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The Question

I was put on a workshare from October, 2020, to January, 2021, and received EI benefits. From January onwards, I went on maternity leave. I applied for 15 weeks of maternity leave plus 35 weeks of parental benefit.

Since EI was included in my workshare period, I was told this reduces my total days of maternity leave. I didn’t choose to enter the program – I was put on the workshare by my employer due to COVID. My husband is not employed in Canada, or else I would have used his parental benefit. I would like to appeal this decision. How should I tackle this problem?

The first answer

Jim Wu, lawyer, Forte Law Corporation, Surrey, B.C.

Unfortunately, under the current Employment Insurance (EI) legislation, you would have a tough time winning an appeal.

The law, as it currently stands, allows you to be paid a maximum of 50 weeks of EI in a 52-week period.

The 52-week period starts from the time you apply for EI (in this case from when you started receiving workshare EI), so the most benefits you can receive regardless of whether it is workshare, maternity or parental EI is 50 weeks.

You don’t have to be completely out of a job to be eligible for EI. A reduction of your pay by more than 40 per cent is enough, and in this case, EI was topping up reduced pay with workshare EI and those weeks of paid EI benefits must be counted towards the 50 weeks.

There is some good news: While you were on workshare, you likely accumulated insurable hours. Should anything happen to your job after your maternity leave (knock on wood), you can count those insurable hours towards a new EI claim (but not to extend your existing claim).

The federal government has introduced a number of temporary relief measures that are effective until September, 2021, including lowering the number of insurable hours to 420 hours with a one-time credit of 300 hours. This would allow you to collect up to 50 weeks of regular EI for only 120 hours or 3 weeks of full-time work.

The second answer

Madeeha Hashmi, lawyer, Karimjee Law, Toronto

When an individual receives Employment Insurance work-sharing benefits, a benefit period associated with these benefits is established under the EI regime. A benefit period refers to the number of weeks during which the individual can receive EI benefits.

Generally, if an individual wishes to receive pregnancy and/or parental benefits during the benefit period that began running for their EI work-sharing claim, the same benefit period will apply to their EI pregnancy and parental benefits. Subject to certain conditions, this benefit period can be extended by the number of weeks during which the individual received EI work-sharing benefits. Depending on the timing of events, the extension may enable the individual to receive their full 15 weeks of pregnancy and 35 weeks of parental benefits even after having received EI work-sharing benefits. However, this may not be possible in every case.

Additionally, the receipt of EI work-sharing benefits may impact the benefit rate for pregnancy and/or parental EI benefits. Depending on the circumstances, the benefit rate may be calculated based on earnings during the work-sharing period, which may result in a lower benefit rate.

In your case, we recommend that you contact Employment and Social Development Canada to ask whether the benefit period for your claim was extended based on your receipt of work-sharing EI benefits and inquire how the benefit rate for your pregnancy and/or parental benefits was calculated.

If you disagree with the decision about your EI benefits, you can submit an online request for reconsideration and can further appeal to the Social Security Tribunal if you disagree with the decision on reconsideration.

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