[SYDNEY, NS] — The federal government has announced changes to its controversial “Working While on Claim” employment insurance pilot project.
The project announced this summer lets claimants keep 50 cents for every dollar they earn from working while on claim and removed the previous cap on earnings, which clawed back 100 per cent of earnings over $75, or 40 per cent.
The adjustment announced on Friday will give EI recipients working while on claim between Aug. 7, 2011, and Aug. 4, 2012, the option of reverting to the rules that existed under the previous pilot program.
“Concerns have been raised regarding the new EI Working While on Claim pilot project,” said Diane Finley, the federal minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, in a press release. “We have listened to those concerns and today I am announcing our intent to make adjustments to the new pilot program.”
The Conservative government felt the old pilot project discouraged Canadians from accepting more available work.
However, opposition parties argued the change punished those who were only able to secure a day of work per week.
“A lot of people came forward, not only individuals, but the businesses came forward and helped us push this back,” said Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking in an interview Friday. “At the end of the day, they didn’t do enough consulting on this and they didn’t do enough study on the ramifications. At the very least they should have put this before a committee in the House of Commons.”
Eyking said everyone wants to see people work more, but the pilot project in no way helped to achieve that goal.
“If you were a substitute teacher you are trying to get all the work you can, but if there’s only a day a week, there is only a day a week.”
The change announced on Friday will go into effect Jan. 6 and will also be applied retroactively to Aug. 5, 2012 — the start of the new pilot program.
Beginning Jan. 6, 2013, eligible claimants must make the request to revert to the old pilot parameters within 30 days of their last EI benefit payment. For claims that have already ended, claimants will have 30 days from the introduction of this option.
Eligible claimants will be required to make this request for any subsequent claims for the duration of the new pilot project, which runs from Aug. 5, 2012, until Aug. 1, 2015.
For an eligible claimant who does not choose to be considered under the previous pilot rules, all current and future claims will be processed under the new Working While on Claim pilot rules.
For an eligible claimant, if they make the decision to opt for the previous pilot, they will not be able to revert to the new pilot during the same EI claim.
In addition, if, in a subsequent claim, they receive Working While on Claim benefits under the new pilot introduced in August, they will not be allowed to opt for the old pilot should they file another claim the following year.