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Understanding Employment Insurance Benefits in Canada

4 min read

employment insurance benefits in canada

Written By

Clay Shiffman

Welcome to your guide through the world of Employment Insurance (EI) benefits in Canada. Whether you’re out of work, facing life’s challenges, or preparing for a new addition to your family, EI benefits are here to help you stay financially stable during tough times.

In this blog, we’ll explore everything you need to know about EI, from who can apply and how to the different types of benefits and how much support you can expect. We’ll also guide you through the application process and your responsibilities while receiving EI and offer some tips for maximizing your EI benefits.

Keep reading if you’re ready to learn all there is to know about employment insurance benefits in Canada.

Your introduction to employment insurance benefits in Canada

Picture a backup plan that helps you out when things get tough. In Canada, this backup plan is known as Employment Insurance (EI). It’s here to help people who’ve lost their jobs without it being their fault and those who need a break for big life moments, like having a baby, caring for someone sick, or if they’re ill themselves.

Think of this employment insurance program as a helping hand with money. It’s there to help you pay your bills and look after your family when you can’t work or are looking for a new job. The government of Canada runs this program, and workers and companies pay into it. So, a little bit of your paycheck goes into the EI pot every time you earn, making sure there’s help ready for you when you need it.

Who qualifies for EI benefits?

To get Employment Insurance (EI) benefits in Canada, you need to meet certain rules stated in the Employment Insurance Act. It’s not enough to just apply; you must fit the specific requirements the government has set up. These rules make sure that EI helps the people who really need it: those who have been working but can’t work right now or can’t find a job.

Here’s a simple explanation of what you need to do to qualify:

Work hours

You must have worked a certain number of hours in the past year or since your last claim. This number can vary depending on where you live and the current unemployment rate there. Essentially, it proves you’ve been part of the workforce and have contributed to the EI system.

Job separation

Your reason for not working must fit the criteria. If you’ve lost your job, it should be through no fault of your own (for example, layoffs). Quitting without a good reason or being fired for misconduct might disqualify you.

Availability for work

To receive EI, you need to be ready and able to work. This means you’re actively seeking work and willing to take one as soon as possible. If you’re applying for sickness benefits, then the requirement adjusts to being unable to work due to medical reasons.

Income impact

EI is designed to replace a portion of your income if you’re out of work. So, if you’re still making a full salary from some source, you might not be eligible.

How to apply for EI

Applying for EI benefits in Canada is a process that requires attention to detail but is designed to be as straightforward as possible. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to navigate the application process:

Gather your documents

Before you start, make sure you have all the necessary information on hand. This includes your:

  • Social Insurance Number (SIN).

  • Personal identification.

  • Banking information for direct deposit.

  • Details about your recent employment, including the number of hours worked and reasons for leaving your job.

Online application

The fastest and easiest way to apply for EI is through the Service Canada website. You’ll need internet access for this. The online application will guide you through a series of questions about your employment history, your reason for applying, and your current situation.

Submit your Record of Employment (ROE)

You’ll need a ROE from every employer you worked for in the past 52 weeks. This document shows how long you were employed and how much you earned. Most employers submit the ROE directly to Service Canada electronically, but it’s good to check that this has been done.

However, it’s important to apply for EI benefits as soon as possible after you stop working, even if your ROE isn’t ready yet. Waiting too long to apply might mean you’ll lose benefits you could have gotten earlier. Once your ROE is ready, you can then submit it.

Wait for a decision

After you send in your application, you’ll need to wait a bit while it’s being looked at. Service Canada might get in touch with you if they need more details or have questions. They’ll check your application against the rules for qualifying and then let you know if you’ve been approved or not.

Start your bi-weekly reports

If your application is approved, you’ll need to file reports every two weeks to show that you’re still eligible for EI benefits during this benefit period. These reports include information about any money you’ve earned, if you were available for work, and if you’re still looking for a job.

Once everything is set up and you’re submitting your bi-weekly reports, you’ll start to receive benefits through direct deposit into your online bank account.

Types of EI Benefits

The EI program in Canada is flexible and has different kinds of help for different situations. This includes help for people who are out of work, sick, new parents, those taking care of someone, and even fishers. Each kind of help is designed for specific needs, making sure EI can support many different challenges Canadians might face while working.

Let’s take a closer look at the main types of help available:

EI regular benefits

These benefits are for people who lose their jobs because of reasons like layoffs or not enough work and who are trying to find a new job. To be eligible, you need to have worked a certain number of hours that can be covered by insurance in the year before you apply or since your last EI claim.

Sickness benefits

If you’re unable to work due to illness, injury, or quarantine, these benefits help replace your income during your recovery.

Maternity and parental benefits

For parents expecting a baby or adopting a child, providing financial support while they take time off work to care for their newborn or newly adopted child.

Caregiving benefits

For those who need to take time off work to provide care or support to a critically ill or injured family member. These benefits include:

  • Family caregiver benefit for children.

  • Family caregiver benefit for adults.

  • Compassionate care benefits.

Fishing benefits

This is aimed at fishers who are self-employed and have paid into EI. These benefits help during off-seasons or when fishers cannot work due to specific circumstances.

Understanding how much you can receive

When it comes to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits in Canada, one of the most common questions is, “How much money will I get?”

When you apply for Employment Insurance (EI) in Canada, how much money you get is based on your previous earnings, but there’s a top limit. Generally, you’ll get about 55% of what you used to make every week, but there’s a maximum cap that changes every year. So, if 55% of your earnings is more than this cap, you’ll only get up to the cap.

How long you can get EI also depends on where you live. If your area has a lot of unemployment, you might be able to get EI for a longer time since finding a new job might be harder.

If you’re working a part-time job while getting EI, you can still get some money from EI, but the amount you earn from your job will lower your EI payments. This setup encourages people to work part-time as they search for full-time work.

Also, EI money is taxed like any other income. You’ll have to pay taxes on it, and how much tax you pay depends on your total income for the year. Knowing these details helps you understand the financial support EI can offer when you need it.

Your responsibilities while receiving EI benefits

When you get Employment Insurance (EI) benefits in Canada, you get financial help, but you also need to follow some rules. Staying on top of these rules makes sure you keep getting your benefits smoothly. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to do and keep track of while you’re on EI:

You must complete your bi-weekly reports

To keep getting EI benefits, you need to fill out a report every two weeks. Think of these reports as quick updates you give to the government about your job situation. You’ll answer questions like if you were ready to work, if you looked for jobs, if you’ve started working, and if you’ve made any money in other ways. These updates help Service Canada figure out if you should keep getting EI benefits.

You must keep actively seeking work

A rule for getting EI is that you need to be actively looking for a job. You have to keep track of everything you’re doing to find work, like where you’ve applied, any interviews you’ve had, and any training for jobs you’re doing. Now and then, Service Canada might want to see your job search notes to make sure you’re really trying to find work.

You must keep your information up to date

Things in life can change fast, and you need to tell Service Canada if anything significant happens that could impact your EI benefits. This means letting them know if you start a new job, move to a new place, or can’t search for work because you’re sick or travelling.

Tips for maximizing your EI benefits

Here are some helpful tips to help you maximize your EI benefits:

Apply right away

Don't delay applying for EI benefits once you’ve stopped working, even if you haven’t gotten your Record of Employment (ROE) from your job yet. Applying as soon as possible makes sure you don’t miss out on getting benefits early on.

Complete your application accurately

When you fill out your EI application, be careful to make sure all your information is right, and nothing is left out. Mistakes or missing information can slow down your application or change how much money you get.

Keep a detailed job search log

Looking for a job is essential when you’re getting EI. Make sure to write down everything you do to find a job, like where you’ve applied, any interviews you’ve had, and how you’ve tried to meet new people for work opportunities. This helps you stay organized and shows you’re still eligible for EI benefits if someone asks.

Update your skills

Think about using this time to learn new skills or take training courses. Doing this can make it easier for you to find a job and shows the people at EI that you’re serious about getting back to work. Plus, some of these training programs might get some help from EI, too.

Report income accurately

If you work a bit while getting EI, make sure to tell them exactly how much you make. This counts for any type of work like part-time, freelance, or contract jobs. Your EI benefits might change because of what you earn, but it’s really important to report your earnings to prevent getting paid too much and facing fines.


Understanding Employment Insurance (EI) in Canada is crucial when you need a financial helping hand. Knowing who can get EI, how to apply, the different kinds of help EI offers, and what you need to do to keep getting support can really make a difference. The most important things are to apply early, keep looking for work, and make sure all your details are correct.

EI is there to help you through tough times, whether you’re between jobs or facing other challenges. With the right approach, EI can be a valuable support as you get ready to jump back into work or navigate through life’s ups and downs.

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