9 Unemployment Insurance (EI)  Basics 


How Do I Qualify for EI?

In most cases you must have worked a minimum of 420 to 700 insurable hours, depending on where you live in Canada and the regional unemployment rate at the time of filing your claim.  If you are in the work force for the first time or if you are re-entering the work force after an absence of two years you will need 910 insurable hours to qualify. You need 600 hours to qualify for special benefits (pregnancy, parental, sickness or compassionate care).

For example: A worker living in the Vancouver EI Region and laid off between May 10 and June 6, 2009  needs at least 665 hours to qualify for regular EI benefits.  A worker who had an EI claim in the last year may have weeks left on the old one and want to finish it before starting a new one - ask EI staff if it’s to your advantage to do so.

How Long can I Receive EI?

The duration of your EI benefits depends on the regional unemployment rate during the month you’re laid off and the number of insurable hours you accumulated in the last 52 weeks or since your last claim, whichever is shorter. A temporary extension of up to 5 weeks applies if your benefit period ends after March 1, 2009.  This extension ends for new claims after September 11, 2010.

If you become sick or take maternity, parental or compassionate care leave while on regular EI, different duration rules apply. Ask the Action Centre for help.

For example: A worker living in the Vancouver EI Region and laid off between May 10 and June 6, 2009  is eligible for 20 to 43 weeks, depending on their insurable hours (includes extra 5). There’s a 2‑week waiting period during which no benefits are paid unless you re-opened a claim in which you already served the waiting period.  Chart for all EI regions (adjusted monthly) at http://srv129.services.gc.ca/eiregions/en/uirates.aspx.

How much do I Receive?

The basic benefit rate is 55% of your average insured earnings, to a 2009 claim maximum of $447 per week. Your EI payment is a taxable income so provincial and federal taxes are deducted.

When should I Apply for EI?

The day you are laid off. You have 4 weeks from your last work day to file for EI benefits. If you delay you risk losing benefits. File on-line at www.hrsdc.gc.ca/en/ei/menu/eihome.shtml or if you need some help, go to the local Service Canada office listed on that website.

What If I Receive Separation Payments?

Always file for EI right away or you may end up losing benefit weeks.

EI will automatically “allocate” vacation pay and termination pay in lieu of notice to a number of weeks at the start of your claim and will not pay EI benefits during those weeks. If you are still unemployed when your claim runs out, EI will extend the claim for a period equal to the allocation period (but not after the 2 year anniversary of layoff).

Severance pay may be held in trust while you retain recall rights (which may end with a full closure). The EI allocation does not occur until recall rights are ended/abandoned and the severance paid. This allocation is NOT retroactive.  If you have not received all your benefit weeks when the severance allocation begins and you’re still looking for work after the allocation, EI extends your claim period by an equal number of weeks at the back end (to the 2 year anniversary of layoff).

If your severance pay is transferred to an RRSP, there may be a tax savings but EI will still allocate the money as if it went directly into your wallet.

What are the Rules for Regular Layoff Benefits?

To avoid disqualifications, disentitlements and penalties:
·         be willing and able to work 
·        be looking for work
·        report income from all employment (farming, self-employment, etc.)
·        report absences out of country
·         follow EI staff instructions, including a call to an interview
·         report all work you do, even if you’ll be paid later.
These rules do not apply during a period of severance pay allocation. If you think you’ve been unfairly denied benefits, you have the right to appeal.

What about Supports for Training and Schooling?

Tuition, books, income and other supports may be available from the provincial government. Check their website for training benefits or visit the Action Centre for help. Do NOT start a class (even one you pay for) before getting more information - or you may risk your EI benefits and access to other supports. 


Receiving social assistance while waiting for your EI benefits

If you receive financial assistance or advances from a Social Services, you may have to reimburse that money out of your EI benefits. To know more...

What information/documents are needed to apply?
·         your Social Insurance Number (SIN). If your SIN begins with a 9, you need to supply proof of your immigration status and work permit.
·         a Record of Employment - If your employers issue ROEs in paper format, you must request ROEs from all your employers who issued ROEs in paper format in the last 52 weeks. However, if your employer submits your ROE to Service Canada electronically, you do not need to request a paper copy of your ROE from your employer since we will receive it electronically from your employer. On the same day your employer submits it, you will be able to view and print copies of your ROE online using My Service Canada Account;
·         personal identification such as your driver's licence, birth certificate or passport if you are applying in person;
·         your complete bank information, as shown on your cheque or bank statement, or a voided personalized blank cheque from your current account. This will ensure that your payment of benefits will be made directly to your bank account with Direct deposit;
·         your detailed version of facts if you quit or were dismissed from any job in the last 52 weeks;
·         details regarding your most recent employment: Your total salary before deductions including tips and commissions, your salary before deductions for your last week of work — from Sunday to your last day worked — gross amounts received or to be received: vacation pay, severance pay, pension, pay in lieu of notice or lay off and other monies.