One of the benefits of the RSMCs being contracted in is that you are now covered by the Employment Insurance (EI) program. EI provides benefits to you if you lose your jobs, get sick, take maternity or parental leave, or need to take time off to care for a family member who is dying.
This fact sheet provides information about your rights under EI. To find out more information, call the Employment Insurance number in the blue pages of your phone book. If there is no specific listing for EI, call the "Information on the Government of Canada" number 1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) or TTY 1-800-465-7735 and ask for the EI number. You can also find your local EI office by phoning the automated touch tone line at 1-800-206-7218.
If you have questions or need more information about your rights, contact your steward or someone from your local executive.
What does EI cost?
Canada Post deducts your portion of EI premiums from your paycheque. The rate in 2004 is $1.98 for every $100 you earn, up to a maximum of $772.20 per year. Canada Post pays an employer's portion, which is $2.77 for every $100 you earn, up to a maximum of $1080.30 per year.
What does EI pay?
The benefit rate for all types of EI is the same, 55% of your regular income, up to $413 per week (does not include vehicle expenses). Regular income means your typical weekly wage, not counting overtime or special allowances.
The first two weeks of your claim are an unpaid waiting period. EI calls this a deductible. The number of weeks for which you will receive benefits varies depending on the type of benefits you are collecting, and may depend on the number of weeks you have worked or contributed EI premiums previous to your claim and the unemployment rate in your area.
To find out the unemployment rate in your area, call the local Employment Office number listed in the blue pages or get it from the general inquiries number listed above.
What does EI cover?
If you lose your job
For information on regular EI benefits see www.hrsdc.gc.ca/asp/gateway.asp
You can collect regular EI if you lose your job through no fault of your own, for example, if there are lay-offs. Generally speaking, if you quit your job without just cause or you are fired for misconduct, you will not be paid benefits. Just cause for quitting includes being harassed at work (as defined by the Canadian Human Rights Act), leaving work to take care of someone in your family, having to work excessive overtime, or having to move due to relocation of your spouse.
For more information on just causes for quitting see www.hrsdc.gc.ca/asp/gateway.asp
If Canada Post says that you were fired for misconduct, and you disagree, you can appeal EI's decision to not give you benefits.
For more information on appealing a decision
To be eligible to collect regular benefits, most workers must have worked between 420 and 700 hours in the qualifying period. The qualifying period is the 52 weeks previous to applying for benefits or since their last EI claim, whichever is shorter. The number of weeks needed to qualify depends on the unemployment rate in your area.
However, EI also considers the 52 weeks that come immediately before the qualifying period. They call this the labour force attachment period. If you have at least 490 eligible hours of work in the labour force attachment period, then you will only need 420 to 700 hours in your qualifying period. If you do not have 490 eligible hours, then you will need 910 hours in your qualifying period to be able to receive EI.
Many RSMC will have no hours in their labour force attachment period, because the hours you worked before you covered by the collective agreement do not count as insurable employment (meaning you did not pay EI premiums during that time). Therefore, you will need to work 910 hours before you will qualify for regular EI benefits.
Note: If you had another job, where you did pay EI premiums, you may have enough hours in your labour force attachment period to qualify.
Once you are eligible for benefits, you can collect regular EI benefits for 14 up to 45 weeks. The number of weeks will be based on the unemployment rate in your region and the number of hours you had in your qualifying period. There is a two-week waiting period where you receive no benefits.
If you become a parent
Under the RSMC collective agreement, you have the right to take maternity and/or parental leave, if you or you partner gives birth to a baby or you adopt a child. EI pays maternity and parental benefits.
To be eligible to collect maternity benefits, you must be a birth or surrogate mother, and your weekly earnings must have decreased by more than 40%. You must also have accumulated 600 insured hours in the last 52 weeks or since your last EI claim. There is no labour force attachment period for maternity benefits. EI pays maternity benefits for 15 weeks; there is a two week unpaid waiting period before you can collect.
To be eligible to collect parental benefits, you must be the biological or adoptive parent, and your weekly earnings must have decreased by more than 40%. You must also have accumulated 600 insured hours in the last 52 weeks or since your last EI claim. There is no labour force attachment period for parental benefits. EI pays parental benefits for 35 weeks. These weeks can be shared between two parents, if you choose, and/or can be taken immediately following maternity leave. There is a two-week unpaid waiting period, but it only has to be served once. So, if you are taking parental leave immediately following maternity leave, or if your spouse has already served the two-week waiting period, it does not have to be served again.
For more information about maternity, parental and adoption benefits see www.hrsdc.gc.ca/asp/gateway.asp
If you get sick
You do not have paid sick leave under your collective agreement. This will come in future rounds of bargaining. However, you may get up to 15 weeks of sickness benefits from EI if you can't work because you are sick, injured or under quarantine.
To be eligible, you must have worked 600 insurable hours in the last 52 weeks and you must provide a medical certificate saying how long you will need to be off work. There is a two-week unpaid waiting period.
For more information about sickness benefits see www.hrsdc.gc.ca/asp/gateway.asp
If you need to take care of a loved one
EI pays compassionate care benefits to workers who have to take time off work to take care of or support a family member who is seriously ill and at risk of dying in the next 26 weeks.
To be eligible you must have worked 600 insurable hours in the last 52 weeks, and your earnings must be decreasing by 40%. EI pays benefits for up to six weeks, and the time can be shared between different family members. There is a two-week unpaid waiting period, but only one period has to be served. You will need to provide a medical certificate (available from EI offices and on the website) showing that the person for whom you will be caring requires care and is at risk of dying in the next 26 weeks.
For more information see www.hrsdc.gc.ca/asp/gateway.asp
How do you apply?
To receive EI benefits of any kind, you have to fill out an EI application form, either online ( www100.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/ae-ei/dem-app/english/home2.html ) or in person at your local Human Resource Centre of Canada (HRCC). You can find your local office by looking in the blue pages of your phone book or phoning the automated touch-tone line at 1-800-206-7218.
You will need the following information to apply:
· your Social Insurance Number (SIN);
· a Record of Employment (ROE) from Canada Post and any other jobs you've had over the past 52 weeks. If you do not have a ROE, you should still apply as there is a deadline for applying;
· personal identification such as your driver's license, birth certificate or passport if you are applying in person;
· your complete bank information, as shown on your cheque or bank statement (or a voided personalized blank cheque from your current account) if you want your benefits deposited to your bank account;
· if you are applying for sickness benefits: a medical certificate saying how long your illness is expected to last;
· if you are applying for compassionate care benefits: a medical certificate confirming the condition of the person you will be caring for.
A word about the surplus
Employment Insurance is an important part of the social safety net. Being protected in case of losing your job or needing to take care of a loved one, or being able to spend time with the new addition to your family, is an important right workers have fought for and won.
However, we now have a situation where the surplus of EI overpayments has reached $44 billion dollars. Despite the surplus, thousands of workers, especially part time workers, most of whom are women, can't collect benefits because of restrictions imposed by changes the government made to EI in 1996. Money that could be going to help more workers in need, for example by lowering the 910-hour limit, is instead being used as a government slush fund. A little like the way Canada Post profits get poured into general revenue. This continues despite the fact that Auditor General Sheila Fraser has repeatedly called on the government to separately account for the EI surplus.
(With information from "Workers 'fleeced' as EI surplus grows," by Sue Bailey, February 18, 2004. cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2004/02/18/pf-352381.html )