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Navigating new rules for employment insurance

As more people get back to work, Peter McSherry outlines changes to employment insurance laws
Peter McSheery Spotlight_nov 2021

As we move out of the pandemic, and more Canadians get back to work, there are some rule changes around Employment Insurance that Guelph employment lawyer Peter McSherry believes you need to know.

As of Sept. 26, 2021, the eligibility criteria to qualify for EI is 420 hours. For employees who’ve been riding a roller coaster of pandemic shutdowns and reduced hours, this change will make it easier to qualify. McSherry said, “It will be beneficial for claimants, particularly those who have in the past year had bouts of unemployment or hours reduced prior to termination.”

Reducing the floor

The weekly floor has been reduced from $500 a week to $300 per week. Under pandemic rules, some people were making more money staying home, collecting E.I. than they would have made working. McSherry said, “What went on during COVID made sense in that they didn’t want people having income shortages and they were trying to make it easy for people to stay home and not circulate.”

For some people the new floor will more accurately reflect their financial losses. Anyone with an existing EI claim won’t see any changes to the value or duration of their benefits under these new rules. Simplified rules around severance and vacation pay will also be used so that claimants can start receiving benefits sooner. The wait time before benefits start flowing will be one week.

The temporary pandemic rules were put in place to prevent virus spread, while the current changes reflect an effort to motivate people to return to the workforce.

Easier to qualify for EI benefits

Another change that will be in place until September of next year is workers who’ve been fired or quit a job and then lost a subsequent job, are now able to count their hours accumulated at their previous place of employment to qualify for EI.

McSherry said, “It would help somebody who perhaps changed jobs and suddenly went somewhere new. They took a risk on making their life better and it went backwards.”

The medical certificate requirement has been reinstated which means an applicant must prove they are sick to receive EI sickness benefits. Such a change will prevent people from using medical leave to avoid vaccination. McSherry also has some concerns that the requirement will impact vulnerable people who don’t have access to technology and can’t see a doctor in person, “Requiring someone to get a note from their doctor may be a barrier for some people.”

EI can be a vital financial bridge for clients who are dealing with employers who like to play hardball in wrongful dismissal disputes said McSherry. “We’re helping people deal with job loss and helping them with income support while their disputes are being resolved. Helping our clients is important to us.”

To contact Peter McSherry please call (519) 821-5465 or visit: