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Commons committee calls for reshaping of EI to cover gig workers, self-employed


OTTAWA — A House of Commons committee recommends a boost to the value and duration of employment insurance benefits, and expanding the system to cover gig workers and the self-employed.

Today’s report also asks whether special benefits, such as maternity and parental leave, should be hived off into their own program, and recommends extending sickness benefits to 50 weeks.

To pay for the moves, the committee says federal officials should look at having the government again help finance EI alongside premiums paid by employees and employers.

The committee says EI no longer reflects the realities of today’s labour market, nor is it well positioned to respond to sudden disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Last year, the government effectively shut down parts of the EI system over concerns that historic job losses at the start of the pandemic would crash the decades-old program, and instead put unemployed Canadians onto emergency pandemic aid.

April’s federal budget committed $5 million for a two-year review of EI, which the government hopes will allow time to begin badly needed upgrades to the aging computer system that runs the program.