Bitchin' 'bout employment insurance: Over to you
Since the 1940s, when Canada first introduced a worker insurance program, diddling with the program has been a hobby of government. The 1990s were especially brutal, when it underwent four separate reforms under two different parties, and we ended up with the regional disparities and low payments we have today.
If you’ve ever been “on” EI, as I have, you probably know how desperately it needs fixing.
I have a few personal beefs with maternity/parental leave, which is part of the EI system.
1. There’s a two-week waiting period for mat-leave EI, during which you will receive no money. (What’s the logic here? Are you are suppose to look for a job? Find a way to not be pregnant anymore?) Then it takes another two weeks to get your first payment, which can take up to two additional weeks to actually land in your bank account. And even then, it may just be one week’s worth of cash. So you can wait six weeks from your last working paycheque, to actually see a dime. This is, of course, during one of the most potentially expensive little windows in your family life.
2. The payments are insanely low, at 55 percent of your wage (to a cap of $477 a month). This is possible to manage if you have no mortgage, car payments, student loans, other debt, or new expenses. And if you have a husband/partner who is working. Otherwise, it’s a big financial “fuck you for reproducing” from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
3. The payments are based on the last 26 weeks of work before you go on leave. So God forbid you get tired or sick and shorten your work week in your last trimester. The former 10 years you spent busting your ass for “the economy” won’t help you now.
4. After 15 weeks, you are “allowed” to earn up to $100 a week or 25 percent of your payment. For some people, this represents a full day and a half of work per week. For others, they’re capped at doing just a couple of hours a week—hardly enough to keep a finger in the pie.
5. At the same time, the EI system allows a top-up from your employer. So most government employees (including teachers, nurses, border guards, CBC folk, et cetera) get topped up to almost their full salary while on leave. With a couple of exceptions, virtually no private employers offer this. Nor should they! No employer should be expected to directly subsidize an absent employee. That doesn’t make business sense. And, if businesses were expected to, how hard would it be for a 25- to 40-year-old woman to get a job? Super hard.
So—here’s the irony—the taxes you pay while on mat leave go to paying a topped-up salary for government employees, while you dig around in your couch cushions looking for $2 in change so you can attend baby music time at the local community centre.
So, over to you.
For those of you who have been on EI, what are your beefs with the system?