The Government of Canada has announced that it is making changes to the way that workers appeal Employment Insurance (EI) decisions.
Starting in April 2021, workers will appeal to a new Employment Insurance Boards of Appeal that includes decision-makers that reflect the interests of workers. The announcement is a victory for the workers and advocates who have been demanding a fairer process for years.
EI is an important social program that provides income for workers when they lose their jobs. If EI decides not to pay benefits, workers need to have access to an appeal process that is fast, easy to navigate and fair.
In 2013, the Canadian government introduced an appeal process that did not meet these worker needs. The new appeal process is very complicated, costlier and it takes longer to get a hearing.
The Social Security Tribunal replaced an appeal process that included decision-makers who represented the interests of government, workers and employers (called a “tripartite process”). Decision-makers were drawn from local communities, so they knew about the kinds of jobs that were available. Without that kind of local knowledge, the quality of decision-making was affected.
The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) played a critical role in advocating with government to bring back fairness to EI appeals. When the creation of the Social Security Tribunal was announced, ISAC was one of only two organizations to make submissions raising concerns about the new process. In the years that followed, ISAC gathered stories about the negative impact from across Ontario, met with the Chair of the Social Security Tribunal and coordinated over 30 organizations from across Canada to write to the federal Minister responsible for EI to demand change. ISAC was recognized as an important stakeholder through invitations to participate in a KPMG review of the appeal process and we made sure that workers themselves participated and were heard.
At every stage, ISAC has joined with other EI advocates to show government that the process was not working for workers.
What is changing?
On August 19, 2019, the federal government committed to making many of the change that we asked for. The government hasn’t given a lot of details, but announced two big changes:
- A new tri-partite appeal process: Starting in around April 2021, the first step for an appeal will go to a new tribunal called the “Employment Insurance Boards of Appeal.” That new tribunal will have decision-makers representing the interests of government, workers and employers. If the worker is not satisfied with the decision made at that level, they can appeal to the Appeal Division of the Social Security Tribunal (as they can now).
- Help with the appeal process: There will be specially trained “case navigators” to help workers to understand and get through the appeal process. These navigators will give information about how the appeal process works, let workers know what kind of documents they need to include with their appeal and tell them what to expect at each stage. These navigators won’t be able to give any legal advice, but they will help make the process less confusing.
We will give more updates once we have more information about the process.
To read what the Canadian Labour Congress is saying about the announcement, click here.
What if I need help with an EI appeal now?
The appeal process won’t be changing until April 2021. If you need legal help with an EI problem, be sure to contact your local community legal clinic. You can find out which clinic serves your community here.