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Canadian Government Waives Temporary Waiting Period for EI

The Canadian Federal Government is now waiving the one week waiting period for employment insurance, at least temporarily, for all new claims between the 31st of January to the 25th of September 2021.

While May 2019 saw Canada’s lowest unemployment rate since records began at just 5.4%, a year later in May 2020 the unemployment rate had soared to a record high of 13.7%.[1] And while that rate has since declined somewhat as 2020 came to an end, the Canadian government has now decided to waive the one week waiting period before Canadians can receive their first week’s pay of employment insurance.

“By temporarily waiving the waiting period, we are easing a big financial stress for workers and are providing income support to them faster. This certainty will go a long way for families and for communities who are feeling the effects of this pandemic especially hard.” – Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough.[2]

Waiving the first week of unemployment for those applying between the 31st of January and the 25th of September will not change the number of weeks that they are entitled to, with this change, in essence, adding an additional week to an applicant’s entitlement. Because of this, anyone who returns to work before using up their full entitlement will benefit from receiving an extra week of pay.[3]

Previously, the EI waiting period has served the same function as what a deductible serves for private insurance, but this is not the first time that the Canadian government has waived the waiting period.

As a means of encouraging citizens to comply with public health measures, on September the 27th 2020, the waiting period for all EI sickness claims was waived for a year while all EI applications from that same date had their waiting time waived for one month so that no one missed a payment when transitioning from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to the EI program.

Minimum benefit

Additionally, with CERB ending at the start of October, there were many concerns that millions of Canadians would suffer in the transfer to the EI program.[4] In response to this, the Canadian government set a minimum benefit of $500 per week, or $300 per week for extended parental benefits with access to benefits for at least 26 weeks. They have also frozen the EI premium rate at the 2020 rate which will be used through 2021 and 2022, although the waiver is only accessible to Canadians residing in regions that exhibit an unemployment rate of 13.1% or higher.[5]

Claims within this time period are also all going to be automatically processed in order to minimize the amount of time between application and first payment. As such, applicants do not need to take extra steps in order to receive much needed assistance.

For those who do not qualify for EI, there are now three additional financial assistance options available: the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.[6]

NOTES

[1] CEIC, “Canada Unemployment Rate”,  https://www.ceicdata.com/en/indicator/canada/unemployment-rate#:~:text=Canada%20Unemployment%20Rate%20is%20updated,by%20reported%20by%20Statistics%20Canada.

[2] Government of Canada, “Government of Canada temporarily waives the one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance claims”, https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2021/01/ei.html

[3] Government of Canada, “Government of Canada temporarily waives the one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance claims”,  https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2021/01/ei.html

[4] Hrreporter, “Transition from CERB to EI not looking good, says economist”, https://www.hrreporter.com/focus-areas/payroll/transition-from-cerb-to-ei-not-looking-good-says-economist/333336

[5] Government of Canada, “Government of Canada temporarily waives the one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance claims”, https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2021/01/ei.html

[6] Huffington Post, “CERB Is Ending. Here’s What You Need To Know About EI And The New Emergency Benefits”, https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/cerb-end-date-ei-new-benefits_ca_5f74ef8cc5b66377b27cb355

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