February 16, 2021

To: Substitute and Part-Time Teachers
Re: Overview of Employment Insurance and Canada COVID-19 Relief Programs

This memo is primarily meant to provide substitute and part-time teachers with an overview of Employment Insurance (EI) and Canada COVID-19 Relief Programs and how they may apply to teachers.

Employment Insurance (EI) is a benefit available to individuals who, for various reasons, find themselves without employment or unable to work. It is important to understand the basic benefit structure and how the relevant rules and regulations may apply to your own individual circumstances.
Contribution
Teachers and their employers contribute to EI at a percentage rate of monthly salary up to a maximum contribution level which is set each year. You will receive a tax credit for EI premiums that you pay.

Eligibility
In order to be entitled to regular EI benefits, a teacher must have accumulated a minimum of 420 to 700 hours of insurable employment in the past year or since their last EI claim. The actual number of insurable hours required will normally depend on the regional rate of unemployment in each geographic area. A minimum of 600 hours within the last year, or since the last EI claim, is normally required to qualify for sickness, maternity, parental, compassionate care or family caregiver benefits. Every hour of insurable employment, or part thereof, with any employer, will count toward eligibility for benefits. For teachers in Newfoundland and Labrador, a day of teaching is reported as eight hours of employment for EI purposes only. A part of a day is pro-rated based on a fraction of eight. For example, a 3-hour morning session out of the 5-hour instructional day counts as 4.8 hours (60% of 8) for EI purposes.

Benefit Level
As of January 1, 2021, the maximum EI benefit level is 55% of average insured earnings up to a yearly maximum of $56,300 or $595 per week. Individuals who work while in receipt of EI benefits are able to keep 50 cents of their EI benefits for every dollar earned, up to 90% of their weekly insurable earnings used to calculate their EI benefit amount. For earnings above this threshold, deductions are made dollar for dollar from EI benefits. You can receive EI from 14 weeks up to a maximum of 45 weeks, (as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been increased to a minimum of 26 weeks) depending on the unemployment rate in your region at the time of filing your claim and the amount of insurable hours you have accumulated (both of which are temporarily adjusted during the pandemic) in the last 52 weeks or since your last claim, whichever is shorter.

Suitable Employment
In determining what constitutes suitable employment in a job search while in receipt of Employment Insurance benefits, the program considers several factors including:
• Personal circumstances
• Working conditions/wages
• Commuting time
• Hours of work
• Reasonable job search

Waiting Period
Before you start receiving EI benefits, there is usually a one-week period for which you will not be paid, however, the Federal Government is temporarily waiving the one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance (EI) claimants who establish a new claim between January 31, 2021 and September 25, 2021.Those who leave work voluntarily or have been suspended/terminated from their employment may be disqualified completely. Each case is adjudicated on its own merits.

When your normal weekly earnings are reduced by more than 40% because of sickness, injury, or quarantine, you may be eligible for EI sickness benefits. EI sickness benefits are available to persons who have the required hours of insurable employment and are unable to work because of illness/disability. Sickness benefits are available for a maximum of 15 weeks while school is in session.

These benefits are available to family or other caregivers who have to be away from work to provide care or support to a critically ill or injured person or someone needing end-of-life care. There are three types of caregiving benefits.

The Family Caregiver Benefit for Children
Provides up to 35 weeks of benefits to caregivers providing care or support to a critically ill or injured child under the age of 18.

The Family Caregiver Benefit for Adults
Provides up to 15 weeks of benefits to caregivers providing care or support to a critically ill or injured adult 18 years of age or older.

Compassionate Care Benefits
Provides up to 26 weeks of benefits to caregivers providing care or support to a person of any age who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks (6 months).


Applying
To apply for EI benefits, teachers may fill out an application form at their Service Canada office (if the office is in fact open) or apply online at:

Canada COVID-19 Relief Programs 
For those teachers who are not eligible for Employment Insurance benefits, the Government of Canada has introduced three benefits programs specifically related to providing financial support for loss of income as a result of COVID-19.

The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) provides income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are directly affected by COVID-19 and are not entitled to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. The CRB is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
If you are eligible for the CRB, you can receive $1,000 ($900 after taxes withheld) for a 2-week period.

If your situation continues past 2 weeks, you will need to apply again. You may apply up to a total of 13 eligibility periods (26 weeks) between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.

The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) gives income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are unable to work because they must care for their child under 12 years old or a family member who needs supervised care. This applies if their school, regular program or facility is closed or unavailable to them due to COVID-19, or because they are sick, self-isolating, or at risk of serious health complications due to COVID-19. The CRCB is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

If you are eligible for the CRCB, your household can receive $500 ($450 after taxes withheld) for each 1-week period.

If your situation continues past 1 week, you will need to apply again. You may apply up to a total of 26 weeks between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.

The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) gives income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are unable to work because they are sick or need to self-isolate due to COVID-19, or have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of getting COVID-19. The CRSB is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

If you are eligible for the CRSB, you can receive $500 ($450 after taxes withheld) for a 1-week period.

If your situation continues past 1 week, you will need to apply again. You may apply up to a total of 2 weeks between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.

Other Information
It is important for all part-time and substitute teachers to remember that the current suspension of in-school instruction is not the same as what occurred in March 2020 to the end of the 2019-20 school year. The key difference is that instruction will continue for all students, whether it be through a virtual medium or in-person for limited numbers/categories of students. 
Under the Collective Agreements (Provincial Clause 29.04(a), Labrador West Clause 17.04(a)), school districts must make “every effort” to replace teachers who are absent for valid reasons. This is not only applicable for in-person instruction, but also in a virtual learning scenario. This is a high standard and includes appropriate efforts by the employer to recruit substitute teachers to ensure adequate availability. Therefore, we anticipate that substitutes will be contracted when required to fulfill instructional obligations, as well as to honour the Collective Agreements.

Given these challenging times, it is important for members to keep in mind that if they are feeling challenged or overwhelmed by their circumstances, they can avail of the Employee Assistance Program for support. This program is available to all members, including substitute teachers, and is separate from the NLTA Group Insurance plan.

For more information about the EAP click on the following link: http://www.nlta.nl.ca/employee-assistance-program/ 

Part-time and substitute teachers impacted by changes resulting from COVID-19 restrictions and requirements may be better positioned than last year to avail of new financial help offered by the Federal government as outlined above. That said, the Association continues to advocate for protections and enhanced support and benefits for our most vulnerable members. The NLTA will continue to reach out, to lobby, and to advocate on behalf of its members.  

As always, members who need more information or advice/assistance with individual circumstances should contact an NLTA Administrative Officer in Programs and Services via email at mail@nlta.nl.ca. These messages are monitored regularly and responses provided as quickly as possible.