Take Action on Income Supports


To slow the spread of COVID-19, our public health agencies are increasingly recommending social distancing and containment practices. These precautions are critical, and have implications for a growing number of workers, who may be forced out of a job due to workplace closures, shutdowns or layoffs. 

The Institute is calling on the federal government to immediately implement 6 changes to income support for workers: 

  1. Lower the EI sickness benefit threshold. Lower the number of work hours needed to receive EI sickness benefits from 600 to 360 so that more workers can qualify.

  2. Increase support to 80% of weekly wages. EI only covers 55% of average income. Implement a minimum benefit of $300/week and top up EI coverage to 80% of average weekly earnings under the current income cap. The maximum benefit a worker could receive under this change would be $834/week.

  3. Cover workers not eligible for EI. Create an emergency benefit program to provide the same level of access and support for workers who don’t qualify for EI. This would include the self-employed, gig workers, and workers with fewer than 360 hours. 

  4. Waive doctor’s note requirement. Temporarily eliminate the requirement for a medical certificate to apply for sickness benefits. Workers can sign a statutory declaration to affirm their need for the program.

  5. Support workers impacted by COVID-19 containment efforts. Ensure EI and emergency benefit coverage are available to workers impacted by business shutdowns (recreation centres, childcare centres, stores etc.), and other loss of work due to containment efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.  This would include contract workers who lose work because of social distancing, workers returning from travel who must self-isolate for 14 days, and workers who must stay home to care for others.

  6. Provide support while processing the claim. Under the current program, it can take several weeks for EI claims to be verified and processed. Now more than ever, people need to have access to support immediately. Give workers the benefit of the doubt and get payments underway while verifying the claim. In the rare case that fraud is found, normal cost recovery procedures can be followed.