On November 19, 2013, the Federal Court of Appeal ordered the Office of the Umpire to re-hear each of 102 cases wherein migrant workers were denied Employment Insurance parental benefits.
The applications had been denied on the grounds that they had applied “too late” and the denials had been upheld by the Umpire.
But there is no deadline for applying for EI, as long as the worker can show that they had a good reason for not applying earlier.
The Federal Court of Appeal agreed that decision of the EI Umpire was wrong, because the Umpire refused to consider the multiple barriers that migrant workers face when considering whether they had a good reason for applying when they did.
The case is important because it confirms that the vulnerable circumstances of migrant workers must be considered in determining their eligibility for the parental benefit, giving them a fair chance to access a program that they contributed to.
The Court stated that migrant workers face “unique disadvantages in the Canadian labour market,” including ineligibility for many social benefits, denial of statutory protections enjoyed by other workers, social isolation and fear of employer reprisal and deportation.
The Court has ordered the Umpire to keep these vulnerabilities in mind when assessing each case.
The workers were represented by ISAC and Niagara North Community Legal Assistance.
Download our information bulletin on the case below: