Transition to Employment Insurance – Questions and answers

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

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Hours credit

How do I know if I am eligible for the hours credit?

All individuals who establish an initial claim for EI regular or special benefits between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021 will receive a one-time top-up in insurable hours (hours credit). This includes individuals who received CERB through Service Canada or the Canada Revenue Agency.

The hours credit will be automatically applied when the claim is processed for all claimants.

The hours credit will also be retroactive to March 15, 2020 for CERB claimants who were looking to switch to EI maternity, parental, compassionate care, family caregiver or work-sharing benefits but couldn’t because they do not have enough hours.

For further information please consult the backgrounder about increased access to EI and recovery benefits.

If I am eligible for the one-time hours credit, do I have to do anything special to ensure I get it?

No.

The hours credit will be automatically applied when the claim is processed.

What happens if I need to switch from EI regular benefits to special benefits part way through my claim, but I don’t have enough insurable hours even with the 300 hours credit?

If you qualified for EI regular benefits on or after September 27, 2020 and need to switch to EI special benefits, such as maternity, parental or sickness benefits, you will be able to switch. The temporary measures will effectively set EI eligibility requirements at 120 insurable hours across Canada for regular and special benefits.

I never claimed the CERB because I was still working, but have now lost my job. Can I still get the hours credit?

Yes.

If you establish an initial claim for EI regular or special benefits between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021, you will be eligible for the one-time hours credit whether or not you got the CERB.

The hours credit will be automatically applied when the claim is processed.

Minimum unemployment rate

Why should I care about the Minimum Unemployment Rate? What impact does it have for me?

A minimum unemployment rate of 13.1% is being applied for all EI economic regions across Canada until September 11, 2021.

This temporary measure means that all individuals eligible for EI regular benefits will qualify for a minimum entitlement of 26 weeks of benefits, and have their weekly benefit rate based on their 14 best weeks of earnings. With the hours credit, individuals will require only 120 hours of insurable employment to qualify for EI regular benefits.

For many claimants, this will mean enhanced access to the program, more weeks of benefits, and/or a higher benefit rate than they would otherwise receive.

For further information please consult the backgrounder about increased access to EI and recovery benefits.

What happens if I live in a region that has a higher unemployment rate than 13.1%?

If you live in a region that has an unemployment rate higher than 13.1%, your benefits will be calculated using the actual unemployment rate for your region.

If you live in a region with an unemployment rate lower than 13.1%, your benefits will be calculated using the higher rate of 13.1%.

What happens if the unemployment rate in my region increases or decreases after my claim has started? Does this impact my eligibility?

No.

Your eligibility will be determined based on the unemployment rate when your benefit period is established. It will not change if the unemployment rate subsequently increases or decreases.

Benefit amount

What is the minimum amount an EI claimant can receive?

For new EI claims established between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021, you will receive a minimum benefit rate of $500 per week or $300 per week for extended parental benefits, less applicable taxes

If you are Working While on Claim, the amount you receive will vary as you can keep 50 cents of your benefits for every dollar you earn, up to 90 percent of your weekly earnings used to calculate your benefit rate. Above this cap, your EI benefits are deducted dollar-for-dollar.

For further information please consult the backgrounder about increased access to EI and recovery benefits.

Will I receive more or less on EI than I did on CERB?

The amount you get on Employment Insurance varies.

Benefit rates range from the temporary minimum of $500 per week (same as the CERB) to the 2020 maximum amount of $573 per week.

All EI benefits are taxable and federal, provincial or territorial taxes will be deducted from payments wherever applicable.

Applicants can log into their MSCA account to obtain details of their EI benefits claim, including how much they will receive every week as well as the number of weeks of benefits to which they may be entitled.

How does the number of best weeks affect my claim?

The benefit rate calculation considers the weeks in which you had the greatest earnings (best weeks) in your qualifying period. As a result of the minimum unemployment rate of 13.1% your claim will be calculated based on your best 14 weeks of earnings.

In addition, if you have less than 14 weeks of earnings, the number of weeks of work will be used when calculating your benefit amount.

Do any monies I received as separation when I was laid off affect the payment of EI benefits?

No.

As a temporary measure most separation monies received when you are laid off will not affect the payment of your EI benefits for the claims established on or after September 27, 2020 for one year.

Receiving benefits

When will I get my first payment?

You are eligible for an EI payment at the end of the two-week period when you are out of work.

For example, if you are out of work from September 27 to October 10, you would be eligible for payment on October 11th. We expect that 80% of people will be paid within 3-4 days of the day they are eligible for payment (e.g. payments deposited into bank accounts beginning October 14th) and 90% will be paid within 14 days. Some payments pay take longer to process

To receive a payment, EI clients need to complete their bi-weekly reports online or through the telephone reporting system. Clients who do not complete their reports every two weeks will not be paid their benefits, even if they are eligible

When applying for EI benefits, be sure to sign up for direct deposit to get payments as quickly as possible. When using direct deposit, EI payments are deposited automatically into an applicant’s bank account two business days after Service Canada processes their EI report.

How long will my EI claim last?

You can receive a minimum of 26 weeks of benefits up to a maximum of 45 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate in your region at the time of filing your claim and the amount of insurable hours you have accumulated in your qualifying period – generally the last 52 weeks or since your last claim - whichever is shorter.

You can log into your My Service Canada Account to obtain details of your EI benefits claim, including how much you will receive every week as well as the number of weeks of benefits available to you. Additional information on how much you could receive on EI is also available here

Can I be confident that my information in My Service Canada Account is secure?

The Government of Canada has put in place significant and robust measures to protect the information Canadians entrusted to us. Like every other government and private sector organization in the world, we face ongoing and persistent cyber threats.

As such, the government has systems and tools in place to monitor, detect and investigate potential threats, and to neutralize threats when they occur.

A client’s password remains the most prevalent authentication mechanism. By controlling access, passwords help ensure that your account and information is protected. Weak and compromised passwords are a leading cause of breaches. Clients are encouraged to review the best practices that enable strong passwords.

Additionally, ESDC’s webpages have valuable resources to support clients who may have concerns related to:

  • Protect yourself against fraud
  • Fraud Awareness and Reporting
  • Online fraud reporting tool
  • Employment Insurance and fraud
Do I need to report every 2 weeks to keep getting my claim?

Yes.

You must complete bi-weekly reports to show your eligibility and to receive the benefits you are eligible for. Failure to do so can mean a loss of benefits.

As part of the bi-weekly reporting, you will be expected to include information on any earnings you received in that period, including the name and address of your employer, as well as confirming that you were available and seeking work (for periods when not working).

Will people receive the CERB or EI if they apply for EI regular benefits before September 27th?

All claims for Employment Insurance regular benefits established between March 15 and September 26, 2020 will be processed through the CERB.

Most individuals who have been receiving the CERB through Service Canada who exhaust the 28 weeks of CERB and meet the eligibility criteria will be automatically transitioned to EI, supported by the facilitation measures announced on August 20, 2020, including the one-time hours credit and the minimum unemployment rate of 13.1%.

Will I experience a delay when I exhaust my CERB benefits and transition to EI?

Most individuals who have been receiving the CERB through Service Canada who exhaust the 28 weeks of CERB and meet the eligibility criteria will be automatically transitioned to EI once your 28 weeks of CERB has been paid (or when the CERB payment period ends on October 3, 2020).

In a few cases, some Canadians who received CERB through Service Canada will need to apply for EI benefits.

Canadians who are EI eligible and who received CERB through the CRA but continue to be eligible for financial assistance once the 28 weeks of CERB has been used up will need to apply for EI benefits.

You can apply through the usual EI online application.

You will need to submit bi-weekly reports to show eligibility and to continue getting paid.

EI benefits are taxable and federal, provincial or territorial taxes will be deducted from payments

If my employer submitted a Record of Employment when COVID first started, do I need another one to be able to transition to EI?

No.

The Record of Employment that was submitted will be used to support your transition to EI.

Will I need to serve a waiting period before I can access my EI benefits?

The waiting period will be waived for all EI claims established between September 27 and October 25, 2020.

In addition, the waiting period has been waived for new EI sickness claims established on or after September 27, 2020 for a period of one year to encourage compliance with public health measures.

What will happen if I didn’t continue to file my two week reports after I received my last CERB payment? Will this impact my ability to get EI?

You must complete bi-weekly reports to show your eligibility and to receive benefits to which you may be eligible. If you have stopped completing your reports, but continue to require financial assistance you should complete any outstanding bi-weekly reports as soon as possible to avoid delays in payment

If I was receiving the CERB through the CRA but am EI eligible, will I be automatically transitioned to Service Canada?

No.

If you applied and got the CERB through CRA but are EI eligible, you will need to apply for EI regular benefits once you have used up the 28 weeks of CERB.

What happens if I had an open EI claim that I have not yet exhausted? Do I get a choice between resuming that claim or opening a new one depending where I might receive more money?

If you have weeks remaining on an Employment Insurance claim, Service Canada will automatically reactivate (renew) that claim at the existing benefit rate.

You may also request that Service Canada end your existing claim and open a new EI claim, provided you meet the eligibility criteria.

If you choose to end your existing claim, any remaining weeks payable on that existing claim will be lost and your decision is irreversible and not subject to reconsideration.

Will I be transitioned from the CERB to EI if I am offered a job as my CERB ends but decline it because I am concerned about my health and being exposed to COVID?

Each EI application would need to be reviewed based on its own circumstances. If you refuse an employment opportunity or to return to work, it would be considered as voluntary leaving under Section 29 of Employment Insurance Act.

The Act provides that a claimant is disqualified from receiving benefits if the claimant has voluntarily left any employment without just cause.

There could be circumstances where you may have just cause to refuse to return to work.

If you are concerned about the safety of your working conditions, you should discuss the situation with your employer.

How will I be expected to prove I am looking for work when there are no jobs available because of COVID?

As a general rule, to be entitled to EI regular benefits, you must show that you are unemployed, able and willing to work and actively looking for suitable employment. Evidence of job search could include, for example, records of applications for work, job interviews, job search activity on the national Job Bank, etc.

The Government of Canada understands that it may be difficult to look for a job during a pandemic, and will take this into consideration when determining a claimant’s entitlement to benefits.

Can employers use a Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) plan to increase their employee’s weekly earnings once they transition to EI?

Yes.

Employers that wish to do so may submit a SUB plan to Service Canada. By registering a plan, employers can make payments to employees who are receiving EI regular or sickness benefits. Payments from SUB plans that are registered with Service Canada are not considered as earnings for the purposes of Employment Insurance and are not deducted from EI benefits.

If I am unable to work for other reasons related to COVID-19, for example because I am sick or because my child’s school is not available, do I have to take my EI benefits first?

No.

You don’t need to take your EI benefits before you apply for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit or the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.

However, you cannot get EI and the Recovery Benefits or any other paid leave at the same time.

Do I need to provide a medical note to prove I am sick and cannot work when applying for EI sickness benefits?

Not at this time.

The need for a medical certificate has been temporarily waived to access EI sickness benefits.

What is the qualifying period for establishing an EI claim?

If you received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the 52-week period to accumulate insured hours will be extended by up to 28 weeks for claims established after August 30, 2020.

Recognizing that the pandemic prevented many workers from accumulating the number of insurable hours that is normally required within the qualifying period, EI claimants will receive a one-time insurable hours credit of:

  • 300 insurable hours for claims for regular benefits (job loss)
  • 480 insurable hours for claims for special benefits (sickness, maternity/parental, compassionate care or family caregiver)
If I received the CERB, am I automatically qualified for EI?

Receiving the CERB does not mean that you are automatically qualified to receive EI benefits. Many temporary measures are in place to ease the transition from the CERB to EI but claimants are still required to meet qualifying and entitlement conditions for the type of benefit they are requesting including not leaving their jobs voluntarily.

If you applied for the CERB through Service Canada, the record of employment that was submitted when you first applied for the CERB will be used to support the transition to EI. However, you are encouraged to provide a record of employment (ROE) for any work performed over the duration of your qualifying period including during the period you were receiving the CERB. These ROEs will be used to determine if you have sufficient hours to qualify and to calculate your benefit rate and entitlement weeks. If you applied for the CERB through CRA, you will need to submit all ROEs when you make your application for EI benefits.

Reason for separation and availability issues, among others, may also be reviewed in determining eligibility for EI benefits. For instance, in most cases, you cannot voluntary quit your job, even when taking into account the pandemic.

How long do I have to have stopped working before I can qualify for EI?

There will still need to be seven consecutive calendar days with no work and no insurable earnings from an employer (interruption of earnings) to qualify for EI.

The waiting period has been waived for all EI claims established between September 27 and October 25, 2020.

In addition, the waiting period has been waived for new EI sickness claims established on or after September 27, 2020 for a period of one year to encourage compliance with public health measures.

Has anything changed in terms of ROEs and RFS?

As we transition from the CERB to EI, the existing rules requiring employers to prepare a Record of Employment (ROE) remain. In particular:

  • employers who use the paper record of employment (ROE) must have it issued within five days of an employee’s interruption of earnings;
  • and, employers who issue electronic ROEs must to do so within five days after the end of the pay period containing the employee's interruption of earnings.

The majority of ROEs are received in electronic format.

If I am a parent who has to stay home and claims the Canada Recovery Benefit, will those weeks be deducted from my EI entitlement if I then apply for EI?

The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) provides support for eligible workers who are unable to work because they must care for their child under 12 years old or a family member who needs supervised care in specific situations related to COVID-19. These caregiving situations are not covered by the EI program.

While you cannot receive the CRCB and EI benefits for the same week, the receipt of the CRCB does not affect your entitlement to EI benefits.

Can I access Employment Insurance benefits if I am unable to return to my employment due to an underlying medical condition?

As the economy gradually opens, the Government of Canada encourages workers who are able to return to work to do so, provided it is reasonable based on their individual circumstances.

If you are not employed or self-employed for reasons related to COVID-19 or are working and have had a reduction of at least 50 per cent in your employment/self-employment income for reasons related to COVID-19, you may be eligible for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB).  It is important to note that you need to be available and looking for work and must accept work where it is reasonable to do so to maintain your eligibility.

If you are unable to work at least 50% of your regular work schedule because you have an underlying condition that may make you more susceptible to COVID-19, you may be eligible for up to 2 weeks of benefits through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.

In order to be eligible for EI sickness benefits, the illness, injury or quarantine must be the reason for the incapacity to work. In other words, the claimant must be able to demonstrate that if it weren’t for that illness, they would be available to work.

Workers quarantined as a result of COVID-19 can apply for the EI sickness benefit.  However, a claimant with an underlying medical condition could only be eligible for sickness benefits if that underlying condition rendered them incapable of performing the duties of their employment or of other suitable employment.  Further information about the EI sickness benefits can be found at the following address: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness.html. You would not be eligible for EI regular benefits nor the CRB if you voluntarily quit your job. 

Employers are required to provide safe working conditions. Therefore, you are encouraged to discuss your concerns with your employer to find an approach that works.

If you are concerned about the safety of your working conditions, you can consult the following resources:

Work-sharing/Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

How will my EI benefits be calculated if I am part of a work-sharing agreement? Will I be eligible for the hours credit?

The hours credit will be made available for new EI claims established effective September 27, 2020 and will also be made retroactive to March 15, 2020 to CERB claimants who were looking to transition to EI maternity, parental, compassionate care, family caregiver or work-sharing benefits and could not establish their claim due to insufficient hours.

Further information is available in this backgrounder.

Additional information specifically on work-sharing benefits is available here.

Can I get the hours credit and access EI regular benefits if I am laid off once my employer can no longer access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy?

Yes, you may be eligible for EI regular benefits and the one-time hours credit applied automatically if, between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021, you are laid off after your employer can no longer access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, you have the minimum requirement of 120 hours and you meet the other conditions for EI.

Further information is available in the backgrounder about increased access to EI and recovery benefits.

EI and training

If I have chosen to pursue full time training before looking for a job, will I be able to transition from the CERB back to EI?

No.

As a general rule, to be entitled to EI regular benefits, you must show that you are unemployed, able and willing to work and actively looking for suitable employment, unless you were participating in training opportunities you were referred to by a province or territory. This is not changing.

As is always the case, if you decide on your own to take training, it must be declared and you must prove that you are still able and willing to work and are continuing to look for a job to continue receiving EI benefits.

You must be ready to make arrangements to work if you receive a job offer, and to change or cancel training plans if necessary.

If you take training on your own and cannot show that you were available for work while taking that training, you may have to pay back EI benefits.

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