So, you’ve just received a termination letter or been informed you’ve been laid off. What’s next?
If you’ve lost your job through no fault of your own, including if you have been terminated without cause, laid off and not asked to return, or your job has been made redundant, then you have the ability to apply for Employment Insurance. Also known more informally as EI, Employment Insurance is a form of temporary benefits provided by the federal government to unemployed workers while they look for employment or to upgrade their skills. The EI program also provides benefits to workers who take time off work during specific life circumstances, such as illness, pregnancy, caring for a newborn pr newly adopted child, caring for a critically ill or injured person, and caring for a family member who is seriously ill with significant risk of death.
Individuals receive EI benefits only if they have paid premiums in the past year and meet certain conditions. To receive regular benefits through EI, you need to show that you:
1. Were employed in insurable employment
2. Lost your job through no fault of your own
3. Have been without work and without pay for at least seven (7) consecutive days in the last year
4. Have worked for the required number of insurable employment hours in the last year, or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter
5. Are ready, capable, and willing to work each day
6. Are actively looking for work (note that you must keep a written record of employers you contact, including when you contacted them)
To show you meet the eligibility requirements and to receive payment, your required to complete bi-weekly reports, either over the internet or by phone.
When to apply for EI
Practically speaking, we recommend that you apply for EI as soon as possible once you receive notice that you have lost your job through no fault of your own. You can apply within four (4) weeks of your final day at work. Employers will typically provide you with a copy of your Record of Employment and file your Record of Employment online directly with Service Canada, but you can also ask your employer for this form since you will need to provide it as part of your EI file. The payments on your EI claim can be delayed if your employer does not file your Record of Employment.
If for any reason you need to speak to a Service Canada agent, to avoid long wait times on the phone with Service Canada, you can fill out an Online Service Form to schedule a callback, and an agent will call you within to (2) business days.
Other things you will need to apply for EI:
Your Social Insurance Number
Personal identification, such as your driver’s licence, birth certificate, or passport
Your complete bank account information. You can find this on the bottom of a personal cheque issued by your bank. Make sure to write “Void” on the cheque before submitting it.
Information about your most recent job, including your salary, gross income for your last week of work, gross amounts received or to be received (vacation pay, severance pay) and other income. This information can be found on your ROE.
Note that if you have been constructively dismissed and forced to quit, or have been wrongfully terminated with cause, you can still apply for EI. Make sure to present your version of the facts of what happened at the end of your employment. Service Canada will review, and may contact your former employer to gather facts and make their own determination on whether you are still eligible to receive EI.
If you are approved for EI regular benefits, you can receive up to 55% of your average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum amount. As of January 1, 2023, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $61,500.00, or a maximum of $650.00 per week. You can receive these benefits from 14 weeks up to a maximum of 45 weeks. The number of weeks you may receive benefits doesn’t change if you move to another region after your benefit period begins. However, you’re not usually eligible to receive regular benefits while you’re away from Canada if you are not available for work in Canada while abroad. EI benefits are taxable, so federal and provincial taxes will be deducted from your payment. It is also important to note that if you negotiate severance with your employer, unless your settlement is structured in an advantageous way, you will likely be required to pay back EI for the period that corresponds to your severance settlement.
You can also still earn money and receive your EI benefits. You’ll be able to keep 50 cents of your EI benefits for every dollar you earn, up to 90% of the weekly insurable earnings used to calculate your EI benefit amount. If you earn any money above this 90%, Service Canada will deduct it dollar for dollar from the EI benefits you receive. When you work and receive EI benefits at the same time, you must report your work earning and hours for each week you work, in the week when the work occurred.
If you are self-employed, you may still participate in the EI program and receive special benefits. If you run your own business or control more than 40% of your corporation’s voting shares, the program can provide you with access to special benefits as early as 12 months after registering. If you’re self-employed and need to take time away from your business to care for yourself or your family, then you can receive up to 55% of your earnings, up to a maximum amount set by the government. Currently, this is $650.00 per week. Note that if you are a fisher, barber, or hairdresser, or if you drive a taxi or other passenger vehicle don’t need to register for the self-employed program.