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Getting on Employment Insurance

Posted by Erin Dixon on

PAs looking for work

Christmas has come, and gone. It is a new year, and for many filmmakers, we don't wait for the fresh snow.  We sit in anticipation of the upcoming film season.   Lets give you some tools to prepare you for these times of little work, or if the industry slows down and there is no work.  

For those in BC traditionally this slow time could take until Mid-February before we see any real work.  However, with how busy 2015 was and how busy we expect 2016 to be, there is no surprise that we will begin to see the first signs of a robust film year begin to emerge in Mid-January. 

But that still means that we could be without work for another 2-4 weeks.  So how do we make money if the shows aren't going to production yet?  Here in Canada we go to Employment Insurance (EI).  You know that deduction off your paycheque every week.  Think of that as your payment to these down weeks.  

First you will need to gather a few things.  Name and address are a given.  Your social insurance number, and then you will need a Bank account for them to deposit your EI payment to.  Direct deposit is the way to go, so have your bank account information ready.  Branch and account number. In case you don't know it can be found online, or on the bottom of your cheques.  

You will also need your last pay-statements from your employer. This is not every show you worked on, for our industry we consider the payroll companies our employer (these Phone numbers you will need):

Cast & Crew (604) 437-6363

www.castandcrew.com/canada/

or

Entertainment Partners (604) 987-2292

http://www.epcanada.com/

Next, go to the Service Canada Website - Select your language English or French and you will be on the home page.  I suggest bookmarking this page as you will need to come back here to submit bi weekly reports on earnings.  Now, click on the link Apply for Employment Insurance. You have now started the process.  You will now be shown a bunch of legal stuff that you need to agree to.  Read it all. Then press Start Application. 

Now you will be asked all sorts of questions.  Here are some quick answers to some of them.

  • A PA helper hourly rate is $10.45/hr or 214.23/15 hours 
    • We take the 214.23 and divide it by total hours worked with OT. or 20.5. 
  • A Member PA rate is 10.98/hr or $225.00/15hours. 
  • A Key PA is 11.98 or $245.00/15hours
  • You are out of work due to shortage of work or out of season. 
  • You have not been fired or let go and still maintain employment with the employers (this step will save you having to take courses or submit jobs you have applied to)
  • Your ROEs (Records of Employment are electronically sent in for you by the companies above)
  • Use your last pay statement, or if you know your last day worked, put that in. 

Answer all question honestly.  Read everything. Some questions seem like trick questions. So be sure you know what they are asking. 

Once you have gone through this you will be given a Code: this is your temporary code. you will get another code in the mail (this code is to be your permanent code for when you do this all again. 

Now you sit back, look for film work and if you can't here is what to expect. 

You will file every two weeks with 3 weeks grace period (wait for your pay statements to come in for accurate reporting.) if you made one days pay you will get vacation, travel milage, OT etc. so you will want to know your GROSS take home pay. That is the amount before taxes. *NOT AFTER TAXES.

You will get about $500/wk minus taxes.  Yes that is $2000/mo minus taxes.  

You can work up to 35hrs a week or 32 on a week with a Stat Holiday. Check the website as these figures have changed yearly. That means you can work 2 x 15hr days a week and still get benefits. Go over that you might as well work the whole week. 

Next, say your get $220 for the day (this is not accurate only an example). Divide $220 by 2 = $110. Now subtract $110 from $500 = $390.  Add $220 = $610.  By working 1 day you made $610 that week. As you can see you can make close to $800 a week on EI. It still doesn't compare to $900+ you can make working the whole time. 

This is the basics on how we in the film industry survive these periods of time without work.  We offset it with EI.  We also keep our EI going because film work is not FULL TIME.  This means that you can take a week here or there to recover. Or, if a show goes down, you know you are covered with some income.

We get our EI hours so quickly - approx. 3 months - that we can keep ourselves on EI for our entire career.  Again, this is a great way to supplement your income, and we already pay into this system. Might as well use it. 


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