Violating the Employment Insurance Act is a punishable offence
Federal government employees who haven’t been able to get their hands on their record of employment while on approved leave can turn to the RCMP for help, suggests an Ottawa labour lawyer.
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CBC News has been inundated with public servants telling their personal stories about the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system. Some workers on leave say they have been waiting weeks and even months to get their record of employment to apply for employment insurance.
“[My wife] was involved in a serious car accident and I needed to take the time off to take care of her, our newborn and our three year old,” said public servant Alex Ienzi, who had been waiting for his record since early April.
He only received his record of employment after he took his story public this week.
“That is in fact breaking the law,” said Ottawa lawyer Alison McEwen.
“An employer is required to issue a record of employment within five days of the interruption of earnings…So technically employees could consider going to the RCMP or the [Canada Employment Insurance Commission] and ask them to enforce the act.”
Employers violating the Employment Insurance Act could be fined up to $2,000 or sentenced to six months in jail, McEwen explained.
Employer could face fines, jail time
McEwen said it’s unprecedented for people to wait this long for records while on approved leave.
The associate lawyer at Nelligan O’Brien Payne said because of the cost and time it takes to file a complaint, owed employees often forgo the formal route.
‘We have a series of conveyors and wheels trying to spin at the same time but they’re not linked.’ – Donna Lackie, Government Services Union
“Having said that, if it’s a big enough group they may be able to get attention and move it along more quickly,” she said.
But the union representing government workers said it’s hard to lay blame in this case.
“We have the pay centre trying to deliver pay in a timely matter and release records of employment. We have the government who is trying to implement a new pay system. So we have a series of conveyors and wheels trying to spin at the same time but they’re not linked. So, it’s frustrating,” said Donna Lackie, national president of the Government Services Union, which is a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
For affected public servants who don’t want to take the RCMP route, McEwen suggests showing up at Service Canada with any documentation you have proving leave was approved.
“Don’t phone. Don’t write an email. Go into a Service Canada branch,” she advised.
On Thursday the RCMP said its federal investigation unit hasn’t received any complaints from public servants with outstanding records of employment.
“All I could say, is to encourage people to contact their local police service to report any crime they believe to be victim of,” wrote Staff Sgt. Julie Gagnon, the RCMP’s spokeswoman, in an email.
Chapter 1: Understanding the Record of Employment form (for employers)
CBC Ottawa has been collecting stories from civil servants, part-time employees and student workers who have been hit by the Phoenix payroll system problems. Here are some of their stories: