Changes to Employment Insurance

Changes to the Employment Insurance (EI) system came into effect on January 6th 2013.

In order to clarify claimant responsibilities and address the limited effectiveness of program compliance measures, the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act amends the Employment Insurance Act to provide the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC) with the authority to establish regulations to clearly define what constitutes a reasonable job search for suitable employment.

The announcement was made by the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.   “Our Government wants to make Employment Insurance work better for Canadians,” said Minister Finley. “Today, we are announcing improvements to EI that will help Canadians who want to work, get back to work.”

What part of the Statute was amended?

Section 608(1) of Part 4, Division 43 of the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, SC 2012, c. 19 (Bill C-38), in force June 29, 2012, upon Royal Assent, amends the Employment Insurance Act, SC 1996, c. 23, by adding section 54(k.1) and (k.2) after paragraph 54(k).

Were the Regulations amended?

SOR/2012-261 (P.C. 2012-1611), published in the Canada Gazette Part II on November 29, 2012, amends the Employment Insurance Regulations by adding sections 9.001 to 9.004 after section 9.

SOR/2012-297 (P.C . 2012-1750), published in the Canada Gazette Part II  on December 14, 2012, amends the Employment Insurance Regulations by adding section 77.96 after section 77.95.


What is changing?
  • Three new categories of claimants have been created
  • New definition for a “reasonable job search”
  • New definition for “suitable employment”
What is not changing?
  • Benefits
  • The temporary foreign worker and Seasonal agriculture worker program
  • EI special benefits for maternity leave, parental, compassionate, and sick leave

Minister Finley stated, “Clarifying what is expected of claimants looking for work is just one element of our broader plan to encourage and support Canadians as they seek to return to work. Under our plan, Canadians will always benefit financially from accepting suitable employment.”

When did they come into force?

These regulations came into force on January 6, 2013.  They will be applied by Service Canada.

Detailed description of sections 9.001 to 9.004

The regulations prescribe:

  • the categories of EI claimants based on clear criteria related to previous EI contributions and usage;
  • what constitutes suitable employment for various claimant categories; and
  • what constitutes reasonable and customary efforts to obtain suitable employment.

The three categories of claimants are:

  • Long-tenured workers: "those who have paid at least 30 per cent of the annual maximum EI premiums for 7 of the past 10 years and who, over the last 5 years, have collected EI regular or fishing benefits for 35 weeks or less."
  • Frequent claimants: "those who have had three or more claims for EI regular or fishing benefits and have collected benefits for a total of more than 60 weeks in the past 5 years."
  • Occasional claimants: "all other claimants."

Suitable employment for the three categories of claimants is defined based on prior employment and usage of the EI program.

The definition of suitable employment involves a gradual expansion of what is to be considered suitable employment, with respect to the type of work and offered earnings. As duration on claim increases, claimants are required to expand their job search and reduce restrictions with regard to type of work and earnings. More specifically, claimants are required to expand the scope of their search from the “same” occupation to “similar” occupation to “any” occupation in which the claimant is qualified to work.

Under the new regulations, several factors such as type of work, wages, commuting time, working conditions, hours of work, and personal circumstances, will be considered when defining "suitable employment."

Previous earnings are based on usual earnings from their most prominent employment which is determined by the employment with the greatest number of insured hours used to establish their EI claim.

The regulations define reasonable and customary efforts to search for suitable employment as those that:

  • are sustained;
  • include activities such as assessing employment opportunities, contacting prospective employers, submitting job applications, and attending interviews; and
  • are focused on obtaining “suitable employment.”
Detailed description of section 77.96

On August 5, 2012, as part of Economic Action Plan 2012, the Government introduced a new, national three-year Working While on Claim (WWC) pilot project, WWC Pilot Project No. 18, to encourage claimants to work more, and adopting a new approach to calculating a claimant’s weekly EI benefit.

Previous WWC pilot projects (Nos. 8, 12 and 17), were in effect from December 11, 2005, to August 4, 2012.

With the implementation of Pilot Project No. 18, some claimants indicated that they were receiving lower EI benefits for the same work effort as compared to benefits under the previous WWC pilot project (No. 17).

Section 77.96 of the regulation will now  provide EI claimants with the option of reverting to the rules that existed under Pilot Project No. 17 if they were on an EI claim and had earnings between August 7, 2011, and August 4, 2012, and were eligible to benefit from the provisions of Pilot Project No. 17.  This applies to claims for any week in the period beginning on August 5, 2012, and ending on August 1, 2015.

Decisions of the CEIC in respect of any matter related to this are, until March 31, 2013, not subject to appeal, and on or after April 1, 2013, not subject to reconsideration.

January 22, 2013