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What is employment insurance?

If an employee has lost his or her job through no fault of their own and if they qualify, employment insurance kicks in.

Employment insurance is an unemployment benefit program run by the federal government, but managed by Service Canada and accountable to the Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada.

How do I qualify to receive EI benefits?

There are requirements before a person is eligible for EI:

  • If you are employed in insurable employment;
  • If you have been without work and without pay for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks;
  • If you lost your employment through no fault of your own;
  • If you have worked for the required number of insurable hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter;
  • If you are ready, willing, and capable of working each day; and
  • If you are actively looking for work.

Who doesn’t qualify for EI benefits?

If you are a casual employee, a freelancer, foreign worker, etc., you may not qualify for EI. Some further factors that may disqualify an employee from EI benefits are:

  • If you were fired because of misconduct;
  • If you decided to leave your employment with no just cause; or
  • You are participating in a labour dispute and are unemployed for that reason.

What types of EI benefits are there?

Regular benefits

This benefit is for people who have become unemployed through no fault of their own and are ready, willing and able to work but are unable to find a job.

EI benefits have to be applied for as soon as possible once you lose your job, or you may lose benefits. Even if you didn’t get your Record of Employment (ROE) from your employer, you can still apply for EI and provide Service Canada with the ROE once you have received it.

Sickness benefits

If you were unable to work due to illness, injury or quarantine, then you would apply for this benefit. Under this category, people can qualify to receive a maximum of 15 weeks EI sickness benefits.

Family-related employment insurance benefits

Under this heading, maternal and parental benefits are included.

Maternal benefits are limited to biological mothers who are unable to work, because they are pregnant and have to care for their infant post-birth. Surrogate mothers are included in this category. The maximum to receive these benefits is 15 weeks.

Parental benefits are for people who are providing care for an infant or newly adopted children. The maximum to receive these benefits is 35 weeks.

Note: though EI is federal in nature, in Quebec, a different program provides paternity, maternity, parental and adoption benefits. That program is called Quebec Parental Insurance System.

Special benefits for self-employed people

Self-employed people can now qualify for EI special benefits if they register with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission or enter into an agreement with them.

Basic Rate for calculating EI benefits

The basic rate for calculating EI benefits is 55% of an employee’s average insurable weekly earnings. As of January 1, 2016, the maximum insurable earnings amount is $50,800. This means that an employee can receive a maximum amount of $537 per week.

If you have run into a problem in qualifying for employment insurance benefits, consult a lawyer.

Read more:

Employment Insurance Benefits

EI rights and responsibilities