EI Changes via the 2012 Economic Action Plan

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To support economic growth and meet the challenges associated with both an aging population and growing international competition for skilled workers, the Government of Canada is taking action to connect unemployed Canadian workers with available jobs.

Through the 2012 Economic Action Plan, the Government introduced several measures that provide Employment Insurance (EI) claimants with additional support to enable quicker returns to work, as outlined in the table of contents on this page.

Connecting Canadians with Available Jobs

Through Economic Action Plan 2012, the Government of Canada made significant improvements to better connect unemployed Canadians with job opportunities in their local area.

Part of the improvements also included clarifying what is expected of Canadians who are claiming EI while they search for work—including clarifying the definition of "suitable employment" and what constitutes a "reasonable job search."

Variable Best Weeks

Economic Action Plan 2012 announced improvements to the EI program to make EI more fair, efficient and responsive to regional economic conditions. Beginning April 7, 2013, the Variable Best Weeks approach will be applied across Canada, with all claimants having their EI benefit amount calculated based on the highest weeks of earnings over the previous year. The number of weeks used in the calculation will range from 14 to 22, depending on the unemployment rate in the particular EI region.

Working While on Claim

Working While on Claim promotes workforce attachment by encouraging claimants to accept available work while receiving EI benefits. The national Working While on Claim pilot project began August 5, 2012 and will end on August 1, 2015.

Under the pilot project, EI claimants receiving regular, fishing, parental or compassionate care benefits will be able to keep 50 cents of their benefits for every dollar they earn, up to 90% of the weekly insurable earnings used to calculate the EI benefit amount. If they earn more than this amount, additional earnings will be deducted dollar for dollar from their EI benefits to ensure that the combined earnings and EI benefits are not more than the amount of earnings used to calculate the benefit amount.

Hiring Canadians First

There is significant evidence to suggest that some employers are hiring temporary foreign workers while Canadians and permanent residents are making claims for Employment Insurance (EI) in the same occupation and province.

The Government will introduce a link between the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the EI program to better connect unemployed Canadians with available jobs in their local area.

Creating a link between the EI program and the TFWP will help make local and qualified Canadian workers better aware of job opportunities through the Job Alert system while ensuring temporary foreign workers are employed where they are most needed.

Canadians should have the opportunity to access these jobs before employers turn to temporary foreign workers.

Employment Supports and Skills Training

Canada's system is designed to provide financial support to unemployed Canadians while they look for work or upgrade their skills. The EI system consists of two complementary components: temporary financial assistance (referred to as EI Part I); and employment support and training that unemployed Canadians need to find a job (referred to as EI Part II). EI Part I is delivered by the Government of Canada, while EI Part II is delivered by the provinces and territories.

Each year, in support of EI Part II and employment programming, the Government of Canada transfers $1.95 billion to the provinces and territories through Labour Market Development Agreements.

With this transfer, between 600 000 and 775 000 individuals are served each year. Over half of these individuals are active EI claimants:

•Approximately 80 percent of the employment supports received by these individuals are employment assistance services that can be accessed by any unemployed individual.
•Around 20 percent are employment benefits available to EI-eligible clients (active and former), with the majority of these supporting skills development (e.g. training courses).
•Canadians who are not eligible for EI can access similar employment training through other targeted programs.

While receiving EI Part I benefits, claimants are obligated to look for, and prepare for, suitable employment. EI Part II programming requires clients to take personal responsibility for identifying their employment needs, locating the services they require, negotiating assistance and committing to employment program goals.

However, many jobs continue to go unfilled while people collect EI benefits. Given the role the provinces and territories play in ensuring that unemployed Canadians are connected to available jobs, Economic Action Plan 2012 committed the Government of Canada to working with the provinces and territories to test new approaches for making employment supports available to EI claimants earlier in their claim period, helping them get back to work faster.