Desperate times call for desperate measures and that’s what we have seen over the last two weeks with more than 1 million Employment Insurance (EI) claims and many more expected in the coming days.
Individuals who have recently lost their jobs through no fault of their own can apply for regular EI benefits. Workers who qualify for EI and are sick or in quarantine can apply for EI Sickness Benefits.
In cases where you are caring for someone who is critically ill or injured, you can apply for EI Caregiver Benefits.
Workers who have lost their jobs, are sick, quarantined, or are caring for children during the current situation, can apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) whether or not they qualify for EI.
Types of EI Benefits
The following insurance benefits are available to Canadians:
- EI regular benefit
- EI sickness benefit
- Maternity and parental benefits
- Family caregiver benefit (adult and children)
- Compassionate care benefit
- Fishing benefits
How Does Regular Employment Insurance Work?
EI regular benefits are provided to individuals who lose their job through no fault of their own e.g. due to a seasonal or mass layoff, or because there is no work to do.
As per Service Canada, you may be eligible for EI if you:
- Were employed in an insurable employment
- Lost your job through no fault of your own
- Have been without work and pay for at least 7 consecutive days in the last 52 weeks
- Have worked for the required number of insurable employment hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter
- Are ready, willing and capable of working each day
- Are actively looking for work
There are instances when you may not qualify for EI benefits, including if you are dismissed for misconduct or you leave your job without just cause.
The minimum number of hours required to qualify for employment insurance depends on where you live and the unemployment rate. Generally, you will need to have worked between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment to qualify for regular EI benefits.
For sickness, maternity, parental, compassionate care or family caregiver benefits, a minimum of 600 hours is required.
You can look up your EI economic region and the number of hours required here.
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How To Apply For EI Online
You can submit an application online on the Government of Canada website. The form takes about 60 minutes to complete.
Normally, you can also complete the application process at a Service Canada Centre, however, they are currently closed to the public.
You can apply for benefits even if you haven’t received your Record of Employment (ROE).
Before proceeding with an application, have the following information available:
- Your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
- Mother’s maiden name
- Mailing and residential addresses, including the postal codes
- Banking information for direct deposit set-up (includes bank name, branch number and account number)
- Name, addresses, dates of employment and reason for separation from your employer over the last 52 weeks
- A detailed version of the facts (if you quit or have been dismissed from any job in the last 52 weeks)
- Earnings for each of your highest-paid weeks of insurable earnings in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last claim, whichever is shorter. This information is used with your Record(s) of Employment to calculate your benefit rate
How Much EI Can You Expect?
Generally, you will receive 55% of your average weekly earnings up to a maximum amount. For 2020, the maximum insurable earnings amount is $54,200, which means you can get up to $573 per week or $2,292 per month.
EI regular payments are paid for 14-45 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate in your region and the number of insurable hours you have worked in the last 52 weeks or since your last EI claim, whichever is shorter.
Low-income families (i.e. with a net family income of $25,921 or less per year) may qualify for an EI family supplement.
After You Have Applied For EI
After submitting your complete EI benefit application, you can expect to receive your first payment within 28 days. If your application is denied, you can request a reconsideration.
Bi-weekly reports must be submitted while you are on EI. You can submit your report through the Internet Reporting Service, via a paper report, or by using the Telephone Reporting Service at 1-800-531-7555.
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EI Sickness Benefits
If you are sick or under quarantine and are eligible for EI, you can apply for EI sickness benefits.
Employment insurance sickness benefits can provide up to 15 weeks of financial assistance if you cannot work for medical reasons.
To be eligible, you must have accumulated at least 600 hours of work in the 52 weeks before your claim. This is equivalent to 20 weeks of work at 30 hours a week.
Also, you will need to get a medical certificate showing you are unable to work.
Currently, the government is:
- Waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate in order to access EI sickness benefits
- Waiving the one-week waiting period when you file your claims online and call 1-833-381-2725 or 1-800-529-3742 (TTY)
If you are sick or in self-isolation or quarantine and are unable to complete your application form, you can call 1-800-622-6232.
How Much Does EI Sickness Benefit Pay?
You could get 55% of your insurable earnings up to $573 per week.
The amount of EI you receive depends on your insurable earnings over the past 52 weeks. Your highest-paid weeks (between 14 and 22 weeks) are used in calculating your benefit amount.
If your net family income is $25,921 or less, you may qualify for a family supplement. You can expect your first payment approximately 28 days after you apply.
During the application process, you will need to provide similar information required for regular EI benefits and, you will also need to complete bi-weekly reports.
Review your application status by visiting My Service Canada Account or reaching them by telephone.
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EI Caregiver Benefits
Individuals who are caring for someone who is critically ill, injured or needing end-of-life care can apply for EI caregiver benefits.
There are three different types of caregiving benefits:
- Family caregiver for children who are under 18: up to 35 weeks for EI benefits
- Family caregiver benefit for adults who are age 18 and older: up to 15 weeks of EI benefits
- Compassionate care benefits: up to 26 weeks of benefits when you provide end-of-life care for a person of any age
How Much EI Caregiver Benefits Can You Receive?
You receive 55% of your earnings and up to $573 per week. Payments start at about 28 days after you apply and may last for up to 35 weeks (see above).
To be eligible, you will need to show that:
- You are a family member of the person who is critically ill or injured or needing end-of-life care or are considered to be like a family member
- Your regular weekly earnings have decreased by 40% for at least one week because you need to take time away from work to care for the person
- You have 600 insured hours of work in the 52 weeks before your claim
- A medical doctor or nurse practitioner has certified that the person you are providing care to is critically ill or needing end-of-life care
If you are not a family member, an attestation form will need to be completed by the person needing care or by their legal representative.
The application process is completed online and takes about 60 minutes. You will need to submit the following documents: authorization to release a medical certificate, records of employment, and attestation form if you are not a family member.
EI Maternity and Parental Benefits
This EI benefit provides financial assistance to people who are unable to work due to pregnancy, recent birth, or care for a newborn or newly adopted child.
Maternity benefits are only available to the mother of a child and offer benefits for up to 15 weeks at a 55% benefit rate.
Parental benefits can be shared and consist of:
1. Standard parental benefits: up to 40 weeks and one parent cannot take more than 35 weeks of standard benefits at 55% or up to $573 weekly.
For example, a mother (Lola) can take 15 weeks of maternity plus up to 35 weeks of standard parental leave for a combined benefit package of 50 weeks at a 55% EI benefit rate.
2. Extended parental benefits: up to 69 weeks and one parent cannot take more than 61 weeks of extended benefits at 33% or up to 344 per week.
For example, “Lola” can take 15 weeks of maternity plus up to 61 weeks of extended parental for a combined leave of 76 weeks.
In scenario 1, her partner can apply for up to 5 weeks of standard parental benefits (i.e. 40-35 = 5 weeks).
In scenario 2, her partner can apply for up to 8 weeks of extended parental benefits (i.e. 69-61 = 8 weeks).
You can read more about the eligibility requirements for parental and maternity benefits here.
The application process is completed online and you can contact Service Canada via 1-800-206-7218 if your child’s date of birth is different from the expected date of birth on your application.
Payments are made out within 28 days of your application.
I have covered how to apply for the popular EI benefits.
If you do not qualify for EI and have lost your job or are sick, quarantined or need to care for someone, the federal government has made available the Canada Emergency Response Benefit which provides a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months.
You can read more about this program and how to apply here.