Small Business Concerned About EI Changes

Now is not the time to make permanent changes to the employment insurance (EI) system, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Such changes cannot be done without consulting employers and employees, who are the sole funders of the system, or before a full cost-benefit analysis of those changes is completed. "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," says Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB's senior vice-president of national affairs. In a survey, it found that 89 per cent of small businesses were opposed to making coverage for the self-employed mandatory. If there is to be coverage, 73 per cent said it should be voluntary. The survey also found that 73 per cent are opposed to government permanently providing a minimum of $500 per week regardless of the amount previously earned, and a similar number (82 per cent) 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 to hire and retain workers during the pandemic.