Employment Insurance (EI)

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on July 12, 2023

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What Is Employment Insurance?

Employment Insurance (EI) is a program in Canada that provides temporary financial assistance to eligible individuals who have lost their job through no fault of their own, such as due to layoff, illness, or maternity leave.

The program is funded from both employee contribution and employer contribution, and it is administered by the Government of Canada through Service Canada.

The primary goal of EI is to help individuals maintain a basic standard of living while they search for new employment opportunities or address personal challenges.

Eligibility for Employment Insurance

To qualify for EI benefits, individuals must meet several conditions, including having insurable employment, sufficient insurable earnings, and a valid reason for job separation.

Additionally, special circumstances such as self-employment, temporary foreign worker status, maternity leave, and disability may affect an individual's eligibility for EI.

Qualifying Conditions for Employment Insurance

To be eligible for EI, applicants must have worked in insurable employment, meaning their employer has paid EI premiums on their behalf.

Additionally, they must have accumulated a sufficient number of insurable hours within a specified time frame, known as the qualifying period, and have a valid reason for job separation, such as a layoff or dismissal without cause.

Special Circumstances Affecting Employment Insurance Eligibility

Certain circumstances may require additional considerations for EI eligibility. Self-employed individuals, for example, can voluntarily opt into the EI program to access special benefits such as maternity, parental, sickness, and compassionate care benefits.

Temporary foreign workers with valid work permits may also be eligible for EI benefits, provided they meet all other requirements. In cases of maternity and parental leave or sickness and disability, additional documentation may be necessary to prove eligibility.

Employment Insurance Benefits

EI offers various benefits, including regular, maternity and parental, sickness, compassionate care, family caregiver, fishing, and work-sharing benefits.

The amount and duration of these benefits depend on factors such as the applicant's earnings, regional unemployment rates, and the number of insurable hours.

Types of Employment Insurance Benefits

1. Regular benefits are available to individuals who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, such as layoffs or economic downturns such as recession.

2. Maternity and parental benefits support pregnant or recently pregnant individuals, as well as parents who are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child.

3. Sickness benefits provide assistance to those who are unable to work due to illness, injury, or quarantine.

4. Compassionate care benefits are available to those who must temporarily leave work to care for a family member with a serious medical condition and a significant risk of death.

5. Family caregiver benefits offer support to those providing care for a critically ill or injured family member.

6. Fishing benefits cater to self-employed fishers who are actively seeking work and have experienced a significant drop in income.

7. Work-sharing benefits help employees and employers avoid layoffs during times of temporary decreased business activity by allowing workers to share available work and receive EI benefits for lost hours.

    Types of Employment Insurance Benefits

    Benefit Amounts and Duration

    EI benefits are calculated based on the applicant's average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum insurable earnings threshold. The benefit period typically ranges from 14 to 45 weeks, with extensions available in specific circumstances.

    Applying for Employment Insurance

    The EI application process involves submitting an online application, providing required documentation, adhering to deadlines, and meeting reporting requirements during the benefit period.

    Online Application Process

    Individuals can apply for EI benefits online through the government's official website. The application requires personal information, employment details, and the reason for job separation.

    Required Documentation and Information

    Applicants must provide a Record of Employment (ROE) from each employer within the past 52 weeks, as well as information about their work history, earnings, and personal identification.

    Deadlines and Waiting Period

    It is essential to apply for EI benefits as soon as possible after job separation, as delays may result in reduced or denied benefits. There is typically a one-week waiting period before benefits are paid, during which the applicant is expected to actively search for employment.

    Reporting Requirements During the Benefit Period

    Recipients of EI benefits must complete regular reports to demonstrate their ongoing eligibility, including details of their job search activities, any income earned, and changes to personal circumstances.

    Employment Insurance and Job Search

    EI recipients are required to actively seek employment and may access various employment services and resources to aid their job search. The impact of EI on job search motivation is an essential consideration for policymakers.

    Job Search Requirements and Expectations

    EI beneficiaries must actively search for suitable employment and be willing to accept reasonable job offers. Failure to meet these requirements may result in the suspension or termination of benefits.

    Employment Services and Resources

    Various government-sponsored employment services and resources are available to EI recipients, such as job boards, career counseling, skills development programs, and job placement services.

    Impact of Employment Insurance on Job Search Motivation

    The design of EI policies aims to balance financial support with incentives for individuals to actively seek new employment opportunities. Policymakers must consider the potential for EI benefits to discourage job search efforts or promote dependency on the system.

    Employment Insurance Appeals

    In cases where an applicant disagrees with an EI decision, they can file an appeal. The appeal process involves understanding the reasons for the decision, submitting a request for reconsideration, and adhering to the specified timeline.

    Reasons for Appealing Employment Insurance Decisions

    Applicants may choose to appeal EI decisions for various reasons, such as disputes over eligibility, benefit amounts, or the duration of benefits.

    Overview of the Appeal Process

    The first step in the appeal process is to request a reconsideration of the decision, providing additional information or evidence to support the claim. If the reconsideration is unsuccessful, applicants can further appeal to the Social Security Tribunal.

    Timeline for Submitting an Appeal

    Applicants typically have 30 days from the date of the initial decision to request a reconsideration. If they decide to appeal to the Social Security Tribunal, they must do so within 30 days of receiving the reconsideration decision.


    Employment insurance serves as a crucial safety net, providing financial support to individuals who have lost their jobs or are unable to work due to specific circumstances.

    Understanding the eligibility criteria, types of benefits, application process, and the importance of job search efforts while receiving benefits is essential for those seeking EI support. Balancing financial assistance with incentives to actively seek employment is a critical aspect of EI policy design.

    Exploring international perspectives on employment insurance can offer valuable insights into best practices and potential future developments in EI policy.

    As economic conditions and labor market trends evolve, policymakers must continue to adapt and refine EI policies to ensure they remain effective in providing support to those in need while encouraging reemployment and economic growth.

    Employment Insurance (EI) FAQs

    About the Author

    True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

    True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

    True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

    To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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