The pace of layoffs in the oil and gas industry in Saskatchewan and Alberta due to the low commodity price environment is picking up heading into spring breakup.
Unemployed workers needing to file for Employment Insurance benefits can do so through a variety of means which are explained at the servicecanada.gc.ca website or office locations across Canada where they can start their application process.
The goal of Service Canada is to ensure workers get access to the services they need to help them get back to work.
To that end, Service Canada responded to a basic set of self-help e-mail questions posed by Pipeline News on everything from maximum benefits to how to avoid application pitfalls.
Pipeline News: Aside from providing EI benefits, how else does the Government of Canada help unemployed oilfield workers get back to work?
Service Canada: We also help individuals get back to work as quickly as possible by:
Offering information sessions related to EI to ensure workers know what types of jobs are in demand and where they can apply for them;
Ensuring they know what benefits and services are available, including training; and
Providing information on the government’s Job Bank website including job alerts, which help connect workers directly with jobs.
P.N.: How is the EI benefit formula calculated and what is the maximum amount someone can receive?
Service Canada: Generally, the basic rate for calculating benefits is 55 per cent of the weekly average insurable earnings.
Effective Jan. 1, 2015, the maximum yearly insurable earnings is $49,500. This means that a claimant can receive a maximum amount of $524 per week.
Visit www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/types/regular.shtml#section3 for more information.
P.N.: How long can a claimant receive EI benefits?
Service Canada: The number of weeks for which an individual may receive regular benefits varies from 14 to 45 weeks depending on the regional rate of unemployment where they reside in, the week their benefit period starts, and the number of hours of insurable employment that an individual has accumulated in their qualifying period (normally the 52 weeks immediately preceding the start of their claim). Visit www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/types/regular.shtml#long1for more information.
P.N.: What are some of the common pitfalls to avoid when applying?
Service Canada: Employees should always apply for EI benefits as soon as they stop working. They can apply for benefits even if they have not yet received their record of employment (ROE). If they delay filing their claim for benefits for more than four weeks after their last day of work, they may lose benefits to which they may have otherwise been entitled.
For more information on the application process, please visit www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/faq/faq_online.shtml
P.N.: If a previously high-wage earning oilfield worker is offered a lesser paying job, does he have to accept it or lose benefits?
Service Canada: The type of work and wages an individual is expected to accept is based on the extent to which an insured person has contributed to employment insurance and the number of weeks of regular benefits received in the past.
Claimants are also expected to widen their expectations regarding the type of work and acceptable wages as the number of weeks on claim increases.
For more information on the type of work and wages that are considered suitable, please visit www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/sc/ei/ccaj/claimant.shtml
P.N.: What is the approximate wait time for the first EI cheque?
Service Canada: If Service Canada has all the information we need and if the claimant is entitled to receive EI benefits, the first payment should be issued within 28 days of the date Service Canada receives the application for benefits. Visit www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/types/regular.shtml#start for more information.
P.N.: What is the additional wait period for a claimant with severance and other benefits?
Service Canada: All payments received from an employer upon separation of employment such as termination, severance or vacation payments, etc. are considered as earnings arising out of employment under EI legislation.
These payments are allocated starting with the week in which the layoff or separation occurs, at the rate of the claimant’s normal weekly earnings from that employment.
No benefits are payable to the claimant until after the allocation period ends and a two-week waiting period has been served. Visit www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/information/earnings_info.shtml for more information.
P.N.: Are there a lot of EI applications submitted recently by oil workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan?
Service Canada: The latest figures for EI applications found on Statistics Canada’s website reflect initial (new) and renewal (reactivate) EI claims received by province. EI applications by occupation and/or industry are not available.
Please see Statistics Canada’s Cansim table 276 0004 at www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&id=2760004
Information on EI beneficiaries by province and major occupation is provided by Statistics Canada: Cansim table 276-0041 at www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&retrLang=eng&id=2760041&paSer=&pattern=&stByVal=1&p1=1&p2=1&tabMode=dataTable&csid
P.N.: Is the volume of EI applications in Alberta and Saskatchewan picking up month to month as the downturn in the oil and gas sector progresses?
Service Canada: The latest figures for EI applications found on Statistics Canada’s website indicate that there were 17,960; 22,010 and 21,740 initial and renewal EI claims received in Alberta in October, November and December 2014, respectively.
These levels are similar on a year-over-year basis; specifically, there were 18,890; 19,930, and 20,420 initial and renewal EI claims received in October, November and December 2013.
There were 5,080; 7,760, and 7,830 initial and renewal EI claims received in Saskatchewan in October, November and December 2014, respectively.
These levels are also fairly consistent on a year-over-year basis; specifically, there were 5,340, 6,770, and 7,790 initial and renewal EI claims received in October, November and December 2013, respectively.
P.N.: How does job sharing work for eligible EI claimants?
Service Canada: Work-sharing is designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business activity that is beyond the control of the employer. Under work-sharing, income support is provided to employees eligible for Employment Insurance benefits who work a temporarily reduced work week while their employer recovers.
For more information on the Work-Sharing program, please visit: www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/work_sharing
P.N.: Will work sharing take place in the oil and gas industry?
Service Canada: Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) officials are monitoring the situation in the oil and gas sector across Canada, and in particular Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador, and are reaching out to employers to raise awareness of the work-sharing program.