Canada: Mentally Ill Employees Are Facing Discrimination

 

Recently a Canadian Ombudsman was tasked with investigating claims that employees suffering from mental illness may be denied benefits, according to a recent report. While these claims originated in Ontario, the discrimination investigation could make noticeable major changes for provincial standards in handling mental illness in the workplace in Alberta as well. The complaint was submitted to the Ombudsman on November 10, 2016.

The claim states that the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (‘WSIB’, aka WorkSafe BC across BC, and Worker’s Compensation Board in Alberta) may be denying benefits in select cases of mental illness within certain fields.

While the government has instituted laws that have enhanced protection of the rights of employees who have been faced with considerable mental trauma within the workplace, sometimes leading to post-traumatic stress disorder, employees who experience similar conditions as a result of ongoing harassment have no such rights. Presently, the WSIB does not have to compensate workers for chronic mental stress injuries.

Subsequently, those tormented by these conditions have been forced into litigation against their employers; occasionally a costly and lengthy process, that, unfortunately, does not guarantee their compensation once the case is closed.

The complaint goes on to allege that the government has done nothing to plug this appalling legislative loophole. This comes on the heels of an unprecedented 20% upsurge in independent complaints launched against the WSIB in 2016.

Workplace harassment is notably an issue in Alberta, (as with BC) that litigators have worked hard to mitigate. However, managing the discrimination faced by the victims of harassment is a much taller order.

Fortunately, legal support exists for employees who feel they are not being properly represented or supported in the workplace. Seeking out that support is a critical step in improving workplace conditions across the country.

A Few Interesting Facts on Mental Illness:
(Source: http://www.ethiofidel.com)

  • Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
  • 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
  • Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
  • About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).

 

Please also read the Toronto Star article at the convenient link provided for you below. Thank You.

 

Supporting Article Research Sources: Ridout Barron, Toronto Star, Mondaq

 

 

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Canada: Higher Costs Associated with Terminating Older Employees

By now, all of us recognize that, for the most part, there is no mandatory retirement age in Ontario or BC.

However, for a myriad of reasons, by and large, related to the sky-rocketing cost of living, there are often shortfalls in retirement savings, and/or job satisfaction, so many of us are working well beyond the traditional retirement age, which leads to an ever-growing number of older employees in the workforce.

In recent years, Ontario courts have moved toward awarding older employees higher damage awards for wrongful dismissals. Courts have additionally held older employees to a lower standard in terms of the efforts required to mitigate wrongful dismissal damages through finding replacement employment. The upshot is that employers are faced with the significantly increased threat of legal responsibility when terminating older employees.

In a recent Ontario, Superior Court of Justice case, the court determined in favor of a 60-year-old non-executive level employee with 30 years’ service for wrongful termination concerning an enterprise undergoing reorganizing because of operational deficits, etc.

The court awarded this ex-employee 2 years’ pay in lieu of notice of termination for her wrongful termination case. To support its findings, the court highlighted a number of recent decisions where older, long-serving, non-executive employees were also awarded 24 months’ notice.

It is significant to note here that this award was based largely on her age, and on the resulting “competitive disadvantage” she would face against younger, more recently trained employees.

So how can employers help reduce the potential liability involved with terminating their older employees?

  • A nicely crafted employment agreement can effectively restrict employees’ entitlements upon termination. Employers should make certain that all personnel execute written employment agreements with enforceable termination provisions;
  • Employers are within their rights to provide employees with working notice of termination instead of termination pay. By providing working notice, employers can significantly lessen or eliminate liability altogether. During the working notice period, employees are required to continue to carry out their duties at the same level of performance. In this case, had the company provided the ex-employee with 18 months’ advance notice of termination, there would have been no liability at the end of the notice period, other than for statutory severance pay of twenty-six (26) weeks’, which cannot be provided through working notice;
  • Wherever possible, employers would be prudent to offer the terminated employee a reference letter. Reference letters increase an employee’s chances of finding replacement employment, which, in turn, reduces the employer liability. In this case, the Court also considered that this enterprise did not offer a reference letter; and
  • Outplacement Counseling can be a powerful tool to aid a terminated employee in finding replacement employment. Employers should consider offering employee Outplacement Counseling upon termination. This is especially so in instances such as in this Ontario case where the employee was long-serving, with little to no work experience outside of the employer’s organization.

 

Supporting Article Research Sources: Mondaq, CCPartners

Canada: Major Changes to our Employment Insurance Program (Part 2 of 2)

Introducing the Working While on Claim (‘WWC’) Pilot Project

This Pilot Project begins on August 7, 2016, and will run through to August 2018.

Every eligible EI claimant will be able to choose to keep 50¢ of their EI benefits for every dollar they earn, up to a maximum of 90% of the weekly insurable earnings used to calculate their EI benefit amount. Alternately, there is the option to revert to the rules of an earlier pilot that took effect back in 2012 (an earnings allowance of $75 or 40% of their weekly EI benefits).

The WWC pilot project will apply to you if you earn money while you are collecting any of the following types of EI benefits:

  • regular benefits
  • fishing benefits
  • parental benefits
  • compassionate care benefits
  • parents of critically ill children benefit

PLEASE NOTE: The WWC pilot project DOES NOT apply to claimants of maternity and sickness benefits or self-employed claimants.

Sample Calculation

Let’s say Christine’s weekly insurable earnings are $800. Her earnings threshold would therefore be $720 ($800 x .90 = $720).

If Christine is collecting EI benefits based on weekly insurable earnings of $800, EI would deduct the equivalent of 50% of her earnings from her benefits, until those earnings reached $720 (the earnings threshold).

Any monies Christine earns that is over the $720 earnings threshold would be deducted from her EI payments dollar for dollar.

To see more examples of how the earnings threshold works, please click here.

Canada: Major Changes to our Employment Insurance Program (Part 1 of 2)

 

 

 

 

 

In concert with my recent article on Supplemental EI Benefits for BC, I would like to share this informative post with you, which outlines our government’s continued commitment to improving Canada’s Employment Insurance System.

You will note that a number of these changes have already come into effect earlier this month, while some are slated for August 2016; such as the Working While on Claim Project.

The balance of the impending changes and enhancements to our EI system will not come into play until 2017; this includes reducing the EI waiting period from 2 weeks to 1 week, which is anticipated to begin on January 1, 2017.

New measures came into effect earlier this month that will permit the eligibility of more Canadians for EI support, simplify job-search rules for claimants, and offer more help for people heavily affected by the commodities sector downturn.

The changes include the elimination of EI eligibility requirements for new entrants and re-entrants. Instead of having to accumulate 910 hours of insurable employment, claimants newly entering the workforce, or returning after an absence of 2+ years must now meet the same eligibility requirements as other claimants in the economic region they live in. This measure will provide access to EI support for many new workers, including young Canadians, women, and new Canadians.

Simplification of Job search responsibilities for EI claimants. The rules enacted back in 2012 which forced unemployed persons to commute farther, or to take lower-paying jobs have been rescinded. The Government will also make sure that there are fair and flexible supports to help EI claimants train for and find new employment.

Extended EI BenefitsCanadians living in the identified EI economic regions hardest hit by the commodities downturn, having sustained a sharp increase in job losses have already begun to receive extended EI regular benefits.

Budget 2016 proposes to ‘extend EI regular benefits by 5 weeks to all eligible claimants, and to provide up to an additional 20 weeks of EI regular benefits to long-tenured workers, in the hardest hit EI economic regions NOTED BELOW ONLY:

  • Edmonton;
  • Southern Saskatchewan;
  • Southern Interior British Columbia;
  • Northern Alberta;
  • Nunavut;
  • Whitehorse;
  • Newfoundland/Labrador;
  • Sudbury;
  • Northern Manitoba;
  • Northern Saskatchewan;
  • Calgary;
  • Southern Alberta;
  • Northern British Columbia;
  • Northern Ontario; and
  • Saskatoon

All of the above three measures came into effect on July 3, 2016, and are part of the government’s plan to help Canada’s middle class, as well as those that are working hard to join it.

Other proposed measures to enhance our EI System over the course of our government’s mandate includes but is not limited to, the following areas:

  • Extending the Maximum Duration of Work-Sharing Agreements;
  • Investing in Skills and Training;
  • Enhancing Investments in Training;
  • Increasing the Northern Residents Deduction;
  • Supporting Flexible Work Arrangements;
  • Easier access to Compassionate Care Benefits; and
  • Flexibility in Parental Leave Benefits.

For a comprehensive list of proposed changes, stats, and further information on Canada’s impending EI enhancements, please visit the websites noted below.

 

Supporting Article Research Sources: Government of Canada, Employment Insurance Benefits

 

Part 2 of 2, ‘Working While on Claim’ will follow shortly

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Supplemental EI Benefits for BC? ~ SalaryGuard

‘The first supplemental employment insurance policy of its kind in Canada’.

SalaryGuard is gap unemployment insurance coverage providing the difference between your former weekly paycheck and Canadian benefits.

Coverage is available for up to 24 weeks in approved territories only.

The Canadian branch of the Great American Insurance Company is offering consumers coverage intended to supplement Federal Employment Insurance benefits through a brokerage; BFL Canada Risk and Insurance Services Inc., as announced earlier this year.

BFL is selling the Great American coverage, aptly named SalaryGuard in BC. Thankfully, other provinces will also be offered this coverage in the future.

SalaryGuard “will replace up to 55% of an employee’s former wages in the event of an involuntary job loss,” BFL Canada added.

 

EI SUPP SALARYGUARD 2016.jpg

For most people, the “basic rate” for calculating employment insurance benefits in Canada is 55% of their “average insurable weekly earnings”, up to a maximum amount, according to the Federal Government.

“As of January 1, 2016, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $50,800, which means that you can receive a maximum amount of $537 per week.”

The maximum weekly benefit payable from SalaryGuard is based on an annual income of $310,000, which of course, eliminates a high percentage of EI recipients.

SalaryGuard is not available to those that had collected regular EI benefits within the past two years, and in order to be eligible, they must have been at their current employer for a minimum of six months.

“SalaryGuard provides gap coverage equal to the difference between 55% of the insured’s former weekly income, and the benefits provided by the government,” BFL stated.

Federal EI benefits are not available to employees that were dismissed for misconduct, or who voluntarily left their jobs without just cause.

However, they may be available to former employees who lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and who are actively seeking employment.

According to the SalaryGuard website, the qualifying criterion for BC EI Recipients is as follows:

  1. Continuous employment for a minimum of 18 months;
  2. Have not been served with a Notice of Termination;
  3. Have a yearly salary over $52,100;
  4. Presently employed on a full-time basis; and
  5. Must be a resident of British Columbia.

 

SalaryGuard is private employment insurance. In the event you lose your job and are eligible for Regular Employment Insurance Benefits, this supplemental employment insurance provides cash when you need it the most.

 

Supporting Article Research Sources: SalaryGuard, Canadian Underwriter, BFL Canada

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