Friday, February 10, 2012

the EI system errr.... scam?

You know, our EI system can really suck. I don't know how so many people manage to be on it over and over again. There are those of course that think it shouldn't even exist - being forced to pay for something you may never use. But it is there right now and we deal with it.... but wow I had no idea how much it can truly suck.

take for instance a good friend of mine. She is 46 years old and has been working pretty much non stop since her teens. She only took 3 months maternity leave after both her sons, who are now 20 and 15, and did not take federal mat leave pay because her job at the time actually did it themselves (and paid more)...and she has never in her life been on Unemployment. Now though, she is having a very hard time, and she applied for EI back in December and found out yesterday that she was denied. It took them 2 months to decide and she is in deep shock.

What has she been doing in the meantime? Well, after being laid off from her last job in November, she spent 2 weeks looking for a new job and applied at dozens places online, via fax, or in person - she has actually applied at 83 places total since then. She kept track for EI in case they asked for proof.Anyway, first week of December, she didn't get any callbacks and decided to file for EI just in case she needed it. She was going to cancel her application if she got a job of course and kept looking and applying. But then whammo, she fell off her front step in December and broke her ankle and foot.

Because she had already filed for EI, she thought 'well at least I will have that to fall back on' (pun intended). She figured it would kick in around the time she got her cast off and help her through until she found a job, what with the back pay, etc. She and her son that still lives at home had a very meager Christmas and she was feeling very down and depressed, stuck in a cast and not exactly prime material for job prospects as she hobbled in to some interviews. Her church and friends brought groceries over and she ate humble pie and accepted the help.

She kept calling EI to ask what was taking so long to figure out in her file and finally she got the letter in the mail yesterday saying she was denied because she was 145 hours short in her last year of employment. Whoa. She had read online that you had to be employed at your last job for at least 20 weeks, which she was, but did not have any idea about the 910 (or whatever) hours in the past 12 months rule.

So here is a woman who has paid into EI for over 20 years, never used it, and when she needs it most, she cannot get it. Something is really wrong with this system!! I know a 22 year old guy who has collected unemployment 3 times in the past 3 years after being repeatedly laid off from his oil rig job. He has no children, shares an apartment with a roomie, and has no other responsibilities other than paying his low bills on time. He can get EI after only paying in for a few years, but someone employed for over 20 tax paying years cannot? What's up with that?

I feel badly for my friend. She has always had a rough go of things, a decade of being just on the breadline, but she has never been on welfare and never collected from EI. Now she is up poo creek without a paddle. She lives in the upstairs of a tiny house in a run down old part of town, 2 bedrooms, one bathroom, small kitchen, etc... but welfare won't even cover half her rent even if she does go for it. So what is she supposed to do? Move to a tiny apartment and put herself on welfare and be stuck there until things shape up around here? It's truly depressing. I'm not sure who thought up all of these rules for collecting EI but they should also take into account how many years a person has put into the program before slicing them off due to a bad year. She had 3 jobs, running concurrently for a few months, in this past year but only 20 hours or less at each one. She sometimes worked all three on the same day, just trying to keep afloat and feed her kid. And now she is getting the shaft. Another fun point to note is that her 35 hour a week job in the first half of the year was a govt place that got shut down suddenly due to mismanagement by senior staff. If that lovely govt run place had not closed lickety-split and run just a few weeks longer, she would have had enough hours to help her in her great time of need right now. It's like a slap in the face really.

It's people like her that I really feel badly for and want to help through these Social systems. That's who I always assumed WOULD be getting the help. Shame on me for being an optimist and trusting that the govt sometimes knows what it's doing. And too bad over $500 is taken from my cheque each month for taxes for who-knows-what because that would be enough to fill her fridge for a month and I could play knock-knock-ginger and leave her a pile of food on the nasty step that laid her up. She had enough money saved (attempt at retirement savings) to cover two months rent and living expenses, barely, but now all of it is gone and she has no idea what to do. On top of that, she went to the cast clinic today to get her cast off, hoping that would jump start getting a job at least - but her foot is also cracked and she has to keep it on for at least 3 more weeks. She is feeling lower than low right now and I am in my overdraft already for the month so there isn't a whole hell of a lot I can do either. She wouldn't want me to because I have 3 kids and a grandchild on the way on top of that.... but I wish I could help. I will have to figure something out. Her son is my son's best friend. I will wrack my brain for some ideas.

In the end though, what I wish is that real human beings sat around making up rules and regs for systems like EI. Someone who has actually worked real jobs in their lifetime and knows what real life is all about. Sometimes people get dealt a totally crap hand and need help temporarily and that's what I thought these social systems were for. She could try for disability, but she has already been in the cast over 6 weeks and by the time it kicked in, she should be back to working status (if she can nab a job). But also there is another problem - her doc made sure originally to file that she could still work with her hands because she did not want the injury to affect the EI she was sure she would be getting. So she may not be able to get much, if anything, from disability either. Especially considering they would be looking at her last XX number of weeks of employment and she has had zero earnings since mid-november. Oh oh. She will hopefully find out more info on Monday.

It just sucks. We all pay in to this week after week, month after month, year after year, being told it's insurance to help us if something happens where we find ourselves unemployed - only to find out that some of us won't get a dime afterall. It's rather shocking really. How would any of us feel if we paid car and house insurance or heck, life insurance, for over 20 years and when it came time to finally file a claim, they said 'no' for feeble reasons. Gee that reminds me of the health care situation where insurance companies are constantly being called out as The Bad Guys and the govt wants to jump in there and fix it (think Obamacare south of the border), but then govt insurance itself leaves a bad taste in your mouth and might not be there for you in dire times either. What's wrong with that picture?


  1. Something like that happened to me, they seem to find ways to find people inelligble. A reason I would never support beaurotwats on pay rises. Anyway you can thank Martin and the caring librals for these rules. They needed all the money to steal to balance the budget

    1. She should get herself and all of her paper work over to her MP's office as soon as possible. I am sure there is some way around this and that is what your MP is here to do, help you through the system.

  2. Have you tried your MP's office? Sometimes they can help. No guarantee, but I've gone that route for other issues (though mainly provincial) and it's worked out.

  3. Thanks for the tip about the MP's office. You never know and def won't know if you don't try, right? I just get baffled that a 18 yr old can work for one year, minimum wage, full time, and get EI benefits if they get laid off - but someone over 40 who has been paying in for over 20 years cannot get those benefits,because they are short a few hours. It's bizarre. I know they wanted to set some rules but what's the point of paying in all these years if I really need it some day and they say no?

  4. I agree, the system sucks. It's set up to be manipulated by people working to collect, and those who really need it are often screwed.

    Your analogy comparing EI with you car or house insurance isn't quite right, since much like EI, your car insurance doesn't really care how many years you've been paying into it either; only that you paid your premiums and had a valid policy at the time of the event triggering the claim.

    However, perhaps we can take a lesson from something else that home and auto insurance policies do, that maybe EI should do. Auto insurance policies are not necessarily more generous in their claims approval process based on how many years you've paid. They do, however, reduce your premiums based on how long you're been claims free. They assess risk. If you're deemed to be a lower risk of having an accident, you pay a lower premium. Perhaps if you're deemed to be a lower risk of unemployment, them maybe you should pay a lower EI premium? This way there might be some incentive for people to not 'work the system'. If you have a record of long-term stable employment, you could get rewarded with lower premiums? Those who work in unstable industries or make frequent claims (like fisherman who every year work for so many months and then claim EI for so many months like clockwork) would get penalized with higher premiums?

    I don't have all the answers, but we need to find some solutions that will improve the system for those who use it honestly and penalize those who just try to game it, leaving more money for those who need it legitimately.

  5. Yeah the auto or home insurance thing doesn't quite work in this scenario, and lord knows some people have troubles with that too even with a legitimate claim. But those are at least by choice - meaning that you do not HAVE to buy a car and you do not HAVE to buy a house, so you do not HAVE to buy that insurance unless you make those other choices. But most people have to work, and if you are doing legal work, you have to pay taxes and EI and CPP come from that - but you do not always get the benefits from it that you think you will.

    I don't even know if the govt would be able to come up with a system of different premiums for different work or years of work though if they cannot even seem to handle the current system. I don't trust them to manage it properly at all. I just think that it should not be solely based on your last year of work. Perhaps there should be another clause such as looking at your hours of work since you last collected EI payments. A yearly average of hours or something to the like. That of course can cause problems too because you would need a record of employment from all past jobs and that's not going to work for everyone, so then it comes down to 'gee, this person filed a tax return every year for the past 20 years and right on it are their earnings and hours works blah blah, and they have never collected EI, so they certainly have enough hours put in to be able to get something out of it'. Bingo bango done. But even though the govt is supposed to have a copy of all your t4s and/or tax returns in it's files, they are never able to find them all and thus the 'prior years earnings' comes into effect. If they cannot handle that system, I hold no hope they would be able to manage an even more complicated one!



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