Text Size

Employment Insurance (EI) Changes

November 12, 2014 Poverty Reduction

(This story originally appeared at the Sherman Hub News.  You can find it and other stories at


Many European countries recognized the need for a social program for the unemployed before Canada did.

Here a small program wasn’t in place until 1919. Not surprisingly, constitutional disputes hindered the development of a full-fledged program.  Finally, we had one in 1940. It has evolved over time.

A fairly comprehensive piece of legislation, the Unemployment Act, passed in 1971. 

This Act was almost universal in coverage (96% of the wage and salary earning work force was covered).  Benefits were extended to include illness, maternity leave, and retirement. The maximum duration of benefits was hiked to 51 from 36 weeks in 1971.

As many readers will be aware, there have been significant changes in Employment Insurance (including, tellingly, in 1996 the name was changed from UI) over the past forty years. Most changes have not been good ones for unemployed workers.

An exception would be the recent creation of the Parent of Critically Ill Children (PCIC) Benefits. This benefit is available to parents of children under 18 years of age who are critically ill or injured.  Otherwise, changes have not been positive ones.

First, the number of insurable hours needed to qualify has increased significantly. The rules are complex. However, applicants must have a certain number of hours of employment in a qualifying period (52-week period immediately before the beginning of a benefit period). The required number of hours fluctuates with the local unemployment rates but it will be between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment if the claimant accumulated at least 490 hours of participation during the labour force attainment period (52-week period before the qualifying period). If not, claimants must have at least 910 hours of insurable employment.  In Hamilton, claimants qualified with 300 hours of work in 1995. The comparable figure in 2012 was close to 700 hours.

Secondly, the wage replacement rate has decreased considerably. The figure dropped from 67% of employment income in 1971 to stand at only 55% today.

Only 35% of all unemployed individuals now qualify. Twenty four years of legislative changes have eroded that figure from 74% of unemployed individuals who received benefits in 1990 (See Good Jobs for All.).


Here are some random tips from Parkdale Community Legal Services for those applying for EI.

• A Record of Employment (ROE) is needed to process an application. An ROE is not needed to start the application process.  Always apply for EI as soon as possible.

• Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) can assist in obtaining an ROE.

• Applicants mislabeled as independent contractors who believe they were actually employees, can obtain a ruling from Canada Revenue Agency about status.  Apply for EI first, and then seek the ruling.

• A worker with a work permit that restricts them to one employer may still qualify for EI.

We can help with Employment Insurance matters at the Clinic. Contact us for assistance at 905-527-4572 or




Leave a comment