Quantifying Employment Insurance Benefits (8:VI)

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This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on June 24, 2021.

A. Benefit Rate[edit]

The benefit rate is set out in s 14 of the EI Act. The benefit rate is either:

  • 55% of the worker’s weekly insurable earnings (see next section); or,
  • if (1) the claimant or the spouse of the claimant has dependents and (2) the benefit rate of 55% amounts to less than $225 a week or the family income is less than $25,921, then the claimant may also be entitled to a family supplement.

The current ceiling for the maximum weekly benefits is $595 per week. Always check Service Canada’s “Employment Insurance Regular Benefits” webpage to ensure this information is up-to-date at https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-regular-benefit.html. Effective January 1, 2020, the maximum yearly insurable amount is $54,200.

B. Weekly Insurable Earnings[edit]

A claimant’s weekly insurable earnings are their insurable earnings in the calculation period divided by the number of weeks in the calculation period.

1. The Calculation Period[edit]

The calculation period is the number of weeks, consecutive or not, determined based on the applicable regional rate of unemployment as below, in which the claimant received the highest insurable earnings.

Regional Rate of Unemployment Number of Weeks
not more than 6% 22
more than 6% but not more than 7% 21
more than 7% but not more than 8% 20
more than 8% but not more than 9% 19
more than 9% but not more than 10% 18
more than 10% but not more than 11% 17
more than 11% but not more than 12% 16
more than 12% but not more than 13% 15
more than 13% 14

C. Effect of Earnings[edit]

The benefit payable to a claimant may be reduced if the claimant has “earnings” during the benefit period. It may be possible both to work part-time and receive EI benefits at the same time, but all income must be reported on the report cards.

The Employment Insurance Working While on Claim pilot project is a way to help claimants stay connected with the labour market (EI Regulations ss 77.95-77.96).. It applies to claimants earning money while collecting any of the following types of EI benefits:

  • regular benefits
  • fishing benefits
  • parental benefits
  • compassionate care benefits
  • parents of critically ill children
  • family members of critically ill adults
  • sickness and pregnancy benefits

As soon as a claimant completes the one-week EI waiting period, the pilot project will automatically apply to any money the claimant earns while the claimant is collecting EI benefits. Due to Covid-19, the waiting period may be waived. (As of the time of writing, these changes are in effect until September 25, 2021. Please check the CRA website for potential extensions or changes).

How it works
The Commission sets a threshold which is 90% of the claimant weekly insurable earnings. Below this threshold, for every dollar, a claimant earns 50 cents will be deducted from their benefits. Above this threshold, a dollar of benefits will be deducted for every dollar earned. This is referred to as the “default rule”.
The claimants may choose to opt for the “optional rule”. The optional rule allows the claimant to keep the equivalent of roughly one day’s work which is defined as $75 or 40% of the claimant’s benefit rate (whichever is greater) without any deduction to the EI benefit they receive. Any earnings after this amount will be deducted dollar to dollar from the EI benefits the claimant is receiving.

Example from Service Canada Website:
Melissa got laid off when the construction company where she was working lost a major contract. Her weekly earnings averaged out to $800, so her weekly EI benefits are $440. She then finds a part-time job at another construction company where she works one day and earns $160 per week.
Automatically under the “default rule”, she is allowed to keep 50 cents of EI benefits for every dollar she earns, so she takes home $520 per week in combined EI benefits and wages ($360 of EI benefits + $160 in wages).
If she chooses the “optional rule”, she can earn up to the greater of $75 or 40% (176) of her benefit rate, without any deductions from her benefits. In this scenario, she will choose to keep 40% ,as she only earns $160 per week from her work while on claim, so she can keep all of her EI benefits. Under this option, she would take home $600 per week in combined EI benefits and wages ($440 of EI benefits + $160 in wages).
In this example, Melissa would likely choose the “optional rule” if she never worked more than one day per week as she takes home $80 more per week.

Important reminders
If a claimant is receiving EI sickness benefits or EI maternity benefits, this pilot project does not apply. Any earnings the claimant has will continue to be deducted dollar for dollar from benefits. If the claimant works a full working week, the claimant will not receive any EI benefits, regardless of the amount the claimant earns.

What if the claimant works or lives outside Canada?
If the claimant is living in the United States and works in Canada, or if the claimant crossed the Canada–United States border between the claimant’s residence and workplace and the claimant is receiving EI benefits, this pilot project will apply. Visit the Employment Insurance and Workers and/or Residents outside Canada Web page for more information: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-outside-canada.htm

1. Earnings During the Waiting Period[edit]

Due to Covid-19, the waiting period may be waived. (As of the time of writing, these changes are in effect until September 25, 2021. Please check the CRA website for potential extensions or changes).

All earnings during the waiting period are deducted dollar for dollar from the benefits payable in respect of the first three weeks for which benefits are otherwise payable. There is thus little incentive to work during the waiting period.

2. Earnings of Sick or Pregnant Claimants under Supplemental Employment Benefit Plans[edit]

Amounts paid to the claimant during periods of illness or pregnancy under an approved Supplemental Employment Benefit plan will not be deducted from EI benefits. These plans allow the employer to “top up” the regular EI benefits without reductions.

Individual Supplemental Employment Benefit plans must be approved by the Commission, which ensures that they meet the requirements of s 37(2).

An employee normally benefits from these plans while drawing EI benefits. If the worker is ineligible for EI, he or she may still qualify for Supplemental Employment Benefits that do not count as earnings for the purpose of determining waiting periods.

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