Section 1: Applying for benefits

What is Employment Insurance?

The Employment Insurance (EI) program offers temporary financial assistance to Canadians and individuals who are legally entitled to work in Canada, have a valid Social Insurance Number and remain in Canada during their benefit period. One type of benefits that the EI program offers is regular benefits. EI regular benefits are offered to people who have lost their employment through no fault of their own (for example, because of a shortage of work or because they were employed in seasonal work) and who are ready, willing, and capable of working each day but unable to find work.

Am I eligible for EI regular benefits?

You may be entitled to receive EI regular benefits if you:

  • are employed in insurable employment;
  • lost your employment through no fault of your own;
  • have been without work and without pay for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks;
  • have worked for the required number of insurable hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter;
  • are ready, willing, and capable of working each day; and
  • are actively looking for work (you must keep a written record of employers you contact, including when you contacted them).

You may not be entitled to receive EI regular benefits if you:

  • voluntarily left your employment without just cause;
  • were dismissed for misconduct; or
  • are unemployed because you are directly participating in a labour dispute (strike, lockout, or other type of dispute).

Definitions

Hours of insurable employment: These are the hours worked in an employment, for either one or more employers, according to the terms of a contract of service, either written or verbal, for which the employee was paid wages by the employer.

Paying premiums into the EI Account: If you are employed in insurable employment, you pay a certain amount of premiums, which are deducted from your wages as indicated on your pay stub. These premiums are paid into the EI Account.

Need more information on eligibility criteria? See Section 2.

Do I need to apply to receive EI benefits?

Yes, you need to apply for EI benefits, because Service Canada first needs to determine whether you are entitled to benefits. Benefits are not paid to you automatically, even if your employer has issued you a Record of Employment (ROE).

When should I apply?

You should apply as soon as possible once you have stopped working, even if your employer has not issued your ROE yet. If you delay applying for benefits beyond four weeks after your last day of work, you risk losing benefits.

How do I apply?

To find out if you can receive EI benefits, you must submit an application online. You can apply:

  • At home
    If you have access to the Internet at home, you can apply for EI benefits from there—24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also use the computer of a friend or a family member.
  • At a public Internet access site
    There are various locations in your community, such as public libraries, where you can access the Internet to apply for EI benefits.
  • At a Service Canada Centre
    You can apply online at any Service Canada Centre using one of the many Internet kiosks available. To find the Service Canada Centre nearest you, visit the Service Canada website.

For more information on how to apply for EI benefits, see the publication called How to Apply for Employment Insurance Benefits on the Service Canada website.

I received EI benefits in the past. Do I need to submit a new application?

If you started a new EI claim within the last 52 weeks and there are still weeks payable on that claim, we will automatically reactivate (renew) your existing claim.

However, in some cases, it may be to your advantage to cancel or end your old claim earlier and start a new claim, because this may increase the amount of your benefits or the length of your benefit period.

You must decide whether or not to cancel or renew a claim based on your own personal situation.

It is important to consider:

  • If your claim is reactivated and you work after the start of that claim, you may be able to establish a new claim when your existing claim runs out.
  • In order to establish a new claim you must have enough insurable hours and meet the qualifying conditions for a new claim.
  • If a new claim is established instead of reactivating your existing claim, the remaining weeks payable on the existing claim will be lost.
  • Additionally, a one-week unpaid waiting period must be served on a new claim before you are entitled to receive payment

Example

Julie's first claim for benefits started the week of January 21, 2018. In the previous 26 weeks, she worked 26 weeks, at 40 hours a week, for a total of 1,040 hours. She earned $10,400. She lives in a region for which the unemployment rate was 13.1% at the time she submitted her application. She will receive $220 a week in benefits, and she is eligible to receive benefits for a maximum of 40 weeks. She received 10 weeks of EI benefits and then returned to work. After her return to work, Julie worked for 30 weeks, at 40 hours a week, for a total of 1,200 hours. She earned $18,000 over the last 26 weeks. On November 04, 2018, Julie submits another application for EI benefits. The unemployment rate remains at 13.1%. Here are Julie's two options:

First option: Since Julie's first benefit period ends on January 20, 2019, and she has already served the one-week waiting period, Julie may receive the remaining 11 weeks of benefits, which total $220 per week, as part of her old claim. She can then start a new claim that will be based on the hours of employment and the insurable earnings of her second job. Therefore, she could receive 11 weeks of benefits at $220 a week and, after serving the one-week waiting period on the new claim, she could receive 42 weeks of benefits at $381 a week.

Second option: Julie could ask to end the claim that started in January and start a new claim, which would be based on the hours of employment and the insurable earnings of her second job. Her benefit rate would then be $381 a week, and she would be able to receive benefits for a period of up to 42 weeks, once she has served the one-week waiting period.

To reactivate your claim, you should visit the Service Canada website. Click on "Apply for Employment Insurance Benefits" in the menu on the right-hand side of the home page.

Do not start completing your online application if you prefer to start a new claim. Instead, please contact us by calling 1 800-206-7218. Your decision to start a new claim is final and cannot be reversed.

Note: For information about your previous claim, visit the Service Canada website and click on "Access My Service Canada Account” or call 1-800-206-7218 (TTY: 1-800-529-3742).

What documents and information do I need to apply?

It will take about 60 minutes to complete the online application form for EI benefits. To apply, you will need the following information:

  • your Social Insurance Number;
  • your mother's maiden name;
  • your mailing and residential addresses, including the postal codes;
  • your complete banking information to sign up for direct deposit, including the financial institution name, the bank branch number, and your account number;
  • the names, addresses, dates of employment, and reason for separation for all your employers for the last 52 weeks;
  • your detailed version of the facts, if you quit or have been dismissed from any job in the last 52 weeks; and
  • the dates (Sunday to Saturday) and earnings for each of your highest paid weeks of insurable earnings in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is the shorter period. This information will be used, along with your Record(s) of Employment, to calculate your weekly EI benefit rate.

You may also have to provide the following details if you are reactivating an existing claim:

  • the salary amount before deductions you received for the last week you worked (from Sunday to your last day of work), including tips and commissions; and
  • any other amounts you received or will receive (for example, vacation pay, severance pay, pension payments, pay in lieu of notice, and other money).

Records of Employment (ROEs)

Missing ROEs can delay the processing of your claim.

  • If your employer issues ROEs in paper format, you must request copies of all ROEs issued to you during the last 52 weeks and provide them to Service Canada as soon as possible after you submit your EI application. Paper ROEs are generally filled out by hand and have serial numbers that start with A, E, K, L or Z. You must either mail us the original copies of your paper ROEs or drop them off in person at a Service Canada Centre. The mailing address will be provided to you on the Information and Confirmation page once you submit your online application for EI benefits.
  • If your employer submits ROEs electronically to Service Canada, they are not required to print you a copy; however, they may give you one as a courtesy. If this is the case, the serial number of your ROE will start with W or S. Electronic ROEs are directly sent to Service Canada, therefore, you do not need to request copies of your ROEs from your employer, and you do not have to provide copies to Service Canada. You can view copies of your electronic ROEs by visiting My Service Canada Account.

Note: Before applying for EI benefits, you should confirm with your employer whether or not your ROE will be issued electronically to Service Canada.

What is the Record of Employment (ROE)?

The ROE is the form that your employer must complete when you stop working and experience an interruption of earnings. An interruption of earnings occurs when you have not worked and have not had earnings from that employer for seven days. Your employer must issue it even if you do not intend to claim EI benefits. On your ROE, you will find information about your employment history.

How will I know that my application for EI benefits has been processed and that a decision has been made?

If you are entitled to receive EI benefits, you should receive your first payment within 28 days of the date we receive your application and all required documents. This is how you will know that your application has been approved. For more information on the status of your application, visit the Service Canada website and click on "Access My Service Canada Account".

Need more information on My Service Canada Account? See Section 7.

If you are not entitled to receive benefits, we will notify you by letter or by telephone to explain why your application was not approved. If you disagree with our decision, you have the right to submit a request for a reconsideration.

When will I start to receive EI benefits?

If we have all the information we need and you are entitled to receive EI benefits, your first payment should be issued within 28 days of the date we receive your application for benefits.

What is the one-week waiting period?

Before you start receiving EI benefits, there is one week for which you will not be paid. This is what we call the "waiting period." The waiting period is like the deductible that you must pay for other types of insurance.

You usually serve the waiting period at the very beginning of a benefit period, unless you receive earnings during this one-week period. In that case, the waiting period will start during the first week for which you would otherwise be entitled to benefits.

Need more information on earnings received during the waiting period? See Section 3.

If you received EI benefits in the last 52 weeks and you have reactivated your claim having already served the one-week waiting period, you do not need to serve an additional waiting period on the existing claim.

Need more information on reactivating a claim? See Section 1.

How much will I get?

We cannot tell you exactly how much you will receive without having processed your application. However, we can tell you that the basic rate for calculating EI benefits is 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings. As of January 1, 2018, the maximum insurable earnings amount is $51,700. This means that you can receive a maximum amount of $547 per week.

Note: The basic rate and the maximum insurable earnings amounts are reviewed each year. For more information on the most recent rates and amounts, visit the Service Canada website.

Need more information on how benefits are calculated? See Section 3.

For how long will I receive EI benefits?

You may receive EI regular benefits for a period ranging from 14 to 45 weeks. The number of weeks you may receive benefits depends on the unemployment rate in your region and on the number of hours of insurable employment that you accumulated during your qualifying period, which is usually the last 52 weeks before the start date of your claim.

I heard that I have to submit reports to receive EI benefits. What are these reports?

After you apply for EI benefits, you must complete and submit EI reports to get the benefits you are entitled to receive. During the period your EI claim is active, you have to submit reports to Service Canada every two weeks that show you are still entitled to receive EI benefits.

Shortly after you file your EI application, we will mail you an EI benefit statement. The statement includes your Access Code (4 digit number) which is printed in the shaded area at the top of the benefit statement. Your Access Code is needed to submit your required bi-weekly reports and to get information about your claim. Access the instructions on when and how to complete your reports with our Internet Reporting Service or our Telephone Reporting Service.

Note: Keep in mind that receiving the EI benefit statement does not mean that your application has been approved.

Important information on your Employment Insurance access code

Your access code is the four-digit code printed in the shaded area of your benefit statement. You need to have it with you whenever you want to obtain information about your benefit claim and when you submit your reports. Your access code is used to identify you and ensure the confidentiality of the information you provide.

Do not share your access code with anyone, since you will be held responsible if someone accesses your information or modifies your claim without your knowledge. Always store it in a safe place and, for added protection, be sure to store it separately from your Social Insurance Number.

If you received a temporary access code, you will need to change it. You can also change your current access code for security reasons. Simply call the EI Telephone Information Service at 1-800-206-7218 (TTY: 1-800-529-3742) Choose "1" and follow the instructions to change your access code.

If you lose your access code, please call the EI Telephone Information Service at 1-800-206-7218 (TTY: 1-800-529-3742) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. Choose "0" to speak to an agent. You may also visit a Service Canada Centre. In either case, you will be asked questions to verify your identity, and you will be issued a new access code.

How do I submit my EI reports?

There are two ways to complete and submit your EI reports:

  1. You can use the EI Internet Reporting Service, which allows you to answer questions at your own pace by reading and verifying your answers before submitting your report. To use this service, visit the Service Canada website and, from the "On-line Services and Forms" menu on the right-hand side of the page, click on "Complete your EI report."
  2. You can call the EI Telephone Reporting Service at 1-800-531-7555. Please note that, if you use a cellular or cordless phone, we cannot assure your privacy or security.

On your EI reports, you must indicate whether you:

  • were outside Canada during the period of the report;
  • worked or received earnings, including self-employment earnings;
  • started a full-time job;
  • attended school or a training course;
  • were ready, willing, and capable of working each day; and
  • received or will receive money other than that already reported.

Note: The week of work covered by the reports begins on Sunday and ends on Saturday. You must therefore complete your report by Saturday, even if your regular work week does not necessarily correspond to these days.

For more information on EI reports, see the publication called What You Need to Do Now to Receive Your Employment Insurance Benefits on the Service Canada website.

How will my benefits be paid?

Direct deposit ensures that you will get your payment as quickly as possible. Direct deposit is reliable, convenient, and easy to set up. When you use direct deposit, your EI payments are deposited automatically into your bank account two business days after we process your EI report.

You can sign up for direct deposit when you apply for EI. You can also sign up for direct deposit online, by phone, in person, or by mail.

Note: You need to notify us if you change your bank account information or if you move.

Where can I get more information about my claim?

You need to contact Service Canada. You may obtain information online or by telephone.

  • Online Information about your claim can be obtained through My Service Canada Account. Need more information on My Service Canada Account? See Section 7.
  • By telephone You can also get information about your benefit claim by using our EI Telephone Information Service. Call 1-800-206-7218 (TTY: 1-800-529-3742) and choose option "1." Be sure to have your Social Insurance Number and your access code on hand when you call.
  • Visit a Service Canada Centre
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