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As CERB Winds Down, the Federal Government Announces Changes to EI and New Benefits

On August 20, 2020, the Government announced that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”) will be extended an additional four weeks and then will transition to a simplified Employment Insurance (“EI”) program. The Government also introduced a suite of new temporary benefits to support workers.

Changes to EI

Effective September 27, 2020, the Government will be transitioning to a simplified EI program.

Minimum EI unemployment rate across Canada

Usually, the unemployment rate where a claimant resides determines the number of hours of insurable employment they need to have worked in the last year to be eligible for EI regular benefits. Effective for one year starting on August 9, 2020, the Government will use a minimum unemployment rate of 13.1%. This measure will set a uniform eligibility requirement for EI regular benefits at 420 hours of insurable employment. Plus, as discussed next, claimants will get a one-time credit that will help them achieve the required hours.

Hours Credit

EI claimants will receive a one-time insurable hours credit of:

  • 300 insurable hours for EI regular benefits (job loss); and
  • 480 insurable hours for EI special benefits (sickness, maternity/parental, compassionate care or family caregiver).

As a result of this credit, claimants will be eligible if they worked 120 hours in the applicable qualifying period. This credit will be in place for one year.

Minimum Benefit

Typically, the EI benefit rate is based on a worker’s average weekly earnings before their EI claim. In order to account for the fact that many workers’ weekly earnings have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, EI claimants will now be eligible for a minimum taxable benefit rate of $400 per week, or $240 per week for extended parental benefits, and regular benefits will be accessible for a minimum duration of 26 weeks.

Rate Freeze

The Government will freeze the EI insurance premium rates for two years. This will assist both employees and employers with managing payroll costs.

New Temporary Benefits

The Government also plans to introduce new legislation to support the implementation of three new benefits. If the legislation passes, these new benefits will be effective on September 27, 2020 for one year.

The Canada Recovery Benefit

This benefit will support Canadians whose income has dropped or not returned due to COVID-19. It will provide $400 per week for up to 26 weeks, to workers who are not eligible for EI (such as self-employed individuals), who still require income support, and who are available and looking for work.

The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit

This benefit will provide $500 per week for up to two weeks for workers who are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19.

The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit

This benefit will provide $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household for eligible Canadians unable to work because they must care for:

  • a child under age 12 due to the closures of schools or daycares because of COVID-19;
  • a family member with a disability or a dependent because their day program or care facility is closed due to COVID-19;
  • a child, a family member with a disability, or a dependent whose usual caregiver is not available for reasons related to COVID-19; or
  • a child, a family member with a disability, or a dependent who is not attending school, daycare, or other care facilities under the advice of a medical professional due to being at high-risk if they contract COVID-19.

More information about these developments is available in this backgrounder. Please reach out to a member of the Labour and Employment Group for the latest advice for your business and employees. 

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Lawson Lundell's Labour and Employment Law Blog provides updates on the most recent legal developments impacting the Canadian workplace and offers practical tips for employers. We cover a range of topics, including labour relations, employment law, collective bargaining, human rights, employment standards, employment equity, workers' compensation, business immigration, privacy, occupational health and safety and pensions and employee benefits. 

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