Introduction to the Digest of Benefit Entitlement Principles


The Digest of Entitlement Principles (the digest), contains the principles applied by the Employment Insurance Commission (the Commission) when providing information and guidance on legislative and regulatory requirements. These principles are also applied when making decisions on claims for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits under the Employment Insurance Act (the act) and its Regulations (the regulations).

The digest is intended as a reference tool for all users, including those without a legal background or knowledge of EI. The Commission attempts to ensure these practices, policies and interpretations are easily accessible, updated regularly and written in plain language; for clarity and readability, technical and legal terms have been avoided as much as possible.

Individuals seeking general information on EI may wish to consult the Government of Canada website.

The Digest of benefit entitlement principles

Accessing specific subjects

Specific subjects may be accessed by chapter names found in the table of contents. Additionally, links are provided to each chapter in the issue summary below.

How to qualify for benefits

The Basic concepts chapter provides information on how to qualify for benefits, how long benefits can be paid and how the benefit rate is calculated. Calculation of a claimant's weekly benefit rate is the same for all types of benefits (excluding fishing benefits and benefits for self-employed individuals). As eligibility and entitlement conditions vary depending on the type of benefits claimed, each of these benefit types (except regular benefits) is discussed in its own chapter.

Applying for benefits and starting a claim

In order to establish a claim for benefits, an individual must apply (Claim procedure) and have an Interruption of earnings. For those who do not apply promptly after their interruption of earnings, the department may grant an Antedate and consider the claim to be made at an earlier date, if good cause is shown for the delay in applying.

Reasons for unemployment and impact on eligibility

If an individual who is requesting regular benefits has stopped working for any reason other than a layoff, the Commission must review the claim to determine entitlement to benefits. This is because the EI program is designed to pay benefits to those who are unemployed through no fault of their own. A few of the major reasons that must be reviewed are quitting (Voluntary leaving employment), dismissal (fired) by employer (Misconduct), or unemployment resulting from a Labour Dispute.

Issues while on claim

With few exceptions, such as participation in referred training or other employment programs (Employment benefits and support measures), every person who is claiming regular benefits must prove availability for work and demonstrate a willingness to accept any suitable employment that is offered (Refusal of employment). As well, the chapters on Week of unemployment and Earnings discuss situations where claimants work or have income while claiming benefits.

Special provisions and claim types

Because of their unique employment arrangements and regulations, additional information is provided regarding Teachers and Fishers (Fishing Benefits). Also, the EI program provides Maternity, Parental, Sickness, Compassionate Care, and Family Caregiver (children and adult) benefits for qualified claimants.

How decisions are made

Additional chapters in the digest discuss the Evidence or proof required when an officer makes a decision on a claim for benefits, and the circumstances in which a decision may be reconsidered (Reconsideration, amendment and return of benefit).

Sanctions for misrepresentation

Another section provides information on when the Commission can impose a penalty or other sanction for false or misleading statements (Policy on penalties).


The digest discusses the Commission's authority to Write-off an overpayment of benefits in certain circumstances.


References to the legislation and to judgments are included in the body of the appropriate sections. The links refer the reader to references such as a specific provision of the Employment Insurance Act or Regulations, to relevant jurisprudence, or to another section of the digest.

Specific references to the Employment Insurance Act are abbreviated as EI Act along with the relevant section or subsection number. References to the Regulations made under that act are indicated as EI Regulations. The Employment Insurance Fishing Regulations are set out as EI Regulations (fishing).

"CUB" stands for "Canadian Umpire-Benefit" and refers to judgments given by Umpires. The first Umpire decision was CUB 1 issued in 1943 and this numerical coding of CUBs was used until the Social Security Tribunal was introduced in 2013. Federal Court of Appeal decisions are designated as FCA and a decision number, and normally make reference to the related CUB number.

The Index of Jurisprudence contains summaries of many significant decisions from Umpires, the Federal Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Canada. Significant judgements are those that hold some jurisprudential value or provide insight into the present legislation and policies, dealing with entitlement to EI. The index provides access to over 70 years of EI jurisprudence.

Effective April 1, 2013, the Social Security Tribunal of Canada (SST) became responsible for making decisions on appeals related to the EIA. Their website (Social Security Tribunal of Canada) contains decisions chosen to represent the various legal issues. The Tribunal publishes all Appeal Division decisions and a selection of General Division decisions. General Division decisions are chosen for publication when they meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • interprets or explains an area of law;
  • raises a new or interesting point of law;
  • explains a new departure in case law; or
  • has unusual facts.

[October 2018]

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