What is Employment Insurance?

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Employment Insurance, often referred to simply as EI in Canada is a type of benefit that provides individuals who are unable to work for various reasons with temporary income support.  Employment insurance in Canada is often broken down into various types of EI including regular benefits, self-employed benefits, sickness benefits, and benefits for seasonal workers.  Depending on the type of work you do, the hours you work, and the reason you are out of work, you may or may not be eligible for employment insurance benefits.  Let’s take a look at the different types of benefits and their eligibility criteria so you can answer the question, what is employment insurance?

Regular Benefits

By far the most common form of EI is regular benefits.  These benefits are available to individuals who are out of work for no fault of their own.  Examples include work shortages, mass or seasonal layoffs, or poor employee/workplace fit.  In order to collect regular benefits you must be available and able to work while also actively looking for a job.  Additionally, you must have been employed in a position that was insured under the program.  Other eligibility criteria for regular EI benefits include:

  • You must be off work and without pay for a minimum of seven consecutive days in the past 52 weeks before you can begin collecting,
  • You must have worked a minimum number of hours in the past year or since your most recent EI claim,
  • You must maintain a record of employers you have contacted and the date they were contacted, and
  • You must complete bi-weekly reports to receive insurance payments.

Self-Employed Benefits

Self-employed workers can also contribute to and collect employment insurance providing they are registered with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission.  Nevertheless, not all self-employed people are covered under the program and there are six specific forms of EI benefits for self-employed individuals.

  • Up to 15 weeks of Maternity Benefits are available for those who miss work for pregnancy or to give birth.
  • Up to 69 weeks of Parental Benefits are available to individuals who miss work to care for newly born or adopted children. Two options for parental benefits are available.  Standard parental benefits for up to 40 weeks can be shared between parents with a maximum of 35 weeks for one parent.  Or, 69 weeks of extended parental benefits can be shared between parents with a maximum of 61 weeks claimed for one parent.
  • Sickness Benefits for up to 15 weeks are available if you miss work due to injury, illness, or during quarantine.
  • Compassionate Care Benefits cover self-employed workers for up to 26 weeks if you need to be away from work to provide care for a person with a serious illness.
  • And, Family Caregiver Benefits for Children or Adults are available for up to 35 weeks or 15 weeks respectively. These benefits provide income support so you can miss work to care for a critically ill or injured child or adult.

Sickness Benefits

Finally, financial support is available to workers for up to 15 weeks should you need to miss work because of illness, injury, or quarantine.  The eligibility criteria indicate you must be employed in an insurable position and meet specific sickness criteria.  Normal working income must be reduced by at least 40% and you must have worked for at least 600 hours in insurable employment to qualify.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, and this website generally, is not intended as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as legal advice.  To provide legal advice on your problem, a lawyer must first understand your specific situation.

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