Canadian Manufacturing

Do not make EI coverage for the self-employed mandatory: small business owners

March 4, 2021  Alanna Fairey

Reasonable precaution standards are beginning to emerge in the return to work process following COVID-19 lockdowns. (Chansom Pantip/Adobe Stock)

TORONTO — Now is not the time to make permanent changes to the Employment Insurance (EI) system, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

“The federal government has signaled that it plans on making major changes to the EI system, including offering coverage to the self-employed. There is also growing concern that some of the more generous EI benefits that are temporarily in place due to COVID-19 may become permanent. This is not the time to do anything that will create permanent new costs, especially during an already precarious time,” said Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB’s senior vice-president of national affairs, in a prepared statement.

In a recent survey, CFIB found that the vast majority of small businesses (89%) were opposed to making coverage for the self-employed mandatory. If there is to be coverage, most (73%) small business owners said that it should be voluntary. The survey also found that 73% are opposed to government permanently providing a minimum of $500 per week regardless of the amount previously earned, and a similar number (82%) would like to see the minimum number of hours needed to access EI benefits increased to at least 420 hours (from the current 120 hours). Both these measures have acted as disincentives to hiring, making it more difficult for some small businesses (43%) to hire and retain workers during the pandemic.

“Having temporary support for workers who must isolate or stay home with sick family members is very important right now, and it’s understandable that these programs are in place,” added Pohlmann. “However, EI is not a government-funded program, and the government should not be making temporary changes permanent or making EI coverage for the self-employed mandatory as these measures could have unintended consequences. Employers and employees need to have a say in any permanent changes before they are made and CFIB is ready to work with the government to ensure we have an EI system that works for all.”

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