Do not make EI coverage for the self-employed mandatory, say small business owners

Toronto, March 4, 2021 – 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, and 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,” said Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB’s senior vice-president of national affairs. 

In a recent survey, CFIB found that the vast majority of small businesses (89 per cent) were opposed to making coverage for the self-employed mandatory. If there is to be coverage, most (73 per cent) small business owners said that 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 (43 per cent) to hire and retain workers during the pandemic.  

“Having temporary support for workers who must isolate or stay home with sick family members is very important right now, and it’s understandable that these programs are in place,” added Pohlmann. “However, EI is not a government-funded program, and the government should not be making temporary changes permanent or making EI coverage for the self-employed mandatory as these measures could have unintended consequences. Employers and employees need to have a say in any permanent changes before they are made and CFIB is ready to work with the government to ensure we have an EI system that works for all.”

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Milena Stanoeva, CFIB

Source for CFIB data
Final results for CFIB’s 2021 Employment Insurance Survey, online survey conducted January 28 -  February 17, 2021, n = 4,901. For comparison purposes, a probability sample with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error of +/-1.4%, 19 times out of 20.

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at