EI regular benefits: Eligibility

From: Employment and Social Development Canada


Due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, there are changes to this program.

Changes to support you during COVID-19

Temporary changes have been made to the Employment Insurance (EI) program to help you access EI regular benefits. The following changes are in effect until September 2021, and could apply to you:

  • the waiting period may be waived
  • a minimum unemployment rate of 13.1% applies to all regions across Canada
    • if your region’s unemployment rate is higher than 13.1%, we’ll use the higher actual rate to calculate your benefits
  • you only need 120 insured hours to qualify for benefits because you’ll get a one-time credit of 300 insured hours to help you meet the required 420 insured hours of work
  • you’ll receive at least $500 per week before taxes, but you could receive more
  • you’ll be eligible for up to 50 weeks of regular benefits
  • if you received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the 52-week period to accumulate insured hours will be extended

Sections on this page impacted by these temporary changes are flagged as Temporary COVID-19 relief.

2. Eligibility

The following information is a guideline. We encourage you to apply for benefits so our processing agents can determine if you are eligible.

You may be entitled to EI regular benefits if you:

  • were employed in insurable employment
  • lost your job 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 employment hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter Temporary COVID-19 relief
  • are ready, willing and capable of working each day
  • are actively looking for work (you must keep a written record of employers you contact, including when you contacted them)

Important note: to prove your eligibility and to receive any payment you may be entitled to, you are required to complete bi-weekly reports by internet or telephone . Failure to do so can mean a loss of benefits.

You may still qualify for benefits, even if you work for an employer who is related to you.

Refer to the following links for eligibility information for these specific situations:

You may not be entitled for benefits:

  • if you voluntarily left your job without just cause
  • if you were dismissed for misconduct
  • if you are unemployed because you are directly participating in a labour dispute (for example, a strike, lockout or other type of conflict)
  • during a period of leave that compensates for a period in which you worked under an agreement with your employer, more hours than are normally worked in full-time employment

You are not entitled to receive EI benefits while you are confined to a jail, penitentiary or other similar institution.

If you have been incarcerated but are later found not guilty by a court of law on all counts in relation to the event that led to your incarceration, your qualifying period and benefit period may be extended upon providing necessary proof.

Once you have applied for EI benefits, you will be asked to provide Service Canada with proof that you were confined to a jail, penitentiary or other similar institution and that you were not found guilty of the offence(s) from the event(s) for which you were being held.

For a qualifying period or benefit period to be extended, you will be asked to submit the following documents:

  • a letter from the institution where you were incarcerated, specifying the dates of your incarceration
  • documentation showing that no other outstanding charge(s) in relation to the event(s) that originally led to the incarceration exist, to confirm the time served is not being credited to any other charge(s) in relation to the original event or any other subsequent event
  • proof that you have not been found guilty of the charge(s) from the original event that led to your incarceration

Keep these documents in a safe place. Service Canada will contact you and provide you with instructions on how to submit them.

Number of hours of insurable employment required to qualify for EI Temporary COVID-19 relief

The number of hours of insurable employment you need to qualify for EI depends on your situation. However, in all cases, the hours of insurable employment that are used to calculate your benefit must have been accumulated during your qualifying period.

The qualifying period is the shorter of:

  • the 52-week period immediately before the start date of your claim; or
  • the period from the start of a previous benefit period to the start of your new benefit period, if you applied for benefits earlier and your application was approved in the last 52 weeks.

Exception: In some cases, the qualifying period may be extended to a maximum of 104 weeks if you were not employed in insurable employment or if you were not receiving EI benefits.

You will need between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment based on the unemployment rate in your area during the qualifying period to qualify for regular benefits:

Once you have determined the unemployment rate in your area, see the table below for the number of hours required.

Look up EI Economic Region by Postal Code to find out the unemployment rate in your region and the number of hours to qualify for regular benefits.

If you received a notice of violation regarding prior EI benefit periods, the number of insurable hours required to qualify is increased.

The number of hours is shown in the following table:

Number of hours of insurable hours required to qualify for benefits
Regional rate of unemployment Without violation Minor violation Serious violation Very serious violation Subsequent violation
6 % and under 700 875 1050 1225 1400
6.1 % to 7 % 665 831 998 1164 1330
7.1 % to 8 % 630 788 945 1103 1260
8.1 % to 9 % 595 744 893 1041 1190
9.1 % to 10 % 560 700 840 980 1120
10.1 % to 11 % 525 656 788 919 1050
11.1 % to 12 % 490 613 735 858 980
12.1 % to 13 % 455 569 683 796 910
More than 13 % 420 525 630 735 840

You must accumulate 600 insurable hours to qualify for sickness, maternity, parental, compassionate care, or family caregiver benefits.

Not applicable to you?

Are EI regular benefits not applicable to you? Use the Benefits Finder to find other Government of Canada, provincial, or territorial benefits.

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