EI Sickness Benefit - Rights and responsibilities

8. Rights and responsibilities

You have the right to:

  • file a claim for EI benefits;
  • receive any benefits that are owing to you;
  • request a reconsideration of any decisions we make about your benefits that you find unsatisfactory;
  • see any government record that contains your personal information; and
  • be served in the official language of your choice.

Your responsibilities

As a claimant of EI benefits, your responsibilities include:

  • accurately report all periods of incapacity;
  • obtain a medical certificate that confirms the duration of your incapacity;
  • provide all other required information and documents;
  • report any absences from your area of residence and/or any absence from Canada;
  • report all employment, whether you work for someone else or for yourself;
  • accurately report all employment earnings before deductions, in the week(s) in which they were earned, as well as any other monies you may receive.

Service Canada's responsibilities

At Service Canada, we are responsible for:

  • giving you prompt and courteous service;
  • advising you of the programs and services that are available to you;
  • serving you in the official language of your choice;
  • determining if you are eligible to receive benefits—that is, whether or not you meet the qualifying conditions specified in the Employment Insurance Act and Regulations—and determining how many weeks of benefits you can receive;
  • processing all claims within the same timeframe;
  • issuing your first payment no later than 28 days after the date we receive your application, if you have provided us with all the required information and if you are eligible for benefits;
  • giving you accurate information about your claim, including how you can share parental benefits with your EI-eligible spouse or partner and compassionate care benefits with other EI-eligible family members, and whether or not you will need to serve a one-week waiting period; and
  • letting you know about decisions we've made about your claim and explaining the process to follow if you disagree with a decision.

Protecting Employment Insurance—with your help

Service Canada works to protect the EI program from misuse. One of the ways we do this is by working with employers and claimants to ensure the accuracy of the information we receive. With your help, we can reduce the amount of misuse and ensure that the EI program is used as it should be—as a program that provides temporary financial assistance to individuals who qualify.

A mistake is an unintentional act. We know claimants can make mistakes when filing their reports. Common mistakes include:

  • estimating weekly earnings instead of putting in the actual amount earned;
  • forgetting to declare all the earnings received;
  • writing or entering the wrong number when reporting earnings; or
  • adding the number of hours or amount of earnings incorrectly.

Some mistakes can delay benefit payments, while others can affect the amount of benefits you receive—meaning you were paid more or less than you were entitled to receive.

For example, estimating your earnings can have the following effects:

  • If you estimated your earnings for one week and your estimate was higher than the earnings you actually received, your benefit amount will be less than it should have been. If this happens, let us know and we will adjust your file to make sure you receive all the benefits to which you are entitled.
  • If you estimated your earnings for one week and your estimate was lower than the earnings you actually received, your benefit amount will be higher than it should have been. Let us know if this happens. You will have to repay the excess amount, but we will ensure that repaying it causes no undue hardship. As well, we will adjust your file to reflect your accurate information.

If you notice a mistake on a completed form or report, or if there is a change in your circumstances that could affect your EI claim, tell Service Canada immediately. This will help prevent any future problems with your claim.

Absence from Canada

Usually, you cannot receive EI benefits while outside Canada. One measure we take to enforce this rule is to compare EI information with information from the Canada Border Services Agency. If we find you have been out of the country while collecting benefits, we will determine whether you were entitled to receive those benefits. If you were not entitled to receive them, we will calculate how much we overpaid you, and you will then have to repay the benefits.

We may also impose penalties of up to three times your weekly benefit rate or three times the amount of your overpayment. As well, you may have to work more hours or, in the case of fishing benefits, you may need more insurable earnings to qualify for benefits in the future.

Misrepresentation

If you knowingly withhold information, make misleading statements, or misrepresent the facts to make a false claim for benefits, this is considered misrepresentation. You could face severe monetary penalties or prosecution. This could also affect your future benefits. However, if you disclose your actions to Service Canada before an investigation begins, we may waive any monetary penalties and prosecutions that might otherwise apply.

Consequences of misrepresentation: Interest and penalties

Interest on debt

When EI claimants receive benefits to which they are not entitled, the amount of the overpayment counts as a debt that must be repaid.

Service Canada charges interest on this debt when it results from claimants who knowingly withhold information or make false or misleading representations or statements. However, we do not charge interest on debt that results when Service Canada makes an error in the benefit payment.

The rate of interest is the Bank of Canada average rate plus 3%. Interest is calculated daily and compounded monthly.

Penalties

A penalty may be imposed on a claimant, an employer, or an individual acting on their behalf in relation to a claim for benefits when he or she has:

  • knowingly made false or misleading representations or statements; or
  • completed a statement without declaring essential information.

Here is an example of a situation where penalties may be imposed:

An EI benefit claimant goes on an ocean cruise for a month and arranges for a friend to conceal their absence by signing and returning two EI claimant reports. As a result, the claimant illegally received $350 in benefits for each of the four weeks of the cruise. After investigation, we find that this was the first time the claimant and the friend had misused the EI system. As well, we find that they both knew that what they did was illegal but they did it anyway.

In this case, the claimant will have to repay $1,400 (four weeks of benefits at $350 per week) and may have to pay a penalty of $700 ($350 for each of the two false reports filed during the holiday). The friend may also have to pay a penalty of $700 for the illegal act of filing two false reports on behalf of the claimant.

There are many situations when a penalty may apply, and the amount could become very high. Depending on the circumstances, the maximum penalty could be up to three times the amount of the overpayment, three times the weekly benefit rate for each incident of misrepresentation, or three times the maximum benefit rate.

Violations

Claimants who misuse the EI program and were assessed a violation may need more insurable earnings or hours to qualify for benefits in the future. The required amount rises based on the number and seriousness of misrepresentations that have been recorded in the five-year period before the start of their claims.

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