Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

November 03, 2009 10:00 ET

The Government of Canada Delivers Employment Insurance Fairness for the Self-Employed

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 3, 2009) - The Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, today announced that the Government of Canada has introduced the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act, legislation that would extend Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits, including maternity, parental, sickness and compassionate care benefits, to the self-employed.

"Our government knows that self-employed Canadians should not have to choose between their family and their business responsibilities," said Minister Finley. "Extending access to these benefits is the fair and right thing to do. It is good family policy, and it represents one of the most significant enhancements to the EI program in the last decade."

"The self-employed have had little or no income protection to cope with major life events, such as giving birth, caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, being sick or injured, or caring for a gravely ill family member," added Minister Finley. "This government is now providing these Canadians with greater peace of mind with respect to their future financial security."

This measure responds to the Government's 2008 pledge to help provide improved economic security and support for all those who are self-employed. By introducing this legislation, the Government is delivering on, and in fact exceeding, its commitment. With these changes, self-employed Canadians would be able to voluntarily opt into the EI program and receive special benefits. Overall, the special benefits for self-employed individuals would mirror those currently available to salaried employees under the EI program.

"About 2.6 million Canadians are self-employed. The majority of them have long asked for this support, and our government is responding to this strongly expressed need," said Minister Finley. "We think that the self-employed should have the option of getting the same income protection that salaried employees currently receive when it comes to major life events."

This measure demonstrates that the Government continues to make responsive and responsible choices to support Canadians through the EI program. It is just the latest in a series of improvements the Government has already made to the EI program.

Through Canada's Economic Action Plan, the federal government is helping those hardest hit by the economic downturn by providing longer EI benefits, more efficient service and support for training, while protecting jobs through Work-Sharing agreements. The Government has also frozen EI premiums for 2010 at the same rate as 2009.

Most recently, the Government introduced legislation to extend EI regular benefits for unemployed long-tenured workers, who are individuals that have paid EI premiums for years and made limited use of the program, and who now need additional support while they look for jobs in a recovering economy.


BACKGROUNDER

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act

Income protection for life-transition events, such as the birth of a child, adoption, illness, and the care of a gravely ill family member, is a key contributor to the financial security of all Canadian workers. The 2008 Speech from the Throne recognized the challenges facing self-employed Canadians as they deal with the dual pressure of being entrepreneurs and caring for their families. In Budget 2009, the Government proposed to examine ways to best provide self-employed Canadians with access to Employment Insurance (EI) maternity and parental benefits. The Government has now introduced the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act, legislation that would fulfill and exceed this commitment.

Through the new legislation, self-employed Canadians who opt into the EI program would be eligible to receive the same special benefits currently available to salaried employees, specifically:

- maternity benefits (15 weeks maximum) are available to birth mothers and cover the period surrounding birth (a claim can start up to 8 weeks before the expected birth date);

- parental/adoptive benefits (35 weeks maximum) are available to biological or adoptive parents while they are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, and may be taken by either parent or shared between them (if parents opt to share these benefits, only one waiting period must be served);

- sickness benefits (15 weeks maximum), which may be paid to a person who is unable to work because of sickness, injury or quarantine; and

- compassionate care benefits (6 weeks maximum), which may be paid to persons who have to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is gravely ill with a significant risk of death.

Under the proposed legislation, self-employed Canadians would be required to opt into the program at least one year prior to claiming benefits. They would also be responsible for making premium payments starting with the tax year in which they apply to the program. With a program start date of January 2010, claims could be made as early as January 1, 2011.

To access EI special benefits, self-employed individuals would need to have earned a minimum of $6,000 in self-employed earnings over the preceding calendar year.

The self-employed could opt out of the EI program at the end of any tax year, as long as they have never claimed benefits. If they have claimed benefits, they would have to contribute on self-employed earnings for as long as they are self-employed.

Self-employed Canadians who opt into the program would pay the same EI premium rate as salaried employees. They would not be required to pay the employer portion of premiums, in recognition of the fact that they would not have access to EI regular benefits.

Self-employed residents of Quebec would continue to receive maternity and parental benefits through the Quebec Parental Insurance Program provided by the Government of Quebec. In addition, they would now be eligible to take advantage of the sickness and compassionate care benefits being offered by the Government of Canada through EI. Should they choose to take advantage of the program, they would pay EI premiums at the same rates as employees in Quebec, where rates have already been adjusted downward to take into account the existence of a provincial maternity and parental benefit plan.

Through the Economic Action Plan, the Government of Canada has also implemented measures to support all unemployed Canadians. These measures include providing 5 extra weeks of EI regular benefits, increasing the maximum duration of benefits from 45 to 50 weeks in regions of high unemployment, protecting jobs through the Work-Sharing program, and freezing EI premiums for 2010 at the same rate as 2009 to provide economic stimulus. For more information on these measures, please visit www.actionplan.gc.ca.

Most recently, the Government introduced legislation to extend EI regular benefits for unemployed long-tenured workers, who are individuals that have paid EI premiums for years and made limited use of the program, and who now need additional support while they look for jobs in a recovering economy. Further information on this proposed measure is available at www.hrsdc.gc.ca.

This news release is available in alternative formats on request

Contact Information

  • Office of Minister Finley
    Michelle Bakos
    Press Secretary
    819-994-2482
    or
    Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
    Media Relations Office
    819-994-5559