Employment Insurance Canada: EI benefits in 2024

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Information verified by  Alexandre Desoutter

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Alexandre Desoutter updated on 8 February 2024

Do you plan to break a leg? Or do you plan to set your house on fire? Hopefully, the answer is a resounding no. However, life can be unpredictable and often has other plans for us. That's why insurance exists—to provide us with a safety net for those unexpected moments.

The Employment Insurance (EI) program in Canada embodies this principle, offering vital support to Canadians navigating through life's transitions. Whether it's changing career paths, starting a family, recuperating from a personal injury, or caring for a loved one, EI is designed to help.

In this guide, we look at everything about EI benefits. What qualifies for EI sick benefits? What to do when EI sick benefits run out? How to calculate EI benefits? How to apply for EI benefits? Find answers to all this and more.

EI benefits: 5 key takeaways

  1. EI supports Canadians during unemployment and various life events.
  2. Qualification for EI benefits requires recent work and meeting specific conditions.
  3. Offers up to 55% of earnings, capped at $638/week for 15 weeks.
  4. Duration varies from 14 to 45 weeks, based on regional unemployment rates.
  5. Application is available online at Canada.ca, with direct deposit for payments.

What is Employment Insurance Canada?

Employment Insurance (EI) provides income support for unemployed Canadians, as well as Canadians who are temporarily away from work due to various life events. Canadians who would like to use the EI program must have worked recently and meet certain conditions to qualify for benefits.

Qualifying events can vary, check the list below to see if your situation applies:

  • Job lost through no fault of your own
  • Pregnancy
  • Newborn or adoption care
  • Critical illness or injury care
  • Personal Illness
  • Family member care in cases of serious illness or close-to-death care

The Employment Insurance Canada program is overseen by the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC). The CIEC is responsible for annual EI premium rates as well as reviewing and approving policies.

EI benefits can help keep people financially afloat for 14 to 45 weeks. People out of work due to illness or an injury can in some cases claim EI sickness benefits if they don’t already have them through work or private critical illness insurance or disability insurance. They provide 55% of your earnings (to a maximum of $638 per week) for up to 15 weeks.

Alternatively, you could also consider long-term disability insurance and short-term disability insurance plans from private providers to bridge the gaps left by the Employment Insurance Canada program.

Private disability insurance can provide more comprehensive coverage than EI, including a higher percentage of your income, coverage for a longer period, and benefits for both short-term and long-term disabilities.

If you want to explore the best disability insurance plans in Canada, you can do it right here using our free comparator. Compare multiple plans and get quotes in no time.



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How does the Employment Insurance Canada or EI Benefits work?

EI pays a percentage of average insurable weekly earnings. This means that your EI payments will be a percentage of how much you made from your previous job up to a certain amount.

What are standard EI benefits qualifications?

To qualify for EI you and your employer must meet certain requirements. The reason for job loss will also affect your EI eligibility.

You may be eligible for EI benefits:

  • Insurable employment
  • The job was lost at no fault of the employee
  • You have been without work for seven consecutive days
  • You are willing and capable to work
  • You can prove that you are looking for work

You may be ineligible for EI benefits if:

  • You voluntarily left your job without cause
  • Were fired for misconduct
  • You are participating in a labor dispute such as a strike or lockout
  • You are self-employed and did not pay into the EI program
  • You were arrested and are in jail or a penitentiary

Alternate types of EI Benefits

The above requirements are focused on standard EI requirements for people dealing with unemployment related to their employment status but there are ways to qualify for EI benefits.

Canadians can also apply for maternity benefits, sickness benefits, caregiving benefits, and disability benefits. These programs have their requirements and may require some kind of proof to collect.

What qualifies for EI sick benefits?

To be eligible for EI sickness benefits in Canada, you need to tick off a few boxes:

  1. Work that Qualifies: Your job must pay into the EI program, which means both you and your employer contribute to EI.
  2. Break in Pay: If you've been unable to work due to illness, injury, or quarantine, you need to have gone at least a week without pay.
  3. Hours Worked: Over the last year or since your last EI claim, you should have worked at least 600 hours.
  4. Doctor's Note: You'll need a note from your doctor saying you can't work because of your health.
  5. Ready to Work: Even though you're applying because you're sick, you need to show you'd be looking for work if you were well.
  6. Earnings Drop: Your sickness should cause you to earn at least 40% less than what you usually make.

If these conditions are met, you could get EI sickness benefits, which is about 55% of your usual earnings, capped at a maximum. This support can last for up to 15 weeks, helping you financially while you can't work.

What to do when EI sick benefits run out?

So, are you wondering, how long is EI sick benefits? Read on! If you can't work and your EI sickness benefits have ended, here's a simpler guide on what to do next:

  1. Talk to Service Canada: Before your benefits stop, call Service Canada. They might help extend your benefits or suggest other help.
  2. Check Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPP-D) Benefits: If you're facing a long-term illness or disability that stops you from working, look into CPP-D. You'll need to have paid into CPP and your condition should be serious and lasting.
  3. Employer Disability Insurance: If you had a job before getting sick, see if your workplace has a long-term disability plan. This usually kicks in after EI or short-term benefits end and pays part of your salary.
  4. Provincial or Territorial Help: Your local government might have programs for health, disability support, or income assistance.
  5. Apply for Social Assistance: If you've run out of options, applying for social assistance (sometimes called welfare) might be necessary. The rules and amounts vary depending on where you live.
  6. Get Legal Advice: If you're having trouble getting benefits or insurance, a disability lawyer can help.
  7. Community and Non-Profit Support: Look for local groups or charities that offer help, advice, or sometimes money to people who are sick or disabled. They can also be a good source of emotional support.

As you're aware, EI sickness benefits are limited to a maximum of 15 weeks, which may not be sufficient for long-term disabilities. Private disability policies can offer benefits that last until you recover, reach retirement age, or for a set number of years.

If you want to look at private disability insurance plans, you can do it right here using our free tool below. Explore the best plans in Canada and get free personalized quotes right here.

Compare Disability Insurance
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How to calculate EI benefits?

Are you wondering, "How much EI Benefits will I get?" Calculating EI (Employment Insurance) benefits in Canada involves a few steps:

  1. Determine Your Average Insurable Weekly Earnings: Calculate the total amount you earned during the best weeks of your qualifying period (usually the 52 weeks before you apply). The number of weeks used in the calculation varies by regional unemployment rate.
  2. Calculate 55% of Your Average Earnings: EI benefits pay 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount. As of the last update, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $56,300, which means you can receive up to approximately $638 per week.
  3. Apply the Maximum: If your calculated benefit rate is higher than the maximum weekly amount, your benefits will be capped at the maximum.

Example of how much EI benefits you will get

Imagine you live in a region where you're required to use your 22 best weeks for the calculation, and during your best 22 weeks, you earn a total of $22,000.

  1. Calculate your average weekly earnings: $22,000 ÷ 22 weeks = $1,000 per week.
  2. Calculate 55% of your average weekly earnings: 55% × $1,000 = $550.
  3. Compare with the maximum weekly benefit: If the maximum weekly benefit is $638 and your calculation is $550, you would receive $550 per week since it's less than the maximum.

Remember, the exact amount you're eligible to receive can vary based on specific circumstances and the latest EI rules. Always check the current details with Service Canada or use their online calculator for a precise calculation.

How to apply for EI benefits?

If you're applying for EI benefits, go to Canada.ca and make sure you have all the required information at hand.

You will need:

  • A social insurance number SIN. You may also be asked for proof of immigrant status and a work permit.
  • Full legal birth name
  • Mailing and residential addresses
  • Banking information to receive payments via direct deposit. This will include the bank's name, transit number, and account information.
  • Name, addresses, dates of employment, and reason for termination/suspension from employers going back 52 weeks.
  • If you quit or were dismissed from a job you will need to write a detailed description of the reason for termination.
  • Highest earnings in the previous 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim. This information and your record of employment ROE will be used to calculate how much your EI will pay.

After all this information is gathered you can start the application process. The application for EI benefits is available on Canada.ca. The process takes around one hour to complete. Your information will be saved for 72 hours from the time you start. If you don’t complete it in this time frame you will need to start over the process for applying for EI benefits.

Watch out!

While cyber security is constantly being updated, fake government sites still exist. Make sure to check for typos when searching Canada.ca and make sure the site is authentic before filling out any personal information while applying for EI benefits.

Can I extend my EI benefits?

Generally, you can't extend Employment Insurance (EI) benefits in Canada once they run out. However, during special situations like economic downturns or emergencies (like the COVID-19 pandemic), the government may offer extensions or additional support:

  1. Check with Service Canada: For the most current information on EI or any potential extensions, contact Service Canada directly.
  2. Look for Other Assistance: Investigate other government programs you might qualify for, including provincial support or the Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit, if applicable.
  3. Explore Job Services: Use employment or training programs to help find new work opportunities.

The ability to extend EI benefits is usually quite limited, so it's important to explore all available options for support.

How to reactivate an EI claim?

Sometimes you may need or want to renew an existing EI claim from the previous 52 weeks. You will need to meet the qualification of having worked enough insurable hours and meet underlining qualifying conditions. You can apply to Canada.ca to reactivate your claim.

Good to know

Note that if you have not worked since your EI was reactivated and have fewer than four weeks left on your claim, your EI benefits should be automatically reactivated.

What are employment insurance disability benefits?

EI disability and EI short-term disability are commonly searched terms, but Employment Insurance and disability are not the same programs. EI sickness is what is covered under the EI program.

Short-term disability and long-term disability insurance are separate and may be provided by your employer as group disability plans or purchased as a private disability insurance plan. 

Can you collect EI and short-term disability?

No, unfortunately, you cannot collect both EI and disability insurance at the same time. Disability insurance takes priority in these cases and will supersede any EI benefits. This is good as the short-term disability lasts between 17 and 26 weeks. EI sickness benefits are, however, an option once short-term disability payments have lapsed.

If you want comprehensive coverage to safeguard you and your family should an illness or injury put you out of work, you must consider disability insurance. But how do you find the perfect plan? Look no further!

Explore the best disability insurance plans in Canada right here using our free comparator tool below. Compare multiple plans and get free personalized quotes right here.

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What are the FAQs on Employment Insurance Canada or EI Benefits?

Are EI benefits taxable?

Yes, Employment Insurance (EI) benefits are taxable in Canada. This means any EI benefits you receive, including regular, sickness, maternity, parental, compassionate care, or family caregiver benefits, must be reported as income on your annual tax return. Taxes are not automatically deducted from the benefits at the full rate, so you may owe taxes when you file your return.

Service Canada does offer the option to have federal tax deducted from your EI payments at the source to reduce the amount you might owe at tax time. It's a good idea to consider this option to avoid a large tax bill.

How long do EI benefits last?

EI benefits can last between 14 to a maximum of 45 weeks. The length of your EI benefits is dependent on the unemployment rate in your area when you make your claim and the insurable hours worked in the previous year or since your last claim.

How many hours do I need for EI Benefits?

You need a minimum of 420 hours of qualifying insurable employment to be eligible for EI benefits. These hours must have been completed within 52 weeks of applying for EI benefits and within the time since you last collected EI benefits.

The unemployment rate in your area determines how many hours you will need to qualify for EI benefits. If your area has an unemployment rate of greater than 13% you will need a minimum of 420 hours.

Should your area have an unemployment rate of 6% or under you will need a minimum of 700 hours. If you have any prior EI violations the number of hours required will be higher depending on the severity of the violation.

How long does EI take to deposit?

It will take around 4 weeks after applying to start receiving EI payments. Payments are issued every two weeks after your EI online report is completed and processed. If you sign up for direct deposit your payment will be completed within two business days. If you sign up for a mailed cheque it can take up to two weeks or longer depending on where you live and mail services in your area.

Are there EI benefits for self employed?

Yes, self-employed Canadians can opt into the EI program to access special benefits, including maternity, parental, sickness, compassionate care, and family caregiver benefits. To qualify, they must register for the program, have been contributing for at least one year, and meet minimum income requirements from the previous year.

These benefits don't cover regular EI benefits related to job loss. Once opted in, self-employed individuals must continue paying EI premiums as long as they're self-employed and wish to remain eligible.

How to cancel EI benefits?

  1. Contact Service Canada: Call or visit a Service Canada office to request benefit cancellation.
  2. Use My Service Canada Account (MSCA): Send a cancellation request online if possible.
  3. Provide Information: Have your Social Insurance Number and cancellation reason ready.
  4. Monitor for Confirmation: Watch for confirmation from Service Canada to ensure cancellation.
  5. Report Changes: Immediately report any employment or status changes to avoid overpayments.
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Alexandre Desoutter

Alexandre Desoutter has been working as editor-in-chief and head of press relations at HelloSafe since June 2020. A graduate of Sciences Po Grenoble, he worked as a journalist for several years in French media, and continues to collaborate as a as a contributor to several publications.