Digest of Benefit Entitlement Principles Chapter 4 - Section 1

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4.1.0 Authority

Once a benefit period has been established on behalf of a person, that person may be paid benefits in respect of every week of unemployment falling within that benefit period (Digest 1.2.0; EIA 9).

Under the legislation, benefits can only be paid for weeks of unemployment (EIA 12(1); EIA 21(3); EIA 22(2); EIA 23(2); EIA 23.1(4); EIA 23.2(3); EIA 23.3(3)). As such for every week of benefits claimed in a benefit period, actual payment of benefits hinges on whether or not the claimant has demonstrated unemployment in that week.

4.1.1 Application

Regardless of whether regular or special benefits are claimed, claimants must first show that they have been unemployed during the week for which benefits have been requested.

Claimants who attend a course or program of instruction or training, or participate in any other employment activity to which they have been referred, are deemed to be unemployed (EIA 25(1); Digest Chapter 19). The same is true in respect of certain periods of the year for claimants who have established a benefit period for fishing, rather than a regular benefit period (EIR (Fishing) 9(3); Digest Chapter 15).

4.1.2 Week of unemployment defined

The definition of a week of unemployment does not only refer to a week in which the claimant performs no work at all. A week of unemployment includes a week in which the claimant worked for less than a full working week and receives less than a full week's wages (EIA 11).

The definition of a full working week is found in the regulations and depends on factors such as the nature of the employment, the manner in which it is remunerated, and whether or not a person's hours of work are controlled by an employer (EIR 29; EIR 30; EIR 31; FCA A-771-88, CUB 15420).

4.1.3 Amount to be deducted

Once it has been determined that the week claimed is in fact a week of unemployment, any earnings arising from a claimant's employment during that week must be considered (EIR 35(2)). The appropriate deduction will be made from benefits potentially payable for that week (EIA 19).

Where an individual becomes self-employed in the middle of a week, often the earnings applicable to that week are virtually impossible to determine; the same is true for the week in which a business is discontinued. To resolve this problem and avoid having to calculate the amount of earnings to be deducted from benefits payable for those weeks, it is practical to consider the claimant not available for other work for the few days they worked in self-employment (EIA 18; EIA 20; Jurisprudence Index/availability for work/various activities/setting up a business/; Digest 10.14.3).

4.1.4 Factors to consider

To determine whether an individual works a full working week, any activities normally carried out for the purpose of gain, must be examined. These are:

  1. the performance of any services giving rise to earnings, including non-insurable employment, as well as employment outside of Canada
  2. any self-employment or engagement in the operation of a business, including that as a partner or co-adventurer, or any other employment in which claimants control their working hours
  3. remuneration without the performance of services
  4. work without remuneration

4.1.5 Activities to be disregarded

The following activities are not considered employment:

  1. taking part in a picket line, even if a strike allowance is paid
  2. jury duty in a trial
  3. construction of one's own house, even if part of it will be used as a rental apartment or commercial premises
  4. helping friends without remuneration to build a cottage
  5. learning a trade in a friend's business without remuneration or a promise of employment
  6. letters written to publishing companies in an effort to have a completed book published

The activities mentioned above may however throw some doubt on a claimant's availability for work, and this issue must be further considered (Digest 10.14.0).

[April 2021]

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