Employment Insurance Basics in Canada


Please note there are several benefit programs administered by Service Canada under E.I. This post will discuss the regular benefits applicable to a job loss.

Losing your job can be stressful, particularly if the economy isn’t doing that great, or if you don’t have a lot of savings.

If you live in Canada, employment insurance -or E.I- can relieve some of the financial stress, provided you do not make these common mistakes:

  • Assuming you are not eligible: more on this point below.
  • Not applying: benefits are not automatic. You need to fill in the paperwork.
  • Applying whenever you want to: you need to apply within 30 days of losing your job to receive benefits. Even if you receive a severance package or vacation pay, you still need to apply within the required time frame.
  • Waiting for your Record of Employment -ROE-: you don’t need this document to apply for benefits. Your employer has to forward it to Service Canada. If it’s not done, Service Canada will contact your former employer.

Who is Eligible for E.I. Regular Benefits?

In Canada, you are eligible for E.I. if:

  • You were in insurable employment, meaning you and your employer contributed to the E.I. program. If you’re self-employed, you’re not eligible for the regular benefits.
  • You worked the minimum required hours over the last 52 weeks or since your last claim -whichever comes first-. This depends on the unemployment rate in your province of residence. The lower it is, the more hours you have to work. The minimum number is 420 hours, the maximum is 700 hours.
  • You lost your job through no fault of your own, e.g. end of contract or season or shortage of work. These translate into a “code A” on your ROE. Any other code or motive will be scrutinized by Service Canada.
  • You have been out of work for at least 7 consecutive days
  • You’re actively looking for employment

Who is Not Eligible for E.I. Regular Benefits?

You’re not eligible if:

  • You voluntarily quit/resigned
  • You’re in jail
  • You’re self-employed
  • You were dismissed for cause, i.e. gross misconduct such as theft or violence
  • You’re locked-out of work due to a strike or labor dispute.
  • You refused to show proof of Covid vaccination to your employer and were let go as a result
  • You haven’t worked the minimum required hours

What Do I Need To Apply?

A few years ago, the Federal Government decided to overhaul the E.I. system and moved it online. First of all, you’ll need an internet connection and an online Service Canada account. The process is very straightforward and the steps are clear.

You’ll need to provide details on each of the jobs you had within the last 52 weeks or since your last claim -whichever comes first-. Namely explaining why your jobs ended. I’d suggest you keep your explanations simple. No need to write a novel!

Your explanations need to make sense to Service Canada. If they don’t, Service Canada may choose not to include the hours you worked for your job(s) or to exclude the ROE altogether. It could impact the outcome of your claim.

A good explanation is quitting your job because you found another, or because you returned to school. If you were let go, or quit because you were bullied or because you wanted to “take a break”, that will open the door for more scrutiny.

You’ll also need your Records of Employment, at some point. Most employers submit them electronically and you won’t have to do anything else. If you’re given a paper ROE, bring it to a Service Canada office. Don’t forget to make a copy for yourself.

How Long Will It Take for my Claim to Be Processed?

If your employer has submitted your ROE electronically and your claim is straightforward, i.e. you worked the minimum hours, you lost your job for no fault of your own – code A on ROE-, your application can be automatically processed and approved within days.

If you’re not in the above situation, your claim has to be reviewed by an agent…and it can take weeks! The average processing time is 28 days. You shouldn’t expect to receive any money during that time.

There is also a 1-week waiting period, for which you won’t receive any benefits.

How Much Can I Receive?

The amount you will receive is 55% of your earnings, up to a maximum of $ 638.00 gross per week for 2022. This amount is subject to income tax. Note periods of unemployment don’t count for retirement, as EI benefits aren’t subject to CPP contributions.

Do I Need to Submit Bi-weekly Reports?

Yes, you do! Service Canada will send you an access code. You can file your report online or over the phone.

Please note you must submit bi-weekly reports even if your claim hasn’t been approved yet.

Final Word

A lot of people seem to be ashamed of applying for E.I. benefits or assume that they’re not eligible. As an employee, you pay mandatory contributions to this program. You have the right to collect benefits, provided you are eligible for them.


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