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EI Extended To Self-Employed, Including Farmers

“Do you have to contribute up to 85?”

– LAURENT PELLERIN, CFA

Farmers, who have traditionally fallen outside work benefits programs, may now qualify for employment insurance under new federal legislation.

The proposed law would extend benefits, such as employment insurance, to the 2.6 million Canadians, including agricultural producers, who are self-employed.

Self-employed people could also qualify for maternity, parental, sickness and compassionate-care benefits under the federal plan.

The provisions are in the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act introduced in the House of Commons by Diane Finley, human resources and skills development minister, Nov. 3.

The act follows up on previous Conservative government promises to offer improved economic security to the self-employed, which includes Canada’s 200,000 farm families.

The Grain Growers of Canada applauded the announcement, saying it could help young producers who currently have to work off-farm to make ends meet.

“This could be the difference as (to) whether one member of the family has to seek off-farm employment because now families will have a choice,” Richard Phillips, executive director, said in a statement.

“(E)ven if 10 per cent of them choose to take advantage of these programs, this could help ensure another 20,000 more young families staying on the land.”

Laurent Pellerin, Canadian Federation of Agriculture president, was more cautious, saying he wanted to see more details before passing judgment.

One question Pellerin wants answered is how long a farmer has to continue paying premiums. He said he often meets people at meetings who are over 80 and still farming.

“Do you have to contribute up to 85?”

Pellerin said he also wanted to know how premiums will work for multi-owner farms: who contributes, how much and for how long.

The National Farmers Union earlier this year called for changes to the EI program allowing self-employed people, including farmers, to participate.

In a presentat ion to the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women, the NFU especially recommended that women, particularly those in rural communities, qualify for full benefits, including job training and other educational programs.

The legislation introduced by Finley promises income protection for so-called life-transition events. It includes:

benefits up to 15 weeks, beginning eight weeks before the expected birth date;

parental/adoptive benefits up to 35 weeks;

sickness benefits up to 15 weeks;

compassionate-care benefits up to six weeks.

To participate, a self-employed person must earn at least $6,000 in the previous year.

Persons must opt into the program at least one year before claiming benefits. Premium payments must start with the tax year for which they are applying. The program starts January 2010, which means claims could be made as early as January 1, 2011.

People opting into the program pay the same EI premium rate as regular employees. But they do not have to pay the employer portion.

Self-employed people may opt out of EI at the end of any tax year, as long as they have never claimed benefits. If they have, they must contribute on self-employed earnings as long as they remain self-employed.

More information is available at www.actionplan.gc.ca.[email protected]

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