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.

Ahem.

So, over to you.

For those of you who have been on EI, what are your beefs with the system?

Comments (9) Add New Comment
cool man
dont get pregnant alone, having children is almost a selfish desire.
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c murry
Come on cool man, that was a pretty narrow minded response to this article.
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Amero
I know a few Americans who would say you are lucky you get any benefits on maternity leave. I believe in the U.S. you're allowed 2 weeks off work (without pay) then you're on your own unless you have a good insurance plan. We should consider ourselves lucky on this side of the border.
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SOL
I completely agree with you, EI needs to be revamped to say the least. My Maturnity benefits end next week, I just found out that I have been laid off from my job that I worked at for over 13 years. I can not apply for EI benefits because I already used up all my maturnity. I have always been employed even working 2-3 jobs to stay afloat. I have the opportunity to collect EI on one other occassion and opted out and found a job for half of what I was making just so I wouldn't have to go on EI. Now that I am a single mother, with child, things are different. I no longer can afford to get a lower paying job working on call, I need childcare. I know it was my choice to have my son but I wasn't planning doing it on my own. I had to leave my sons father for reasons I will not disclose. I went and applied for welfare the other day and was sitting there wondering where all my taxes have been going all these years that I have worked. Also my ex spouse should have to pay more child support because he could've slpit the maturnity/parental leave with me. Then at least I would've been able to collect EI at this time because I would've had enough hours. I stayed at home with our son getting 55% my wage, and now I have no job to go back to, no money and he's building a $30,000 extension onto his house. Pretty fair.
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Dan Cheung
Or if you're the father of a single income family, like me.

I took two weeks off work. And the government took my benefits because of the two-week deductible rule. How does that makes any practical sense?

And Dear Amero, IN CANADA, we pay for benefits out of our pay cheques. Therefore, we are entitled at times of need. Many of us do not even get to use these benefits.
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disabled worker
I agree Dan I really don't care what happens down south we are talking about Canada here. The same thing happens to you when you injure yourself and go on ei. They take upon themselves to screw you over when you really need them the most.
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james price
just thought id put this in there...i live in canada. EI decision makers have deadlines to call you back, however. when the deadline comes and you do not recieve a call from them...just call in again and you will hear....at the moment our call volume is high. and are unable to transfer your call. do this over and over and over until you finally get through that part and they say....at the moment our call volume is high ....your call has been placed in sequence. then about an hour later when you get through youll speak to someone for about 8 seconds to be put on hold again. then they will tell you the deadline was yesterday for them to call back and they are emailing the person in charge to call you....you must allow 2 business days. then...they dont call again so you repeat this last thing i said....then they say we are now escalating the issue to get it resolved allow another 2 days for call back. then no call....THEN you repeat again and get a level 2 escalation allow 2 days for call back...then sometime in the next few days you recieve a call to explain your side and they call you back about a week later. takes about 3 months to get EI sometimes.
CANADA ISNT ALL THAT GREAT! bunch of no minded zombies. with the head of themselves up their ass.
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Screw over by EI.
I agreed with the writer of this article and James. Hey James...I had the incident happened to me too...at least you had it done to you 2x and not 6x. I had to escalate it 6x.
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Adam
I'm a seasonal worker, so when winter comes and other jobs are difficult to find, people in my situation depend on EI. After waiting 7 weeks to finally have my application approved and starting to receive money, someone at SC made changes to my account which has literally restarted the process. So having gone another month and a half without any income it is greatly frustrating and worrying, especially when wait times are in excess of 45 minutes to talk to anyone and when I do reach someone I am told something different every time. Well done Harper for gutting staffing and overtime for Service Canada employees so people who use and depend on such services can live their lives with that extra stress and worry! The system is in shambles...good luck to anyone using it.
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