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Saturday, July 2, 2011

My Dilemma

Those of you that follow my ramblings on the blogosphere or Facebook are well aware of my employment status; that of course being unemployed. Being unemployed affords me time for many things. Once my job searching is done for the day, resumes sent out, follow up emails written, read and more sent, there’s time to fill. Not as much as one would think. Finding a job can be a full time job!

Most countries in the western world have measures in place for those like me that are unemployed. The social security net; pensions for those unable to work, insurance for those unable to find work. I though have managed to find a hole in that net and fall through it! And for being honest, forthcoming about my actions, for playing by the rules and not flaunting them.

For those who have yet to cash in on their insurance policy, mandated and enforced by the powers that be, that is Employment Insurance, I’ll attempt to outline some of the rules.

First, to qualify, one must have lost one’s job through no fault of one’s own. I was “terminated without cause.”

Second, there is a waiting period; two weeks. That waiting period comes after the time it takes one’s severance pay to dwindle. Two weeks of limbo, two weeks of no income or immediate means of personal support. Two weeks where one must live even more frugally than one already is, or rely on the hospitality and kindheartedness of friends and family. The best wishes of others and their good intentions don’t pay the bills, but they are appreciated!

Third, and occurring every two weeks, there is a report to fill out. Numerous questions to be answered, mostly mundane; have you moved? Have you received any income? Were you capable and willing to work within the preceding time-period? But here’s the one that got me; Did you leave the country?

Well, I left the country. I flew from Toronto to Augusta, Georgia, and not to play golf! From there I was driven to Edgefield South Carolina; for a day-long series of job interviews.

I left Canada just prior to noon on Tuesday and was back on home turf by one o’clock in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Out of the country for less than forty hours, at least ten of those spent at the office of a prospective employer. This time out of Canada I reported on my next electronic filing for my Employment Insurance claim. That filing occurred on the Saturday, two days upon my return.

Answering “yes” to the question “Have you been outside Canada during the period of this filing” allows you to go no further with the electronic report and prompts you to call the offices of Employment Insurance Canada. That call lasted about forty-five minutes, most of which was spent on hold, waiting for a representative to take my call “in a timely manner.”

After explaining my reasons for leaving Canada, and providing a phone number of a person in the HR department where the interview took place, I was told my claim would come under further scrutiny and payment of my benefits would be suspended until it could be proven my reason for traveling was legitimate and I was not contravening the Employment Insurance Act, and might still qualify to collect said benefits! It could take up to three weeks.

This week I received a letter dated June 12th, one week and a day after the above phone call was made. “We are working on your claim. A decision will be made soon.” Of course this letter took two and a half weeks to arrive, thanks of course to work stoppages instigated by Canada Post employees and its respective union. My bank account shows no automated deposits, so obviously they are still working on my claim! That’s four weeks, unless you do not count the week and a day it took to type, date and mail the letter so kindly informing me that “A decision will be made soon”!

As mentioned previously, I’m in a fortunate situation. My housing, transportation and general living expenses are not reliant upon these insured benefits. For this I am very thankful! But there must be many others who, finding themselves without work, depending on their Employment Insurance benefits, and having paid the premiums all their working lives, are denied these benefits. Just for seeking employment, a condition demanded by the Employment Insurance Act, by attending interviews outside Canada. By denying them these benefits, how many find themselves in a position of true financial hardship? Is it not contradictory to demand one seeks employment yet cease payments if attending interviews outside Canada? Even when the job would be within Canada?

Were I to have traveled for vacation, I would expect benefits to be withheld for that time-period. But withheld for complying with and being honest concerning one’s obligations seems ridiculous and counterproductive.

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