EI benefits for self-employed people: What this program offers


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

Changes to support you during COVID-19

As of September 27, 2020, there are some temporary changes to the EI program to help you access EI self-employment benefits. The following changes will be in effect for 1 year and could apply to you:

  • You’ll receive at least $500 per week before taxes, or $300 per week before taxes for extended parental benefits, but you could receive more

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

Employment Insurance (EI) has a program designed for self-employed people. If you run your own business or control more than 40% of your corporation’s voting shares, this program can provide you with access to special benefits as early as 12 months after registering. When you need to take time away from your business to care for yourself, your children or other family members, you could receive financial support of up to 55% of your earnings, up to a maximum amount. In 2021, the maximum amount is $595 per week.

Please note that regular benefits aren’t available through this program.

If you’re a fisher, barber or hairdresser, or if you drive a taxi or other passenger vehicle, you don’t need to register for the self-employed program. People in these professions should apply for EI benefits as an employee.

Residents of Quebec

If you’re a resident of Quebec, sickness, compassionate care and family caregiver benefits are available to you through our program. The Province of Quebec is responsible for providing maternity, paternity, parental and adoption benefits to its residents. Visit the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan for more information.

There are 6 types of special benefits

Benefit name Who this benefit is for Maximum weeks Weekly maximum
Maternity people who are away from work because they're pregnant or have recently given birth 15 $595
Parental parents who are away from work to care for their newborn or newly adopted child 40 or 69 depending on the option you choose $595 or $357 depending on the option you choose
Sickness people who cannot work for medical reasons 15 $595
Family caregiver benefit for children people who provide care or support to a critically ill or injured person under 18 35 $595
Family caregiver benefit for adults people who provide care or support to a critically ill or injured person 18 or over 15 $595
Compassionate care people who provide care or support to a person who requires end‑of‑life care 26 $595

To be eligible for these benefits, you must meet the conditions of the benefit for which you are applying.

You must also:

  • be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
  • be registered in the self-employed program for at least 12 months
  • have decreased the amount of time you spend on your business by more than 40% for at least one week
  • have earned a minimum amount of self-employed earnings between January 1 and December 31 of the year before you apply for benefits

To be eligible for benefits in 2021, you need to have earned at least $7,555 in 2020.

Registering for the self-employed program

It’s easy. There are 2 steps:

  1. Register online for the program
  2. Pay EI premiums

You can apply for special benefits 12 months after your confirmed registration date.

Paying your EI premiums

After you register for this program, you’ll be responsible for paying premiums when you file your income tax return each year.

You’ll pay premiums based on your self-employed income for the entire calendar year, starting the year you register.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will confirm the amount of your premiums based on the self-employed income you report on your tax return.

If you’re a shareholder of a corporation

If you’re a shareholder of a corporation where you work as an employee and you control more than 40% of that corporation's voting shares, your premiums are based on your employment income.

Estimate your premiums

In 2021, you’ll pay $1.58 in EI premiums for every $100 you earn. The most you’ll pay for 2021 is $889.54. This premium rate changes annually.

Everyone pays the same rate of EI premiums, whether they’re self-employed or an employee.

Residents of Quebec

In 2021, you’ll pay $1.18 in EI premiums for every $100 you earn. The most you’ll pay for 2021 is $664.34. This premium rate changes annually. Your premiums will be lower than those for self-employed people who reside outside of Quebec since the province provides benefits under the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan.

You can still register for the program if you’re self-employed and also an employee

In this case, your insurable earnings* from both employment and self-employment could be combined to increase your benefit rate. The maximum benefit rate and the number of weeks of benefits you can get stays the same. Temporary COVID-19 relief

*Insurable earnings include most of the different types of compensation from employment, such as wages, tips, bonuses and commissions. The CRA determines what types of earnings are insurable.

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