Devil in details for self-employed EI benefits

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On Parliament Hill, most everyone agrees that self-employed people such as Lainey Bonsell should be able to tap into parental benefits when they decide to start a family.

But that's easier said than done.

Bonsell, 29, is a real estate agent in Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood, expecting her first baby at the end of November.

Because she's self-employed, she isn't eligible for the employment insurance payments that are sent automatically to other new parents who are considered employees.

Real estate agent Lainey Bonsell poses for a photo in Toronto Friday. Bonsell, an expectant mother, will be in line to benefit from the government's proposed bill designed to give parental benefits to self-employed workers. - Canadian Press photo

OTTAWA -

On Parliament Hill, most everyone agrees that self-employed people such as Lainey Bonsell should be able to tap into parental benefits when they decide to start a family.

But that's easier said than done.

Bonsell, 29, is a real estate agent in Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood, expecting her first baby at the end of November.

Because she's self-employed, she isn't eligible for the employment insurance payments that are sent automatically to other new parents who are considered employees.

Instead, she's been saving for a couple of years so she can afford to take two months off when her baby arrives.

Like a wide range of advocates and politicians, Bonsell thinks she should at least have the choice to collect benefits during her maternity leave.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley is poised to table a bill soon after the Thanksgiving break that would allow self-employed people access to a plan that would pay them EI benefits after having babies.

"It really would be nice to have that option," Bonsell said.

Exactly how she and others like her should be granted the benefit, and who should pay for it, however, are far more contentious questions.

The bill would extend benefits to a growing group of people: more and more women in particular are setting up businesses of their own.

The number of self-employed women in Canada grew by 8.4 per cent between 2001 and 2006, according to the last census, and by an enormous 234 per cent between 1981 and 2006.

But they struggle to keep their businesses going, care for their babies and pay the bills all at once is a fact politicians of all stripes have recognized. Fixing the problem, though, is tricky.

"I think it should be done, but it depends on how it can be done. That's the big problem," said Sylvain Schetagne, senior economist at the Canadian Labour Congress.

Organizations: Canadian Labour Congress

Geographic location: OTTAWA, Toronto, Beaches Canada

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Comments

Recent comments

  • Stacey
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Self-employed people don't pay in to EI because they are not eligible for the benefits. Why would I pay in to a program that is not going to give me anything back? We don't have the option to pay in right now - that's what the issue is! I'm sure if Bonsell was given the opportunity to collect EI she would have been paying in. It has nothing to do with choice - self employed people are simply not eligible.

  • J
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    What's the difference between a self employed real estate agent and a self employed fisherman? The fisherman (boat owners included) are able to collect EI during the winter months when they are not fishing. And I don't see any real estate agents giving their spouses a piece of the pie so they will collect. How many fishermen have their wives and daughters on the payroll and they never step foot in the boat....but they manage to get their EI during the winter as well............A totally fooled up system.

  • Mike
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Do they pay into EI like the rest of us. If so, I guess they're entitled. If not, tough.

  • Telling it
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    I really like Bonnie, I really do.

    Bonnie believes that you should never marry for money. What an absurd idea.

    She believes its better to divorce for money.

  • Seriously
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    She should be able to collect some benefits, however calling a real estate agent self employed is a stretch. Seriously, real estate agents are a joke. What makes you good at it. Ussually people who are real estate agents are too lazy to get a real job with real hours, or seek the perceived power of being a real estate agent or can't get a job at anything else. When was the last time you bought a house because of a good real estate agent. Houses sell themselves.

  • E
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Paying into EI is not an option for self-employed people. The funny thing is most self-employed people work twice as hard as regular employees because they have to...it is their lifeline...what puts food on the table...we can't just walk away and expect someone else to hand us money. Unfortunately, we have slow times but we have nothing to fall back on. Unlike the MANY people that work just to get their hours so they can take a vacation for months at a time on EI. To me it is a system to fall back on when it is needed...but like welfare, a lot of people take advantage and (like I said before), work to get their hours while the self-employed, who are no less a worker then anyone else, would have to give it all up and move on instead of having help through the rough patches...everyone else gets it. I would certainly pay into it if it were an option, I benefit the economy and pay taxes just like anyone else...so why am I treated so differently and not given the same benefits?

  • BONNIE
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    DO SHE PAY INTO EI, IF SO SHE IS ENTITLED LIKE ALL THE REST. IF NOT, THAT WAS HER CHOICE.

  • Jack
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    We have the option to pay in to EI - but how do you collect? If you are self-employed and you hit a rough patch - how do you let yourself go so that you are elligible for employment insurance? How do you decide you are self-employed with a work slow down and when you are unemployed? Who hires you back and how do you prove it all to the government? It can't be done, there's no system in place for self-employed Canadians to access any of the programs available to any other type of employee in the country. On the other hand, if anyone can claim self-employment and then six months later issue themselves an ROE and are elligible to collect EI how do you distinguish the abusers from the legitimate self-employed business people? Some European countries get around it by have a sort of panel of peers that will vouch for the legitimacy of self-employed professionals, giving them the same rights as other employees.

  • Michelle
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Quebec already has benefits for those self-employed under version of parental/maternity EI. To be entitled, they still have to pay into the fund and have reduced their work hours as a result of the birth/adoption of a child. http://www.rqap.gouv.qc.ca/travailleur_autonome/conditions_en.asp

  • Bernice
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    A reply to the derogatory comment from Bonnie in St. John's,

    DO SHE PAY INTO EI, IF SO SHE IS ENTITLED LIKE ALL THE REST. IF NOT, THAT WAS HER CHOICE

    Everyone has choices Bonnie, but Canada needs more and more small businesses as we cannot depend upon government to create that for us. That is a crippling dependency. We have to be creative just as our ancestors have been, those who could not depend upon government.

    As for real estate agents classified as small business owners, you do not take into consideration the fact that many agents start their own company so in that case it would be a small business. Most real estate agents work longer hours than many of us and often miss out on important family events, etc. to do so. She as all of us hopefully choose a vocation that she loves, not based on whether she might colect EI or not. This is our right.

    As for her EI, she may not pay into the fund, but she pays taxes like the rest of us, and so we see some cracks in the system. Certainly, she should be able to take time off work to care for her newborn if we are to be a fair an equitable nation. It is at the child's best interest, not a holiday for the mother or father.

    It is not as though you only should be able to eat and allow those who do not directly pay into a fund, to eat the crumbs, but then don't eat too many.

    Look around you, there are many charities and organizations that benefit society and you reap from their labour, directly or indirectly, yet you benefit from the same.

    As we dawning on a new era, it is time that we all ask what we can do to help others rather than remain satisfied that as long as you are not hurting, nothing should be done. When I hear such comments, I reflect on the late President John F. Kennedy's statement, Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country . you might reply, exactly! and that this woman should not receive EI benefits, but as a people of justice, we need to address parliament, and determine how this can be done. In our hearts, I believe that we know that it can be done and when one child benefits, our whole nation benefits. It starts with the giving! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Stacey
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    Self-employed people don't pay in to EI because they are not eligible for the benefits. Why would I pay in to a program that is not going to give me anything back? We don't have the option to pay in right now - that's what the issue is! I'm sure if Bonsell was given the opportunity to collect EI she would have been paying in. It has nothing to do with choice - self employed people are simply not eligible.

  • J
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    What's the difference between a self employed real estate agent and a self employed fisherman? The fisherman (boat owners included) are able to collect EI during the winter months when they are not fishing. And I don't see any real estate agents giving their spouses a piece of the pie so they will collect. How many fishermen have their wives and daughters on the payroll and they never step foot in the boat....but they manage to get their EI during the winter as well............A totally fooled up system.

  • Mike
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    Do they pay into EI like the rest of us. If so, I guess they're entitled. If not, tough.

  • Telling it
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    I really like Bonnie, I really do.

    Bonnie believes that you should never marry for money. What an absurd idea.

    She believes its better to divorce for money.

  • Seriously
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    She should be able to collect some benefits, however calling a real estate agent self employed is a stretch. Seriously, real estate agents are a joke. What makes you good at it. Ussually people who are real estate agents are too lazy to get a real job with real hours, or seek the perceived power of being a real estate agent or can't get a job at anything else. When was the last time you bought a house because of a good real estate agent. Houses sell themselves.

  • E
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Paying into EI is not an option for self-employed people. The funny thing is most self-employed people work twice as hard as regular employees because they have to...it is their lifeline...what puts food on the table...we can't just walk away and expect someone else to hand us money. Unfortunately, we have slow times but we have nothing to fall back on. Unlike the MANY people that work just to get their hours so they can take a vacation for months at a time on EI. To me it is a system to fall back on when it is needed...but like welfare, a lot of people take advantage and (like I said before), work to get their hours while the self-employed, who are no less a worker then anyone else, would have to give it all up and move on instead of having help through the rough patches...everyone else gets it. I would certainly pay into it if it were an option, I benefit the economy and pay taxes just like anyone else...so why am I treated so differently and not given the same benefits?

  • BONNIE
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    DO SHE PAY INTO EI, IF SO SHE IS ENTITLED LIKE ALL THE REST. IF NOT, THAT WAS HER CHOICE.

  • Jack
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    We have the option to pay in to EI - but how do you collect? If you are self-employed and you hit a rough patch - how do you let yourself go so that you are elligible for employment insurance? How do you decide you are self-employed with a work slow down and when you are unemployed? Who hires you back and how do you prove it all to the government? It can't be done, there's no system in place for self-employed Canadians to access any of the programs available to any other type of employee in the country. On the other hand, if anyone can claim self-employment and then six months later issue themselves an ROE and are elligible to collect EI how do you distinguish the abusers from the legitimate self-employed business people? Some European countries get around it by have a sort of panel of peers that will vouch for the legitimacy of self-employed professionals, giving them the same rights as other employees.

  • Michelle
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    Quebec already has benefits for those self-employed under version of parental/maternity EI. To be entitled, they still have to pay into the fund and have reduced their work hours as a result of the birth/adoption of a child. http://www.rqap.gouv.qc.ca/travailleur_autonome/conditions_en.asp

  • Bernice
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    A reply to the derogatory comment from Bonnie in St. John's,

    DO SHE PAY INTO EI, IF SO SHE IS ENTITLED LIKE ALL THE REST. IF NOT, THAT WAS HER CHOICE

    Everyone has choices Bonnie, but Canada needs more and more small businesses as we cannot depend upon government to create that for us. That is a crippling dependency. We have to be creative just as our ancestors have been, those who could not depend upon government.

    As for real estate agents classified as small business owners, you do not take into consideration the fact that many agents start their own company so in that case it would be a small business. Most real estate agents work longer hours than many of us and often miss out on important family events, etc. to do so. She as all of us hopefully choose a vocation that she loves, not based on whether she might colect EI or not. This is our right.

    As for her EI, she may not pay into the fund, but she pays taxes like the rest of us, and so we see some cracks in the system. Certainly, she should be able to take time off work to care for her newborn if we are to be a fair an equitable nation. It is at the child's best interest, not a holiday for the mother or father.

    It is not as though you only should be able to eat and allow those who do not directly pay into a fund, to eat the crumbs, but then don't eat too many.

    Look around you, there are many charities and organizations that benefit society and you reap from their labour, directly or indirectly, yet you benefit from the same.

    As we dawning on a new era, it is time that we all ask what we can do to help others rather than remain satisfied that as long as you are not hurting, nothing should be done. When I hear such comments, I reflect on the late President John F. Kennedy's statement, Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country . you might reply, exactly! and that this woman should not receive EI benefits, but as a people of justice, we need to address parliament, and determine how this can be done. In our hearts, I believe that we know that it can be done and when one child benefits, our whole nation benefits. It starts with the giving! Happy Thanksgiving!