The Canadian government has introduced legislation that will allow self-employed individuals to opt into the federal employment insurance (EI) plan, a benefit that was previously only available to wage-earners and salaried workers. The Fairness for the Self-Employed Act will now extend benefits such as parental, maternity, adoption, medical and compassionate-care to self-employed persons. The extension of parental leave to the self-employed was a Conservative party campaign initiative from the 2008 federal election; at that time, the party estimated the extension of EI benefits would cost $147 million. The government expects the new plan to be self-financing, but that will depend on how many of Canada’s self-employed workers sign up and claim benefits. Self-employed workers accessing EI will have to continue paying premiums for as long as they are self-employed. Signing up for the plan became an option on January 1st, 2010 and benefits can be claimed one year later.
I would love to see some discussion and analysis about the potential pitfalls and loopholes in this new EI program. Number one for me is the stipulation that if you sign up for it as a self-employed individual, you cannot opt out of it ever again. How do they draw the line and determine someone as self-employed. How will someone be able to prove that they have run out of work? Will the rules be so prohibitive that few will be able to access it after they sign on, but then be forced to forever more pay into it? As a self employed individual myself, despite my longing to have some sort of employment safety net, I have too many questions about this, and have not been able to find enough answers, to feel comfortable signing up for it.
~ Janelle Hardy
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