Island man says denied EI claim after moving to be with daughter

Ryan Ross
Published on February 4, 2014

Jeremy Avery, here at his home in Fort Augustus, was denied an employment insurance claim after he quit a job in Alberta to be closer to his three-year-old daughter.

©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel

When Jeremy Avery left his job in Alberta and moved back to Prince Edward Island he did it so he could be with his three-year-old daughter.

But while he tried to find work his employment insurance claim was rejected because he quit his job to move home.

Avery said it was around November when he made the decision to move after he missed his daughter's birthday.

"It kind of hit me hard," he said.

After living in Alberta for about two years where he worked as a mechanical and commercial plumber, Avery moved back to P.E.I. on Dec. 11.

It took more than a month for him to find out his claim was rejected.

When people leave their employment voluntarily they normally aren't eligible for EI benefits, but there are exceptions.

The need to accompany a dependent child is one of those exceptions.

Avery moved to Alberta with his daughter and her mother, but when the couple split up they came back to P.E.I. in May while he stayed out west.

After spending months away from his daughter, Avery said he felt obligated to move back to P.E.I. to be with his daughter.

"Work's work but family's family," he said.

Avery said he had a good job and worked hard at a small company that had only a few employees, but while he enjoyed his work it was hard being away from his daughter.

"It was tough."

He also said he knew he wouldn't be able to find the same opportunity in P.E.I. and with the possibility looming that his ex-girlfriend and daughter might move back to Alberta at some point he was willing to sacrifice in the short term.

Things changed when he learned his ex-girlfriend decided to stay in P.E.I. when she landed a good job.

"My plan is eventually to go back out, but I had to come home and work things out because I was in fear that there's the possibility that things could go bad and I could lose my daughter," he said.

Avery said he felt bad for leaving, but he felt moving to be with his daughter was a reasonable excuse when it came to filing an EI claim.

"I never planned on living off of it for a year or even six months."

Since moving back, Avery said he has looked for work, but hasn't been able to find any and submitted his EI claim on Dec. 17.

Avery said he called to speak to someone about his claim a few times and on Jan. 24, which was 29 days after he filed, he was told to check in another few days because it hadn't been looked at yet.

That's when his father called their MP Lawrence MacAulay, who Avery said called Service Canada on his behalf.

Avery said he got a call about 15 or 30 minutes later to tell him his claim was denied because his reason for leaving his job wasn't a valid reason.

"I wasn't too happy because in my mind I felt the reasoning was pretty legitimate."

It also upset him that it took his MP calling about the claim for him to get a decision, Avery said.

"It just doesn't seem like they put much effort into looking at the situation or reading into it at all."

Service Canada has an annual target of paying out 80 per cent of claimants within 28 days of filing a claim for EI benefits.

Employment and Social Development Canada was contacted about Avery's claim and provided a statement, which said processing staff was working on it the day MacAulay called.

"The timing of the decision and the call to Mr. Avery was based on current workload volumes, rather than the MP enquiry," the statement said.

The statement also said Avery spoke to someone from Service Canada on Jan. 24, at which time he told them there was no urgent situation that necessitated his immediate return to P.E.I. and that he planned to move back to Alberta within six months.

Avery disagreed.

"I told them that I'd have to go back soon if I don't get any money straightened out," he said.

When claims are rejected an applicant has 30 days to file for a reconsideration, which Avery said he did last week.