Digest of Benefit Entitlement Principles Chapter 1 - Section 2
1.2.0 Establishing a benefit period
In order to establish a benefit period, an insured person must have had an interruption of earnings (Digest Chapter 2) and accumulated the required number of hours of insurable employment in their qualifying period.
1.2.1 Qualifying period
The qualifying period is the shorter of the 52-week period immediately before the start date of an EI claim, or the period since the start of a previous claim.
The qualifying period may be extended for periods during which claimants were not receiving EI benefits and are able to show that they were unable to work due to one of the following reasons:
- because of illness, injury, quarantine, or pregnancy,
- incarceration, if they were not found guilty of the offence that resulted in their incarceration,
- because they were in receipt of assistance under the EI program (such as attending a course or other employment-related activity, authorized by the EI Commission or a designated third party), or
- in receipt of payments under a provincial law for preventative withdrawal (applicable only in Quebec).
Detailed information related to extensions of the qualifying period is available in section 1.3 of this Digest.
1.2.2 Required number of hours to qualify – variable entrance requirement
The number of hours needed to establish a claim for EI regular benefits (known as the entrance requirements) is based on the regional variable entrance requirements (VER) for all claimants.
The VER establishes the minimum number of insurable hours required to qualify for benefits. The VER is based on the regional rate of unemployment in the region where the claimant ordinarily resides.
A claimant will need to have accumulated between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment during their qualifying period, to be eligible to receive EI regular benefits (EI Act 7(2)). The exact number is found in the Table of Required Hours of Insurable Employment and is dependent on the applicable regional rate of unemployment.
Claimants who have had a violation assessed on a previous claim may be required to meet increased entrance requirements. A violation has a potential effect on the number of hours required to qualify.
1.2.3 Increased entrance requirement sanction
Under the EI Act the Commission can impose penalties or prosecute persons who receive or try to receive benefits by knowingly making false or misleading statements. In addition, the act provides for the imposition of a violation, depending on the severity of the false statements, and the individual’s personal circumstances (EI Act 7.1(4)). Once a violation has been imposed, the claimant may need to work more hours to qualify for EI benefits in the future.
Increased entrance requirements affect all claim types, including claims for sickness, maternity, parental, compassionate care, family caregiver, fishing, and self-employment special benefits.
There are two types of violations; classified and unclassified. Unclassified violations have no impact on future claims unless there is a further finding of misrepresentation.
Classified violations range from minor to subsequent and establish a progressively higher threshold to qualify for benefits – the more serious the violation, the more hours needed to establish a claim (EIA 7.1(6)).
A violation will not be taken into consideration when calculating the number of hours required to establish a claim when:
- the Notice of Violation was issued more than 260 weeks before the date the initial claim was made; or
- two initial claims for benefits have been established since the date the Notice of Violation was issued (EI Act 7.1(3)).
1.2.4 Regional rate of unemployment
In order to calculate the regional rates of unemployment, the country has been divided into 62 economic regions. The unemployment rate applicable to each region is determined by Statistics Canada. It is the average of the seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate for the last three month period. Regional rates of unemployment are updated every 4 weeks (EI Regulations 17(1.1)(a))
The rate that applies to a claimant is the rate assigned to the economic region where the claimant ordinarily resides during the week before their claim starts. If, in this week, the claimant's ordinary place of residence was outside of Canada, the economic region used is the one in which the claimant last worked in insurable employment (EI Regulations 17(1.1)(b)).
EI economic regions ensure that people residing in areas of similar levels of unemployment are subject to comparable EI rules in terms of eligibility for benefits and the number of weeks they may receive. Subsection 18(2) of the EI Regulations requires that EI regional boundaries be reviewed every five years to ensure that they reflect current labour market conditions and geographic representation of communities across Canada.
When there is an increase in the regional rate of unemployment in a region, the number of hours a claimant needs to qualify for benefits decreases. Conversely, when the rate decreases the number of insurable hours required to qualify increases.
1.2.5 Ordinary residence
The expression "ordinarily resident" is not defined in the legislation. Taking the meaning of the word "resident", it refers to the place in which a claimant has settled (EI Regulations 17(1) and 17(2). The modifier "ordinarily" clearly excludes from the definition, any location in a place in which a person has no permanent residence, or places where a person only occasionally or periodically stays.
In the case of a married person who is frequently employed away from home, the ordinary residence of that person is the place in which the spouse and children reside. For an individual who lives alone or has no family obligations, the place in which that individual has settled is the place of ordinary residence; any stay in other locations, even of lengthy duration, does not change this. Therefore, the claimant's stated residence is not always regarded as the ordinary residence (CUB 66347; CUB 69769).
A change in residence normally occurs when a person leaves an area with the intention of settling permanently elsewhere and takes along all personal belongings. Sometimes, even the place in which the person temporarily resides before settling permanently may be regarded as the ordinary residence.
When a claimant’s residential and mailing addresses differ, the applicable economic region is the address of the residence.
1.2.6 Benefit period not established
When a claimant does not meet the entrance requirements, a benefit period cannot be established.
The most common reasons why a benefit period cannot be established are:
- a claimant has less than the minimum number of insurable hours required to qualify; the claimant does not meet the VER
- a claimant is applying for special benefits and does not have 600 hours of insurable employment in their qualifying period
- the claimant does not have an interruption of earning in the qualifying period
- the last record of employment was not submitted.
When there is an increase in the regional rate of unemployment, the number of hours a claimant needs to qualify for benefits decreases. Therefore, it is possible that claimants who could not establish a claim for benefits because they did not have enough insurable hours, may eventually qualify without working and accumulating additional hours.
In these situations, claimants are sent a notice informing them that under the current rate of unemployment, they were unable to qualify for benefits. Should the regional rate of unemployment change to the extent that a claimant may potentially qualify, a notice is generated and sent to the claimant.
1.2.7 Record of employment
A Record of Employment (ROE) provides information on employment history. It is the single most important document used by the Commission when establishing a claim for benefits.
Information contained on the ROE is used to determine whether a person is eligible to receive EI benefits, what the benefit amount will be, and for how long the benefits may be paid. The ROE also plays an important role in controlling the misuse of EI funds.
A ROE must be issued each time an employee experiences an interruption of earnings (Digest – Chapter 2) or when Service Canada requests one (EI Regulation 19). A ROE must be issued even if the employee has no intention of filing a claim for EI benefits (ROE Guide).
1.2.8 Major versus Minor Attached
Once a benefit period has been established, a claimant is regarded as a “major attachment claimant” when they have accumulated at least 600 hours of insurable employment in their qualifying period (EI Act 6(1)). The claimant is regarded as a “minor attachment claimant” when they have accumulated less than 600 hours in their qualifying period, but the minimum number of hours for the type of benefits requested, has been met (EI Act 6(1)).F
Both major and minor attachment claimants may qualify for regular benefits (EI Act 9). However, only major attachment claimants may qualify for maternity (EI Act 22), parental (EI Act 23), compassionate care (EI Act 23.1), or family caregiver benefits for children (EI Act 23.2) or adults (EI Act 23.3).
A major attachment claimant qualifies for sickness benefits when the reason they stopped working was due to illness. However, a minor attached claimant who stops working due to illness is not entitled to sickness benefits (EI Act 21(1)).
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