Thursday, 31 December 2015

Why is it Time to Fix the Discriminatory EI Regime? Because It’s 2016.

New Year’s Eve is a time of resolution making. Most people take this time to reflect on the year past and look ahead to what they wish to achieve in the year ahead. I am no different.

In 2015, I started work on a project in an attempt to have the Employment Insurance regime amended. Specifically, I believe that the provisions governing maternity/parental leave should be removed from the EI regime and made a stand-alone system. (Standard disclaimer that this is a personal opinion, which may not necessarily be shared by the firm that employs me.) In starting this process I wrote the following executive summary:

By placing the provisions of income replacement benefits for new and expectant parents within Canada’s Employment Insurance regime, the current law creates unexpected and discriminatory consequences for parents who lose their employment either during or shortly following the taking of maternity and/or parental leave. Such a regime would likely not withstand judicial scrutiny in the face of the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision in Canada (Attorney General) v. Johnstone. While the societal benefits of providing publicly funded income replacement benefits to new and expectant parents cannot be challenged, by associating the provision of such benefits with the provision of benefits for the unexpected loss of employment, the present law defeats the intended purposes of both regimes. The recommended solution to this problem is to disassociate the provision of income replacement benefits for new and expectant parents from the Employment Insurance regime, by creating a new regime exclusively for the provision of such benefits.

From there I set about drafting a paper that would address the problems with the current system. It is still a work in progress. The EI system is complicated and has evolved over time, through a series of governments of different political stripes.

Canada now has a new government. New governments, like new years, bring change with them. Whether this government will be interested in such a proposal I cannot say.

What I can say is that the current EI system is broken. Too many people lose their employment as a result of taking time off for maternity and/or parental leave. Changes to the EI regime will not change that unfortunate fact. However, by changing the EI regime insult will not be added to injury.

Thus my resolution for 2016 is this: First and foremost finish what I started, i.e. the paper. Second, find a way to have this idea placed onto the national agenda.

If you’re interested in this project and want to help, please email me at Assistance can come in any manner of ways, from legal research, to writing, to editing, to public relations. We have all skills and talents.

Happy New Year, dear reader. Why is it time to fix this problems with the EI system? Because it’s 2016.

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