fbpx Applying for Employment Insurance - What you should know | People's Law School

You are here

Applying for Employment Insurance - What you should know

What you should know

Employment insurance benefits help people who are without work

“When my internship ended, I worried I wouldn’t have any income while I searched for a new job. After a couple weeks without any job offers, I decided to apply for EI. I collected payments for about six weeks before starting work at a new company. The payments really took the stress off, and I’m not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t applied.”

– Betty, Victoria 

Employment insurance benefits are temporary payments made to people who lose their job through no fault of their own. EI, as it’s often called, also offers help if you can’t work because of illness or injury. And it provides benefits for people who take time off work to have or parent a child, or to care for family members who are ill or injured.

The EI program is run by the federal government department Employment and Social Development Canada. Service Canada helps people access the program.

Qualifying for EI regular benefits

The Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) is available to those whose work has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The CERB benefit, explained here, provides a $2,000 payment every four weeks, for up to 16 weeks. It’s available to those who are eligible for EI and those not covered by EI (such as the self-employed).

EI regular benefits are temporary payments made to those who lose their job through no fault of their own. To qualify, you must:

  • in the last 52 weeks, have worked a minimum number of hours in work covered by the EI program (the number depends on where you live in BC; in the Vancouver region, it’s 700 hours)
  • have lost your job through no fault of your own (for example, if you were fired for misconduct or you chose to quit when you had other options, you wouldn’t qualify for EI)
  • have gone seven straight days without work or pay from a particular employer

There are more requirements. Here are the details.

If you qualify, you receive 55% of your pay, up to a weekly maximum.

The benefits last between 14 and 45 weeks, depending on how many hours you worked in the last 52 weeks and where you live in BC. For example, if you worked full-time hours in the Vancouver region for the full 52 weeks, you get benefits for 36 weeks. This chart shows benefit periods by hours worked and region.

Extending the qualifying period

The qualifying period can be extended from the last 52 weeks up to 104 weeks if you couldn’t work for certain reasons. Examples include being ill, injured, or pregnant. A longer qualifying period helps if you haven’t worked enough hours in the normal qualifying period.

Certain actions make you ineligible for EI

You may not be eligible for EI regular benefits if you:

  • chose to leave your job when you had other options
  • were dismissed for misconduct
  • are unemployed because you are directly participating in a labour dispute (for example, a strike or lockout)
  • are in jail, a penitentiary, or a similar institution

If you aren’t eligible for regular EI benefits, try the federal government's Benefits Finder to discover other benefits you might apply for. 

Other types of EI benefits help those who are sick, parenting, or caring for someone

If your work has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) may provide you with temporary income support. It covers (among others) those who are in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19, and those who are taking care of others for a COVID-related reason. Learn more about CERB.

In addition to regular benefits, there are other types of EI benefits available. These are:

  • Maternity and parental benefits, for people who can’t work because they are pregnant, recently had a baby, are adopting a child, or are caring for a baby.
  • Sickness benefits, for people who can’t work because they’re ill, injured or quarantined.
  • Family caregiver benefits, for people who can’t work because they’ve stepped away to care for or support a critically ill or injured family member.
  • Compassionate care benefits, for people who can’t work because they’ve stepped away to care for or support a family member who is gravely ill with a significant risk of death within six months.
  • Benefits for parents of critically ill children, for eligible parents who take time off work to care for their critically ill or injured child.
  • Fishing benefits, for self-employed fishers who are actively seeking work.

The Service Canada website explains who qualifies for these benefits, and how to apply.

For EI family caregiver and compassionate care benefits, a family member includes immediate family as well as other relatives and individuals considered to be like family, whether they’re related or not.

How much you might get on EI

The amount of employment insurance you receive is determined by the type of EI benefit, how much you’ve been earning, and where you live. For most people, the basic rate for calculating EI regular benefits is 55% of your pay, up to a maximum amount. See the federal government website for the current maximum amount.

In calculating your EI benefits, the government considers your gross earnings (before deductions), including tips and commissions. EI benefits are taxable income, so taxes are deducted.

EI benefits are based on your highest weeks of earnings over the qualifying period (usually 52 weeks). The number of “best weeks” considered in the calculation ranges from 14 to 22 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate in your region.

You can get more if you are in a low-income family or otherwise qualify for a family supplement.

Your benefits may be reduced if you earn certain income

Your EI benefits may be reduced if you earn other types of income during your benefit period. These include:

  • Pension income from the Canada Pension Plan or another provincial pension plan.
  • Pension income from employment (unless you’ve worked at another job long enough, after the pension starts, to qualify for EI).
  • Money awarded by a court for wrongful dismissal.
  • Severance pay.
  • “Callback pay,” which is money your employer pays you to come back to work for a short period after your employment has ended.
  • Self-employment income.

Other types of income won’t lower your EI benefits

You can earn other types of income without having your EI benefits reduced. These include:

  • Pension income from an RRSP or RRIF.
  • The Old Age Security pension.
  • Pension payments from a legal separation or divorce.
  • A pension paid by Veterans Affairs Canada.
  • Disability benefits.
  • Survivor or dependent benefits.
  • Spousal support.

To see a full list of income sources and how they may affect your EI benefits, check out this earnings chart.

You can work part-time and still get EI

Landing part-time work doesn’t cut off your EI payments. Under the working while on claim rules, you keep 50 cents of EI benefits for every dollar you earn in wages, up to a maximum amount. 

You must report any income you earn while you’re receiving EI. You need to submit your report and declare your earnings online each week. 

You can’t work full-time while getting EI benefits.