Digest of Benefit Entitlement Principles Chapter 1 - Section 4
1.4.0 Benefit period structure
To establish a benefit period, the claimant must supply information about work history, reason for separation, insurable earnings and other information the Commission may require. This must be provided in the form and manner directed by the Commission. The onus is on the claimant to prove they are entitled to benefits.
How a benefit period is structured, which includes the start date of a benefit period, determination of whether a claimant qualifies, and the number of weeks they may receive, is dictated by the EI Act and EI Regulations.
The number of weeks a claimant may receive during their benefit period is determined by the number of hours a claimant has in the qualifying period, and the regional rate of unemployment in the area in which the claimant ordinarily resides (Digest 1.2.2). The duration of a benefit period is the period of time during which a claimant can receive the weeks of benefits to which they may be entitled.
1.4.1 Effective date of a benefit period
The start date of a claim is commonly referred to as the “Benefit Period Commencement” date or the “BPC”. The act states that the start date of a claim begins on the Sunday of the week in which the interruption of earnings occurs, or on the Sunday of the week in which the initial claim for benefits is made, whichever is later (EI Act 10).
The interruption of earnings is discussed in depth in Digest Chapter 2. In short, the interruption of earnings requires a termination of employment and a period of seven consecutive days without work or earnings, from that employment (CUB 71217). Once it is established that an interruption of earnings exists, the start date of a claim can be determined.
A strict application of this section of the EI Act would mean that, regardless of when a claimant stopped working, the claim would always start the week they filed their application for benefits. Therefore, for administrative purposes, the Commission has developed policies that are used to determine the start date of a claim. These policies are only applied when it is to the claimant’s advantage (Digest 3.1.1).
Only insurable hours accumulated prior to the start week of the benefit period can be used in determining whether a claimant qualifies, or in the calculation of the number of weeks of benefits that could be payable. Hours worked during a benefit period cannot be used. In this context, if a claimant had hours of insurable employment during the week the interruption of earnings occurred, and without those hours a benefit period could not be established, the start date of the claim can be deferred to the following Sunday.
When an application for benefits is filed no later than four calendar weeks following the week in which the interruption of earnings occurred, the last day worked or last day paid falls, or the last week in which wage loss insurance or worker’s compensation is paid, the application is deemed to have been filed in a timely manner. The effective date of the benefit period will then be determined based on whichever of those four weeks is most advantageous to the claimant.
When a claimant files an application for benefits more than four calendar weeks after the week in which the interruption of earnings occurs, the effective date of the claim will be the Sunday of the week in which the claimant filed. Claimant’s wishing to have their claims start on an earlier date must request an antedate (Digest Chapter 3).
1.4.2 Duration of a benefit period
The duration of a benefit period is the period of time during which a claimant may receive the weeks of benefits to which they may be entitled. The length of a benefit period is 52 weeks, including the week the claim starts. EI benefits are not payable beyond the 52 week benefit period, unless the claimant is eligible for an extension to that benefit period (EI Act 10).
A benefit period ends when any of the following occurs:
- the maximum number of weeks of benefits have been paid
- the 52nd week of the benefit period has been reached
- the claimant requests that their benefit period end, makes a new initial claim for benefits, and qualifies to receive benefits on the new claim (EI Act 10(8)).
1.4.3 Number of weeks of benefits payable
It must be remembered that the information in this section refers to regular benefits. Other types of benefits, such as sickness, maternity, parental, compassionate care or family caregiver benefits, are subject to their own specific legislative provisions, and are discussed in depth in their own chapters of this Digest. Fishing benefits and payments related to developmental programs (training, work-sharing), will also be discussed in other chapters.
The maximum number of weeks for which benefits may be paid in a benefit period is determined at the time the benefit period is established and is dependent on two factors.
A claimant can receive from 14 weeks up to a maximum of 45 weeks of regular benefits, depending on:
- the unemployment rate in the region in which they ordinarily reside, at the time the claim was established, and
- the amount of insurable employment they have accumulated in the 52 weeks preceding their claim, or since their last claim, whichever is shorter (EI Act 12(2)).
For example, when the applicable regional rate of unemployment is 6%, and a claimant has accumulated 700 hours of insurable employment in the last 52 weeks, then a maximum of 14 weeks of benefits may be payable.
Whereas another claimant who had 1330 hours of insurable employment and resides in a region where the applicable rate of unemployment is greater than 16%, could receive up to 45 weeks of benefits. The table of weeks of benefits in the Act (Schedule I), demonstrates these two factors and the various maximums of weeks of benefits which could be paid.
The number of weeks payable on a claim does not change even if a claimant moves to a different region after their benefit period begins.
188.8.131.52 Number of weeks of benefits payable to commuter and interstate claimants
The EI Regulations provide that, under certain circumstances, a claimant who resides outside of Canada is not disentitled from benefits solely for that reason. However, the number of weeks of benefits which may be paid in these circumstances is subject to different rules than a claimant residing in Canada.
A claimant, permanently or temporarily residing in a state of the United States that shares a border with Canada, may be entitled to benefits, provided they are available for work in Canada and are able to report in person to a Service Canada Centre, if or when directed to do so (EI Regulation 55(6)(a)). Individuals who reside temporarily or permanently in the District of Columbia, in any of the United States, the Virgin Islands, or Puerto Rico, and prove they meet all conditions of entitlement to benefits under an agreement between Canada and the United States, can receive benefits (EI Regulation 55(6)(b)).
In either situation, the maximum number of weeks of benefits that may be paid in a benefit period is dependent on the number of hours of insurable employment accumulated in the qualifying period. EI Regulation 55 (7) contains a table that shows the various maximum weeks of benefits which could be paid, and corresponding number of insurable hours required.
A claimant residing outside of Canada under one of the situations described above, and for whom a benefit period was established, could eventually move to Canada during the course of their benefit period. The maximum number of weeks that claimant could continue to receive would be the number provided in the table mentioned above (EI Regulation 55(8)).
The opposite may also occur: that is, a claimant who had established a benefit period in Canada could subsequently reside outside of Canada, under the conditions mentioned earlier. The maximum number of weeks for which benefits may be paid to that claimant during the benefit period is the higher of:
- the number of weeks for which benefits have already been received in Canada, or,
- if they had permanently or temporarily resided outside of Canada in one of the locations mentioned above when their benefit period was established, the number of weeks they would have been entitled to pursuant to the table in EI Regulation 55(7); (EI Regulation 55(7)).
1.4.4 Termination of a benefit period
As discussed earlier, the maximum number of weeks of regular benefits that may be paid in a benefit period will vary from 14 to 45 (Digest 1.4.2; EI Act 12(2)). The length of the benefit period itself is 52 weeks (EI Act 10(2)), which includes the waiting period (EI Act 13), during which no benefits are payable.
No further entitlement exists once these 52 weeks, or in the case of an extension, 104 weeks, have passed (EI Act 10(8); CUB 76507), even if the claimant has not received the maximum number of weeks payable.
A benefit period technically terminates after the claimant has received all weeks of regular benefits to which they are entitled. However, where all those regular benefits are paid before the end of 52 weeks, for example after 19 weeks, the benefit period will not be terminated immediately, as the claimant may become eligible to receive special benefits (sickness, maternity, parental, etc) (EI Act 12(6)).
In such a case where special benefits are claimed after all regular benefits have been paid, the benefit period will terminate at the earlier of the following eventualities:
- when both regular and special benefits have been paid to a maximum of 50 weeks or
- when the 52nd week of the benefit period has been reached (EI Act 10(8)).
Once the benefit period has terminated, it is up to the claimant to demonstrate that they meet the conditions required to establish a new benefit period.
1.4.5 Early termination
A claimant may request early termination of the benefit period for the purpose of establishing a new one immediately. This course of action may be advantageous when, for example, the new benefit rate could be higher or the claimant could become major attached (Digest 1.2.8 ), and therefore be entitled to special benefits.
Where a claimant requests early termination of their benefit period, in order to allow them to make an informed decision, the Commission must inform them of the advantages and disadvantages related to such a termination, and also of the finality of this decision (FCA 434-10; CUB 75288). The Commission cannot decide for the claimant, nor influence their decision. This decision must be made by the claimant and is final, even though it may later turn out to be disadvantageous to the claimant. What may be advantageous at one point in time could be different in the future.
Where the claimant requests an early termination of the benefit period, the request will be granted, provided the claimant makes an application for a new initial claim and qualifies to establish a new benefit period (EI Act 10(8)(d)). In such case, the benefit period is terminated effective the Saturday preceding the start date of the new benefit period. If no benefits were paid or payable during the part of the benefit period that was terminated, then the benefit period may be cancelled (EI Act 10(6)(a)).
As is the case with initial and other claims, a request to terminate a benefit period must be made within a reasonable period. A late request to terminate an established benefit period is considered to have been made at an earlier date if the claimant shows that good cause existed for the entire period of delay in making the request. It is irrelevant whether the benefit period has since terminated or not (EI Act 10(9)). Furthermore, it is irrelevant whether benefits have been paid after the date of early termination. In such a case, an adjustment in the payment of benefits will be made. As well, if no benefits were paid in the portion of the benefit period which is prior to the date of the early termination, the earlier benefit period may be cancelled (EI Act 10(6)(a)).
In order to determine whether the claimant's reasons for delay constitute good cause, the principles concerning antedating, as found in Digest Chapter 3, are to be followed. Jurisprudence has held that good cause is simply doing what a reasonable person would do to satisfy themselves as to their rights and obligations under the act.(FCA A-154-11; CUB 76454).
Any week of definite disqualification which had not been served when the benefit period terminated, will be carried forward to the new benefit period, unless two years have passed since the date of the original disqualifying event (EI Act 28(3)). No week of disqualification will be carried forward to a subsequent benefit period if the claimant, since the date of this event, has accumulated 700 hours of insurable employment (EI Act 28(4)). Furthermore, the disqualification will be deferred (EI Act 28(5)) for any weeks during which special benefits are payable. Further details on the effects of a disqualification are found at Digest 1.6.2.
1.4.6 Cancellation of a benefit period
Under very specific conditions, a benefit period can be cancelled or voluntarily terminated before all weeks of entitlement have been paid, or before the 52 week duration of the benefit period has expired.
A cancelled claim is considered to have never begun (EI Act 10(7)). The Act allows for a claim to be cancelled when:
- no benefits have been paid or payable;
- the claimant requests a cancellation; and
- the claimant can establish a new benefit period effective the first week for which benefits (on the former claim) were paid or payable.
Where a claimant requests cancellation of their benefit period, in order to allow them to make an informed decision, the Commission must inform them of the advantages and disadvantages related to such a cancellation, and also of the finality of their decision. The claimant must not be influenced one way or the other, as it is the claimant who must decide what action to take.
Often, it is to the claimant's advantage to cancel an earlier benefit period, as it may result in a longer qualifying period (Digest 1.2.1), or a more advantageous start date for a new benefit period.
The Commission may, without discussing with the claimant, cancel a benefit period that has terminated, provided that no benefits were paid or payable in that benefit period (EI Act 10(6)(a)).
At the claimant’s request, the Commission may also cancel a portion of a benefit period which precedes the first week for which benefits were paid or payable, provided the following two conditions are met:
- the claimant establishes a new benefit period commencing the first week for which benefits were paid or payable (on the previous claim), and,
- the claimant shows good cause for any delay in requesting cancellation, throughout the entire period from the day benefits were first paid or payable and the day the request was made.
It is irrelevant whether or not the benefit period that the claimant is requesting be cancelled has terminated (EI Act 10(6)(b)).
Where a claimant requests cancellation of a portion of their benefit period, in order to allow them to make an informed decision, the Commission must inform the claimant of the advantages and disadvantages related to such a cancellation. These requests should be treated in the same manner as requests for early termination (Digest 1.4.4), that is, the claimant must not be influenced and it is entirely up to the claimant to decide what action to take.
It may happen that benefits were paid during a benefit period, although they were not payable and the resulting overpayment must now be reimbursed. In such a case a request for cancellation of that benefit period may be granted, as benefits would no longer be considered to have been paid or payable.
The expression "benefits paid" also includes some situations where the claimant did not in fact receive benefits, for example, when a disqualification was being served (Digest 1.9.6). In such cases, generally, the benefit period cannot be cancelled. There are exceptions when one or more weeks of disqualification served will not prevent the cancellation of a claim; for example, this could occur where the cancellation would permit a minor attachment (less than 600 hours) claimant to become a major attachment claimant, and be entitled to sickness, maternity, parental, compassionate care, and/or family caregiver benefits (EI Act 28(7)).
In the context of the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan, a principle of equivalence exists, that recognizes the similarity of benefits paid under that plan, to maternity or parental benefits paid under the EI program.
However, the cancellation of a benefit period is not one of the situations included under the principle of equivalence. Consequently, benefits paid under such a provincial plan are not taken into account when considering termination or cancellation of a benefit period.
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