The deadline to give your feedback on improving the appeal process has been extended to August 8!
The federal government has hired a company called KPMG to review the way that the appeals process works around Employment Insurance (EI) decisions. If you have gone through your own appeal, or represented other people going through the process, you likely have some good ideas for what the problems are and how the process can be improved.
If you have been involved in any appeals at the Social Security Tribunal, it is important that KPMG hears from you before August 8 (previously the deadline was July 21). This guide will tell you how you can participate.
What is the review?
Employment Insurance is an essential social insurance program for making sure workers are not forced into poverty when they lose their jobs. If their applications for benefits are turned down, workers must have access to a fast and easy way to have the decision reviewed, so that they aren’t forced to go into debt or rely on social assistance while they wait.
Unfortunately, that is not what happens now. When someone is denied EI benefits, they are faced with a complex appeal process that has as many as four different stages:
- A worker must first request that the Employment Insurance Commission “reconsider” its decision;
- If the decision stands, they must then appeal to the General Division of the Social Security Tribunal;
- If still no change, then request “leave to appeal” to the Appeal Division of the Social Security Tribunal;
- The final appeal is to the Appeal Division of the Social Security Tribunal
Appeals are heard by only one Tribunal member and it can take many months to get a decision. In the meantime, many workers are left without any income.
Before 2013, the appeal process was much faster and simpler. Appeals could be heard within weeks at the Board of Referees, where cases were heard by three people: representatives for workers, employers and the community. A worker who was dissatisfied with the result could then appeal to an “Umpire.”
In April 2017, the government of Canada hired KPMG to conduct a review to improve the Social Security Tribunal’s appeal processes. That review is going on right now.
What are some of the problems with the appeal process?
The Income Security Advocacy Centre has worked with the legal clinic Employment Insurance Working Group to summarize some of the problems and suggest solutions. We have identified the following key issues:
- The “reconsideration” process creates an additional hurdle
- Workers don’t know what they are appealing until after they have appealed
- The community perspective has been lost with the change to one “professional” adjudicator
- It takes too long to resolve an appeal
- Too many hearings happen by telephone
- Some workers don’t get a hearing at all
- The Appeal Division requires a high level of literacy and legal expertise
- The Tribunal does not publish all of its decisions
- The appeal process is needlessly complex and creates barriers for people with language barriers and persons with disabilities
How can the appeal process be improved?
The appeal process should be restructured based on the following four key principles:
- Principle One: Representatives for workers, employers and the community should be part of the decision-making process.
- Principle Two: Because the process serves people who have lost their jobs, the time it takes to get to a decision should be short.
- Principle Three: The process must be accessible.
- Principle Four: The process must be fair.
With these principles in mind, the Government of Canada should take the following actions to improve the system, including:
- Return to a three-person decision making panel with representatives from labour, business and the community.
- End the current long delays at all levels in the process, and adequately fund the commission / Tribunal.
- Eliminate the leave-to-appeal provisions.
- Make the formal reconsideration request step optional so that it is not required in order to appeal a decision.
- Expand resources for challenging decisions better support claimant advocates including unions.
- Give appellants the right to choose an in-person hearing.
- Eliminate the summary dismissal provisions.
- Provide appellants with a copy of their full file early in the appeal process, before they are required to submit their own evidence/arguments.
- Publish all Tribunal decisions.
The Income Security Advocacy Centre and the Inter-Clinic Employment Insurance Working Group have prepared a detailed position paper on how the Social Security Tribunal can be improved, including specific recommendations for change: ISAC EIWG Position Paper On SST Review – July 7 2017
How can I participate?
Your input into this review is very important. But the deadline is short.
You can have your say about how to improve the appeal process in two ways, but only until August 8:
- Written/Audio/Video Feedback: You can write to KPMG with your summary of the issues and solutions. Or you can simply send a letter endorsing our Position Paper. We’ve created this template letter for you to use: Template Letter To KPMG Re SST Review – July 7 2017
Letters can be sent to KPMG by mail at:
Review of SST
150 Elgin Street, Suite 1800
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 2P8
You can also record your thoughts and ideas either in an audio file or on video, and send it to KPMG at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Online Survey: KPMG has an online survey available at: www.kpmg.ca/Appel2017
The survey asks questions about your experience with both the old and the new appeal system. There are questions about the reconsideration process, how easy it was to go through the appeal process, communications with the Tribunal, the time it takes to get a decision, and the quality of the hearings and the decisions, amongst other issues.
The survey does not address all the issues that we have flagged in our Position Paper. Make sure you use the comment boxes to explain all the problems you have experienced and to clearly explain how you think the process needs to be changed.