CNLA Information Release – Changes to EI Program Announced

May 31, 2012
On May 24, 2012 Minister of Human Resources, Diane Finley announced changes to the Employment Insurance (EI) program.  These changes are intended to connect Canadians with existing jobs to reduce unemployment and to advance the Canadians first policy initiative.
At the time of this release the exact impact and implementation of these changes are unknown.  CNLA will continue to work with the provincial associations to gather information and establish an advocacy strategy to help our members with the new policies.  These policy changes are scheduled for implementation in early 2013.
Points of interest
The consensus amongst stakeholders is the proposed EI changes to do not accurately address the seasonal nature of our industry.  As Michelle Gillespie of Sun Nurseries in Sussex, NB puts it ““our seasonal business will suffer as we lose good employees.  Constantly retraining new employees will take a heavy toll on finances and lost business opportunities. Our climate dictates the seasonality of our industry not our lack of willingness to work in our chosen careers”.  

The following items have been identified as areas of potential interest for our industry:
•    Delay or loss of Seasonal Agricultural or Temporary Foreign workers:  We believe this is unlikely given the distance and wage criteria for postings.  The greater concern is delay in receiving positive LMO’s and thus filling the positions.
•    Loss of returning employees:  Repeat users of EI are going face additional pressure to find alternate employment.  They will be required to take jobs at 70% of former wage as earlier as 6 weeks after starting EI.
•    Increase in applications:  The new EI policies will likely result in many more applications for open positions.  We anticipate this could become an administrative issue for companies large and small.
Previous changes to note:
•    Reduction in the claw back amount to 50% of earnings to apply against EI claims.
•    Reduction in wages for SAWP workers by as much as 15% based on regional variation.
If you have questions or comments on this issue please direct them to Joel Beatson at the CNLA office, 1-888-446-3499, ext 8610 or
The following are excerpts from the Backgrounder provided by HRSDC
HRSDC has clarified the definition of suitable employment and what constitutes a reasonable job search.
Suitable employment depends on a number of issues:
•    Personal Circumstances—health, family obligations, transportation options and physical demands of the job
•    Commuting time—within 1 hour or typical for the region
•    Type of work—responsibilities, qualifications, experience
•    Wages

Turning down a job that is considered suitable could result in EI benefits being discontinued.

Below is a breakdown of what will happen when someone applies for employment insurance.  The applicant will be filed into one of three categories:
Frequent Claimants  (17% of all claims):  Seasonal workers would fall into this category  

• This includes anyone who has filed 3 or more EI claims in the past five years
• Right away claimants will have to take any work that is a “similar occupation” of their old job and pays 80% of their previous earnings  
• After 6 weeks on EI, claimants will have to take any job they are able to do at 70% of their previous earnings  

Occasional Claimants  (58% of all claims):  Seasonal workers averaging 7 weeks a year on EI would fall into this category.

• This category includes people who don’t go on EI enough to be considered frequent claimants, but also who haven’t worked steadily enough to be long‐tenured workers.  
• For the first 6 weeks of receiving EI, they will only have to take a job in their same occupation that pays at least 90% of their previous earnings
• After 6 weeks, they will have to take a job in a similar occupation that pays 80% of their previous workings  
• After 18 weeks they will have to take any work at 70% of their previous earnings  

Long tenured workers  (25% of all claims):  

• Claimants must work for seven of the past 10 years while paying at least 30% of maximum EI payments and have received no more than 35 weeks of EI  over the past 5 years  
• Claimants will have 18 weeks to find a job in their existing occupation that pays at least 90% of their previous earnings  
• After 18 weeks they must move to a similar occupation that pays 80% of previous earnings   

The Government is providing clarity on what constitutes a reasonable job search.  EI claimants’ job search efforts would be assessed based on the following criteria:  

Job search and employability activities – Canadians receiving EI benefits will be required to complete the following job search activities while collecting benefits:

•    Researching and assessing job prospects;
•    Preparing for job application (preparing resume);
•    Searching for job vacancies;
•    Applying for positions;
•    Attending interviews; and
•    Other efforts to improve employability (workshops, employment agencies, job fairs, networking, etc.).
This will be measured by the intensity of the search, the type of work being sought and evidence of job search efforts.  

A more complete description of the changes can be found at: