Saturday, February 14, 2009

Canada's EI - the staff are great but the process bites

Well I'm evidently not the only one left confused by the Service Canada website's process for registering Employment Insurance claims. Another blogger, the Rural Canadian, has had a pretty tough go of it himself, with no action on his claim after 16 weeks - 16 weeks! - of fruitless effort.

That's enough time for any number of financial horrors to befall a family. I know I couldn't hold out that long.

So, no time to waste: I went down to my local EI office yesterday afternoon, and I found it was staffed with courteous, bilingual people and my visit took just 20 minutes altogether, including wait time. The reason for making the trip was simply to produce the RoE (Record of Employment), and since I'd already entered the other info online, the only thing left to do was to stamp my RoE with the date it was received. They then offered to give me a photocopy - which I gladly took since it was the only type of receipt available.

The agent then mentioned the importance of going online or calling in with an update bi-weekly, and how by missing just one, my benefits would be cut-off. So this process begins immediately, and that's the part you have to go through the "epass" login to do. (I swear I could sense she was bracing herself for my reaction to this news, like it was her least favourite part of her job. But I just nodded, having already seen that warning on the website.)

I suppose some people lay into the poor Service Canada employees who are helplessly forced to explain this nasty little policy.

I was also told not to worry about the erroneous End Date I'd initially reported, which I had been forced to enter in order to finish the original application (three weeks ago now). I am not able to correct it myself, they said, and someone in Service Canada would see the true date on my RoE and make the necessary correction.

In retrospect, I notice the webpage for my local office has a fax number listed, so I wonder if making the trip in person was in fact obligatory. Perhaps faxing in the RoE would suffice, but I feel better having a copy that shows a stamp confirming they got it.

I just want to say once again how professional and empathetic the two staff members were (and the woman from the phone centre too). It was truly heartening to be made to feel like a human being, and the understanding they showed reminded me of the sort of feeling you get when you're in the hospital and scared and in pain and - by some stroke of luck - you just happen to get that sympathetic nurse who knows exactly what the term "caregiver" is all about. In short, I left feeling like I knew what I had to do, and the visit was well worthwhile.

Oh, and this was toward the end of the day on a Friday, during what must be the busiest time they have ever seen. Well done, Service Canada employees. I salute you. Now can somebody please tell me why the website is such a terrible mess? And get to work on Rural Canadian's claim, which by all rights should get fast-tracked like nothing else.

16 weeks. I'm still having a hard time digesting that.

- 30 -


Simon said...

Hi what great stuff. And how scary. I can't believe how they could keep somebody waiting for 16 weeks. It's absolutely inhuman and criminal. I'm glad though that you have been treated kindly by the EI folks in Montreal.
And I think this information is really useful. I think you are pioneering a new kind of Recession blogging that will help give a human face to the crisis we are going through. So keep it up it's great. We need to speak out with a million voices and support each other.
I just hope you're Recession Blogging will be brilliant....but short... :)

Rural said...

To be fair some of that time was waiting period re seperation pay, BUT application was filed within 2 weeks of layoff so by now ......
Guess it will be Tues, I'm sure Gov employees will get "family day". Ah well.

Rural said...

And the good news is...
See my update at