Digest of Benefit Entitlement Principles Chapter 24 - Section 4

24.4.0 Establishing a benefit period

A benefit period is the 52-week period during which a claimant may be paid the weeks of benefits to which they are entitled.

In order to establish a benefit period, the self-employed person must meet the qualifying conditions explained in section 24.3.0 of the Digest.

A benefit period begins on either the later of the Sunday of the week in which the interruption of earnings occurs, or the Sunday of the week in which the initial claim for benefits is made (EIA 152.11). When a claimant files an initial claim for benefits beyond the week of the interruption of earnings but wants to have the claim begin at an earlier date, they must make a request to antedate the claim to that earlier date, as explained further in section 3.1.0 of the Digest.

The duration of a benefit period for self-employment special benefits may be extended beyond 52 weeks when the circumstances outlined in section 1.5.0 of the Digest are present (EIA 152.11, EIA 152.12, EIA 152.13, EIA 152.14). Waiting Period

Note that claims for self-employment special benefits have a one-week waiting period where no benefits are paid (EIA 152.15). However, the waiting period may be waived or deferred under certain circumstances, as explained in section 1.8.0 of the Digest (EIA 152.05(14)).

For the purpose of determining a self-employed person's waiting period, a week of unemployment is deemed to be a week of unemployment for which benefits would otherwise be payable if the amount of the benefits that would have been payable in that week after deducting the following would be greater than zero (EIA 152.151):

  • the amount of the earnings, if any, that is greater than $50, if the person's rate of weekly benefits is less than $200; or
  • the amount of the earnings, if any, that is greater than 25% of the person's rate of weekly benefits, if that rate is $200 or more.

24.4.1 Payment of benefits

Employment Insurance (EI) benefits are not paid based on the personal needs or financial obligations of an individual. Equally, the fact that one has paid premiums to the EI fund does not by itself give rights to receive benefits as would be the case when purchasing an insurance policy. Eligibility depends on abiding by the various conditions established by the law.

An individual who wishes to receive benefits must first indicate their intention by making a claim and proving that they meet the conditions necessary to establish a benefit period for which benefits may be payable in that period (FCA A-0541.85, CUB 10633; EIA 152.1(1)). Filing an initial claim allows the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (the Commission) to decide whether the self-employed person is qualified to receive benefits and notify the person of its decision (EIA 152.12).

The Employment Insurance Regulations also provide for the making of claims for benefit by, and for the payment of benefits to, any person or agency on behalf of deceased or incapacitated persons or persons of unsound mind (EIR 27(1),  EIR 27(2)).

There are 3 categories of claims for benefit: the initial, the continuing and the renewal claim. Only the initial claim establishes a benefit period (EIA 152.1(1)). Continuing and renewal claims are claims made for weeks of unemployment during the existence of an already-established benefit period (section 1.9.1 of the Digest).

24.4.2 Week of benefits paid defined

Depending on the type of special benefit requested, there is a maximum number of weeks that can be paid in a benefit period. Any week for which $1.00 or more of benefits has been paid, reduces this maximum number (CUB 77020). Also deducted from this maximum are weeks for which no actual payment was made because of the following:

  • benefits for a week was used to repay an overpayment (EIA 42(2); EIA 47);
  • benefits for a week was applied against a penalty (EIA 38(1), EIA 38(2)) and/or;
  • benefits for a week was transferred to a government or municipal authority as a refund of assistance already provided (EIA 42(3)).

However, a week will not be deducted from the total number of weeks payable in a benefit period if, following reconsideration (section 24.16 of the Digest), the claimant was not entitled to any benefit for that week and an overpayment is established.

For example, a claimant received a full week of benefits and later contacts the Commission to declare earnings for that week. As a result, the Commission determines that the claimant is not entitled to benefits. In these types of cases, any full weeks for which an overpayment is established will be re-added to the total number of weeks payable in the benefit period.

24.4.3 Claim cancellation and termination

Under very specific conditions, a benefit period may be cancelled or terminated.

When a claimant requests a cancellation or termination 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 action, and the finality of the decision.

For example, it may be to the claimant's advantage to cancel an earlier benefit period, as it may result in a longer qualifying period for a new claim, or a more advantageous start date for a new benefit period.

The Commission cannot decide for the claimant, nor influence their decision. This decision is being made by the claimant and so it is final, even though it may later turn out to be disadvantageous to the claimant (CUB 61641). What may be advantageous at one point in time could be different in the future. Claim cancellation

When a benefit period or a portion of a benefit period is cancelled, it is as if it had never begun (EIA 152.11(8)).

The Commission may cancel a benefit period if it has ended and no benefits were paid or were payable (EIA 152.11(7)(a)).

At the claimant's request, and whether or not the benefit period has ended, the Commission may cancel a portion of a benefit period before the first week for which benefits were paid or payable, provided the following 2 conditions are met (EIA 152.11(7)(b)):

  • 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 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. Claim termination

The maximum number of weeks of self-employment special benefits that may be paid in a benefit period will vary, depending on the type(s) of special benefits sought. The length of the benefit period itself, without any extensions, is 52 weeks, which includes the waiting period, if it is to be served, during which no benefits are payable (EIA 152.11(2)). No further entitlement exists once these 52 weeks have elapsed, or in the case of an extension of the benefit period, 104 weeks have passed (EIA 152.11(15)), 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 special benefits to which they are entitled. However, where all those special benefits are paid before the end of 52 weeks, for example after 15 weeks of sickness benefits are paid, the benefit period will not be terminated immediately, as the claimant may become eligible to receive other types of special benefits (EIA 152.11(9)(a)).

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. Early termination

A claimant may request to terminate their benefit period early in order to establish a new one immediately. This course of action may be advantageous when, for example, the benefit rate could become higher with a new claim or, after having received the maximum 15 weeks available on a claim, a claimant is still ill and can qualify to establish a new claim so that further sickness benefits could be paid. 

Where the claimant requests an early termination of the benefit period, the request will be granted provided that the claimant makes an application for a new initial claim and qualifies to establish a new benefit period (EIA 152.11(9)(c)). In such case, the benefit period is terminated effective the Saturday preceding the start date of the new benefit period (EIA 152.11(3)).

A request to terminate a benefit period must be made within a reasonable time. 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 that request. It may be terminated earlier even if the benefit period has ended (EIA 152.11(10)) or even if benefits were paid after the date of the early termination. In such a case, an adjustment in the payment of benefits will be made. If no benefits were paid in the part of the benefit period which is before the date of early termination, the earlier benefit period may be cancelled (EIA 152.11(7)(a)).

In order to determine whether the claimant's reasons for delay constitute good cause, the principles concerning antedating, as found in Chapter 3 of the Digest, 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).

[November 2023]

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