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What are the Benefits of Employment Insurance?

Benefits of Employment Insurance

In Canada, employment insurance (EI) is operated by the government and provides temporary income assistance for eligible employees who cannot work.  There are different types of benefits offered through EI in Canada including regular benefits and special benefits.  Of course, as with any kind of insurance, there are specific eligibility requirements.   Let’s take a moment to review the eligibility criteria as well as the types of benefits of employment insurance that are available to workers in Canada.

Ultimately, there are several eligibility requirements for EI in Canada.  First, you must be employed in insurable employment – which means you and/or your employer have been contributing to EI premiums.  Next, you can only collect EI regular benefits if you have lost a job through no fault of your own.  Once you have been off work and not receiving pay for at least seven consecutive days, you can apply for EI.  However, in order to qualify, you must have worked between 420 and 700 insurable hours in the 52-week period before your claim starts.  Finally, you must be ready, willing and capable of working while you’re collecting benefits, and you must also be actively seeking work to qualify.  Nevertheless, there are some special exceptions for eligibility so if you are not certain of your eligibility status, you should apply for benefits regardless.

So then, speaking of benefits, what are the benefits of employment insurance in Canada?  Essentially, EI represents temporary income assistance for individuals who have lost their job through no fault of their own.  The exact amount of income assistance depends on your earnings.  The basic EI rate is about 55% of your average weekly income with a maximum amount of $547/week.  Also depending on the length of your employment, you may be eligible to receive EI benefits for a period of 14 weeks to a maximum of 45 weeks.  The length of time you can collect benefits is also determined by the unemployment rate in your area.  Additionally, a family supplement is available to individuals with children and a spouse (who receives the Canada Child Benefit) if their net family income is below $25,921 per year.  This supplement can bump your EI benefits up to as much as 80% of your average weekly income, but this figure also depends on your net family income.

Finally, EI benefits are also available to certain individuals who are off work because of sickness.  You may qualify for temporary income assistance through EI if you cannot work because of sickness, injury, or quarantine.  Typically, the maximum length of eligibility for sickness benefits is 15 weeks.  Also, you might be surprised to learn that maternity and paternity benefits through the government are also part of your EI benefits.

What Is the Canadian Human Rights Act?

Human Rights Act Canada

Passed in 1977 by the Parliament of Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Act is a piece of legislation that outlines legal protections for all citizens of Canada.  The goal of the act is to protect Canadians from discrimination based on membership to unique or marginalized groups.  The Canadian Human Rights Act protects individuals from discrimination based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, marital status, age, disability, or religious or political affiliations.  The Act applies to activities with federal oversight across Canada, though most provinces and territories feature their own human rights’ code to protect against discrimination.

Discrimination is often defined as any action or behaviour that results in unjust treatment of a person or group based on their membership in a particular group.  The Canadian Human Rights Act essentially makes discrimination illegal in Canada, so anybody who is victim of discrimination according to the Act is eligible for legal protection.  Should you feel you have been subject to discrimination, you can make a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Currently, the Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, or a conviction for which you have been pardoned.  So, for example, you cannot be refused a loan based on your ethnic origin and you can’t be fired because your sexual orientation is revealed.

According to the Canadian Human Rights Act, discriminatory practices include the following:

  • Denying goods or services,
  • Refusing employment,
  • Pay inequity,
  • Hate speech communicated by phone or internet, or
  • Retaliation against a person who has filed a human rights complaint.

Tasked with investigating claims of discrimination, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has a vision of promoting an equal and just country for all Canadians.  The right to live life free from discrimination is a basic human right in Canada, and by law the Canadian Human Rights Commission is required to investigate every discrimination complaint received.

It is also important to know that in Canada, the Constitution shares jurisdiction for discriminatory acts at federal and provincial or territorial levels.  Some agencies and organizations (such as airlines and financial institutions) are legislated federally, whereas businesses tend to be regulated regionally by the provincial or territorial governments.

The Canadian Human Rights Act can be difficult to navigate for anybody with out expert legal knowledge.  If you feel you have experienced discrimination, but are protected under the Act, you should contact a legal representative.  You may be eligible for compensation, but only if legal discrimination is established.  Obviously, the experience of discrimination can be highly unsettling, but if you decide to pursue a complaint remember that you are protected under the law.

Dismissal Without Cause in BC

Dismissal Without Cause in BC

As an employee in British Columbia (BC), it is important to know your rights.  While there are very few protections from dismissal without cause in BC, there are still several entitlements that ensure employers are at least somewhat considerate in their decisions to terminate employment.  Unless you have a specific employment contract, the BC Employment Standards Act outlines all the conditions of employment in this province, and that includes the rules and regulations associated with dismissal.

First, let’s talk about the bad news.  Under the BC Employment Standards Act, any employer may terminate employment at any time for any reason.  This means there is no real case for dismissal without cause in BC unless you have an employment contract that outlines a broader scope of rights than the BC Employment Standards Act.

That being said, the vast majority of employees are entitled to some kind of compensation when their employment is terminated.  In order to be eligible for compensation in BC, an employee must have completed three consecutive months of employment.  Moreover, compensation is only provided in lieu of advance written notice of termination from the employer.

So then, if you’ve been employed for three or more months with the same company and you’re terminated without written notice, your employer must provide financial compensation.  All employees are entitled to one week’s pay after three consecutive months of employment, two weeks’ pay after 12 consecutive months of employment, and three weeks’ pay plus one week for each additional year after three consecutive years of employment.  Compensation in BC is maxed out at 8 weeks’ compensation.

However, it is important that employees in the province know that they are not entitled to compensation if employers provide advance written notice of termination providing this notice is equal to the number of weeks’ compensation to which the employee is entitled.  For example, if you have been employed with a company for three consecutive years, they must provide written notice 3 weeks in advance of the termination date.

You may also not be eligible for compensation under the following conditions:

  • Dismissal with just cause,
  • Termination of an on-call or temporary assignment,
  • The end of contracted employment,
  • The end of a defined term of employment,
  • Teachers employed by a board of school trustees.

Still, there are other factors covered by common law that may influence the amount of compensation or written notice to which an employee is entitled.  For example, length of service, employee age, position held, and even availability of similar employment may impact compensation.  If you feel you’ve been dismissed without just cause and you’re unsure of your rights, contact an employment lawyer to ensure you are compensated appropriately.

Things to Look for when Hiring a Labour Lawyer

Things-to-Look-for-when-Hiring-a-Labour-Lawyer

Just as you would expect variability in the skills and service of any professional, not all labour lawyers provide the same level of service.  So, what are some things to look for when hiring a labour lawyer?

Experience

It probably goes without saying that labour law is a specialized field and your lawyer should absolutely have experience with labour law.  You want to know that your lawyer is successful and can provide evidence of this success.  Labour lawyers are even further specialized, and some may have unique expertise in areas such as wrongful dismissal, human rights complaints, or negotiating employment contracts.  Take the time to ensure your lawyer not only has experience in employment law, but also the area in which you need assistance.

Integrity

Sometimes professionals in any field will say just about anything to land a client, and this can happen in law as well.  You want to know you can trust your lawyer and that they are giving you realistic advice.  Bold predictions or understated costs should be faced with some skepticism on the part of the client.  Seek realistic advice that is based on a comprehensive review of your case and associated legislation.

Communication

Legalese can be difficult to navigate, so your lawyer needs to be able to communicate with you in terms you understand.  But, beyond putting the law into lay terms, you also want to be able to communicate effectively with your lawyer.  Are your questions answered in a timely manner?  Can you contact your lawyer when you need them?  Remember that good communication is the cornerstone of any successful relationship, and your communication needs are of primary importance – you’re the client!

Support

Your legal journey may be a difficult one.  Though the law should be objective, the experience of the law is not.  The most effective lawyers argue your case with compassion and empathy.  When it comes to labour law, your lawyer should be sensitive to your concerns regarding employment and the greater impact this has on your life.

Professional

Professionalism in law requires representatives to be organized and goal oriented.  Timelines should be well-organized, advice should be delivered clearly, and schedules should be treated with the utmost respect.  You can get a quick gauge of a labour lawyer’s professionalism by simply visiting their offices.  Are the spaces maintained in a clean and orderly fashion, or are their piles of files and papers seemingly askew?  Is support staff clear and concise in their communications?  You shouldn’t always judge a book by it’s cover, but if you enter a law office and things are obviously disorganized, take this as a red flag.

You should always speak with at least two potential lawyers before finally hiring your labour lawyer.  These tips should help you choose somebody who will represent you effectively, but at the end of the day you should also trust your instincts to a degree.  Choose the lawyer that represents the values of the profession while also meeting your personal needs.