 weeks per year; and
    3. “Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit” for employees who are sick or must self-isolate in the amount of $500 per week for two one-week periods pre year.
  4. EI premiums will be frozen for two years at 1980 levels in the amount of $1.58 per $100 of insurable earnings for the employee portion, and $2.21 per $100 of insurable earnings for the employer portion.

The total cost of these changes is $39B:  the cost of the 4-week CERB extension is estimated at $1B;  the cost of the one-time insurable hours top-up plus the three new benefits is estimated at $22B;  the general cost to the EI system processes is $7B; and the savings to workers and employers through the freezing of EI premiums is estimated at $2B.

Legislation to implement the foregoing will be Introduced in Parliament when it returns on September 27, 2020. We will continue to monitor the legislation and provide further updates here.

Please feel free to contact any of Clark Wilson’s Employment and Labour lawyers with any questions.