Is EI too shameful?
November 5, 2011 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Work is ending next week, nothing lined up to follow. Should I go on EI or is that too shameful/irresponsible for someone of an upper middle class background?

I've been working for a television production company for about 18 months, I love it and they love me, but there's no work there now. I've been promised work there in the future, but obviously I can't depend or live on promises, so I'm going to have to find something else.

Is it reasonable for me to go on EI (Employment Insurance, Ontario Canada)? If I am careful with my last paycheques, I should be able to make it until January (including that month's rent) before dipping into my savings. After that though i would probably burn through them in a few months. I have about 5K in savings, less than 1K in debt, rent is 1K/month.

I am not super worried about finding a new job, for the last few years whenever I've needed to find employment I've been able to do so fairly quickly. Before that though there was a period of a few months of unemployment which was pretty depressing though.

EI would provide a good financial buffer until I find something else or things pick up at my current company, but it also feels really shameful to me. Also, during my previous unemployment period, a nosy aunt suggested it and everyone reacted with horror. I am sure my parents would loan me all the money I need if needed, my mother has assured me I will never go homeless. However, they are traveling for the next several months so may not really be an option. Plus I already owe them a bit for helping with a move last year, and am very hesitant to ask for more.

Any thoughts? What do I need to know about EI in Ontario if I do go down this road?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (19 answers total)
Three thoughts.

1: If it's insurance, and you paid for it, it's your right to receive the benefit if the triggering condition is there.

2: If it will stop you from getting another job because it looks bad on your CV, then maybe not.

3: If the conditions of accepting it are too onerous, also consider passing on it.

When I was unemployed, 1 was true and 2 and 3 were not, so I took the money.
posted by Mad_Carew at 10:05 AM on November 5, 2011

EI would provide a good financial buffer until I find something else or things pick up at my current company

Yes, that's the whole point of its existence, no? If you crashed your car would it feel "shameful" making a claim against your auto insurance? That's why you pay for it in the first place, right?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:07 AM on November 5, 2011 [27 favorites]

I am a fellow Canadian and I don't view EI as shameful at all. Any friend or family member I know who has ever been out of work has always gone on EI while they were job hunting. This includes people who are professionals with advanced degrees.
posted by sanitycheck at 10:07 AM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, here's a good list of FAQs about EI:

A couple key points from that link that I found helpful to know when taking my mat leave (which pays out the same as EI):

The basic benefit rate is 55% of your average insured earnings up to a yearly maximum insurable amount of $44,200. This means you can receive a maximum payment of $468 per week. Your EI payment is a taxable income, meaning federal and provincial or territorial, if it applies, taxes will be deducted.

A two-week unpaid waiting period must be served on a new claim before you are entitled to receive payment.

posted by sanitycheck at 10:11 AM on November 5, 2011

Echoing others. The entire point of EI is to help you through the tough period between jobs. I'm not sure about Canada, but here in the US, they also assist in helping you find work as well, so there's that..
posted by patheral at 10:13 AM on November 5, 2011

Revenue Canada has been taking YOUR money off the top of every one of YOUR paycheques for as long as you have been getting paycheques.

They set it aside for YOU in an insurance plan (simplified explanation, yes) in case you become unemployed and need access to a temporary source of funds.

You are about to be unemployed and need access to a temporary source of funds while looking for other work. This is exactly why the program was created and it's YOUR money. There is no need to feel shame, no one even needs to know as it's all done online now (if that helps) and tons of people, rich and poor, have used the system as designed.

Will you feel shame accessing your Canada Pension contributions when you retire? You have a source of help available, take it.
posted by pixlboi at 10:20 AM on November 5, 2011 [6 favorites]

Go on EI -- you're paying for it!
posted by rumbles at 10:20 AM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

It is no more shameful to make a claim on your employment insurance than it is to make a claim on your health insurance or your car insurance. It's your money, literally your money, you earned it. It's not welfare or a handout.
posted by KathrynT at 10:25 AM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you broke your leg, would you let OHIP pay your hospital bills?

If so, then accept EI if you're unemployed.

EI pays people who work seasonal jobs, even if they make enough money to live on all year during their season, and have a job lined up for the next season already. If those people take it, there's sure as hell no reason for you to not take it when you're going to be genuinely unemployed.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:28 AM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go ahead and apply for EI. They seem to have a 6-8 week formula worked out where you will most likely have a new job by the time you actually receive money. Weird but true! Also, make sure your employer doesn't screw up your record of employment like mine did, because that will delay things further. Good luck!
posted by Calzephyr at 10:32 AM on November 5, 2011

If you qualify, it would be stupid not to take it. When you get a new job you will stop receiving EI. There's no shame in taking assistance you're entitled to and have helped fund when you need it to avoid burning through your savings.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:38 AM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Echoing what everyone else wrote: you paid insurance premiums and, unfortunately, you are now in a position to collect. Anyone looking down at someone collecting EI is a spoiled-rotten rich snob.
posted by aroberge at 10:46 AM on November 5, 2011

Echoing the above - you pay for EI on each and every paycheque (until you top out, EI insures only about the first $45K of your annual earnings) ... most importantly EI isn't needs based, it's not about not having savings or family or friends that can bail you out ... it's a right earned by the fact that you paid into the system so that in a situation where you find yourself you don't face short term financial hardship while finding new work.

There is a waiting period (which I believe varies based on the unemployment rate where you live) and there is ZERO social stigma to being on EI and isn't anything that a future employer will ask about. Going on EI also opens the opportunities for other publicly funded (read: your taxes) programs to you from resume workshops to retraining opportunities...not sure if these are relevant to you but you've paid for them and have the right to access them.
posted by dismitree at 10:52 AM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is exactly what EI is there for. You've paid it, you've earned it, and there's absolutely nothing shameful about using the benefits available to you.

If it make you feel any better, depending on how much you earn after returning to work post-EI, you may be required to pay a portion of it back. I know I had to.

As broken as the system may seem occasionally, EI has saved my bacon a couple times after layoffs, and is one of the (many) reasons I love my country.
posted by cgg at 11:42 AM on November 5, 2011

It's your money. You paid for it.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:45 AM on November 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

If it helps, think of it as money that doesn't just help YOU- it helps all the businesses that employ your friends and neighbors by keeping money in your pocket for you to spread around. Right now, the government has, say, $1000 that they can either keep or give to you. If they keep it, they just...keep it. If they give it to you, maybe you go to the grocery store more often (or keep shopping at an independent store instead of a chain), buy a holiday gift, go to holiday parties where you buy a drink, etc. Your EI doesn't just keep you afloat; it keeps your entire economic ecosystem afloat. It's a net good!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:40 PM on November 5, 2011

Take the EI, it's your money, and remember that it's none of anyone else's business. Jobs in television and film are often periodic in nature, and you need to be able to use the resources available to be able to stick it in the industry.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:53 PM on November 5, 2011

What if you took the money and used it in a way that helped those less fortunate than you?

F'rinstance, what if you promised yourself that you'd use the time between jobs to work at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter? Or vowed to do all your shopping at socially responsible businesses that are known for giving to charity? Hell, what if you treated the EI money as a loan from The Rest Of Society — and vowed to "repay" it by making charitable donations over the next N years that add up to the same amount?

If one of those things would relieve your sense of shame, then you're good. Do that thing!

If none of those things would relieve your sense of shame, then I have an alternative hypothesis for you: it's not that you're ashamed of taking the money from people who need it more; you're actually just ashamed of being one of Those People who has to go on public assistance.

In that case, I actually totally understand and sympathize. Our culture demonizes the hell out of anyone who ends up on the dole, and so finding yourself in that position yourself can be pretty humiliating. But anyone who actually thinks less of you for it is just being an asshole. And you shouldn't shoot yourself in the foot just on the off-chance that it keeps the assholes at bay.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:03 PM on November 5, 2011

If it makes you feel better, EVERY SINGLE PERSON I KNOW who works or worked in TV production, including myself, collected Unemployment while we were between gigs. Literally all of us. It's your money -- it's LITERALLY your money. This is exactly why you pay into Unemployment.

It's hard to get production work during the holidays -- I'd count on being out of work until after the first of the year. Collect your unemployment like everyone else who works in TV. Seriously.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 5:31 PM on November 5, 2011

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