By Epoch Times - January 2, 2022
Canadians who become jobless because they aren’t willing to get vaccinated for COVID-19 may be ineligible for employment insurance (EI) benefits, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Qualtrough said the decision was made in part to ensure workplaces weren’t shut down due to an outbreak, and also to encourage vaccine uptake.
The Liberals have tacked the condition on to a suite of other benefit payments besides EI, saying none can go to workers who lose their jobs or work hours because they refused to get vaccinated.
The rules don’t apply to those with a medical exemption.
Qualtrough said the vaccination rules for COVID-19 benefits will continue as long as public health concerns remain a top priority for the federal government.
“As long as the collective public health of Canadians is jeopardized, and our economy is thereby threatened, we’re going to have to keep public health policy top of mind in our employment and labor and economic decision making,” she said.
“And I don’t know how long that will be.”
Employment and Social Development Canada, the federal department responsible for administering EI, recently issued an updated guidance notice to employers filling out records of employment (ROE) for workers who do not comply with their firms’ COVID-19 vaccination policies.
Those applying for EI need an ROE. If an employee doesn’t meet the criteria stated in the ROE, he or she will likely not receive the benefits.
“When the employee doesn’t report to work because they refuse to comply with your mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, use code E (quit) or code N (leave of absence),” said the notice, updated on Dec. 24.
“When you suspend or terminate an employee for not complying with your mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, use code M (dismissal or suspension).”
The notice added that should employers use any of those codes, the department will contact them to determine if they had communicated their vaccine policies clearly to the affected employees, the consequences for non-compliance, any potential exemptions, and whether the policies were enforced within reasonable context.
The government has rolled out several COVID-19 benefits for workers in the course of the pandemic.
During the first wave, 3 million jobs were lost over two months from March 2020 to April 2020, while almost as many had their hours cut.
By May 2020, the unemployment rate hit a historic high of 13.7 percent, and the government shut down the EI system at the time in favour of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and its successor, the Canada Recovery Benefit.
Federal aid was revamped again in December 2021 with a more targeted focus on the hardest-hit sectors that includes a $300-a-week benefit for workers who are subject to a lockdown.
Qualtrough said the latest pivot in pandemic aid was conceived in the fall to encourage participation in the labour force.
“We knew we had to make sure that if something like Omicron happened, that we still needed a tool to help Canadians who either would lose their jobs or would face reduced hours,” she said.
“But we knew the economy in September of 2021 looked very different than it did in September of 2020. So we couldn’t just continue with broad measures that maybe would disincentivize work, or wouldn’t encourage maximum labour force participation.”