Types of Employment Insurance Benefits (8:IV)

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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. Regular Benefits

EI benefits are calculated using your highest weeks of earnings over the qualifying period (generally 52 weeks): http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/vbw/index.shtml. (Applies to both regular and special benefits).

Regular EI benefits are payable during the benefit period to a claimant who:

  • has had the requisite number of hours of insurable earnings during the qualifying period;
  • has had an interruption of earnings from employment;
  • is capable of and available for work
  • has made “reasonable and customary efforts” to find employment; and
  • is unable to find suitable employment.

The maximum number of weeks of regular benefits available to a claimant varies according to the claimant’s hours of insurable employment in the qualifying period and the regional rate of unemployment. See Schedule I and s 12(2) of the EI Act.

Due to Covid-19, claimants can receive up to 50 weeks of regular benefits instead of 45 weeks. (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.)

B. Special Benefits

This category includes sickness, compassionate care, pregnancy, parental benefits, benefits for parents caring for a critically ill child, and benefits for persons providing care for a critically ill adult family member (s 12(3)). More than one type of special benefit can be claimed within one benefit period. Similarly, special and regular benefits claims can be combined. However, s 12(6) sets out the maximum for such a combination. If a claimant has not collected any regular benefits and is just combining different special benefits to which they are entitled, the maximum number of weeks the claimant can collect is the combined maximum for each of the special benefits they are collecting. To ensure they have time to collect all these combined weeks, their benefit period will also be extended to the combined maximum number of weeks of special benefits they can collect.

If the claimant has collected regular benefits but is also entitled to collect special benefits during their benefit period, then the claimant can combine weeks of benefits, but the maximum number of combined weeks cannot be higher than 50.

C. Sickness Benefits

1. Entitlement

To qualify for sickness benefits, the claimant must be able to prove that they are unable to work due to illness, injury, or quarantine. This normally requires that the claimant obtain a medical certificate completed by a doctor or medical practitioner stating the expected duration of incapacity (EI Regulations, s 40(1)). The claimant must also show that they would have been available to work if they had not fallen ill, gotten injured or placed in quarantine. The illness, injury, or quarantine must be that of the claimant personally.

Due to Covid-19, a medical certificate is not necessary to qualify for sickness benefits. (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).

a) Major Attachment Claimant

A major attachment claimant who is incapable of work due to a prescribed illness, injury, or quarantine may qualify for up to a maximum of 15 weeks of sickness benefits (EI Act, s 12(3)).

b) Minor Attachment Claimant

A minor attachment claimant may qualify for up to 15 weeks of sickness benefits if the injury, illness, or quarantine was not the reason for the claimant’s interruption of earnings, but is the reason that they cannot return to work. For example, if a claimant is laid-off due to shortage of work and begins collecting regular EI benefits, the claimant may be entitled to sickness benefits if they later fall ill, even if they qualified for regular benefits with less than 600 hours.

In some cases, a claimant who loses previous employment – due to injury for example – may not immediately qualify for regular benefits if they are capable of performing other jobs and is actively seeking such employment.

2. Prescribed Illness, Injury or Quarantine

Sickness benefits are only available for a “prescribed illness, injury or quarantine that renders a claimant incapable of performing the functions of their regular or usual employment or other suitable employment” (EI Regulations, s 40(4)). The onus is on the claimant to prove entitlement. A medical certificate is usually required, and the Commission may also require a claimant to undergo a medical examination at their direction pursuant to s 40(2) of the EI Regulations. In those situations, the Commission must pay travel and other expenses for the examination (EI Regulation, s 40(3)).

Due to Covid-19, a medical certificate is not necessary to qualify for sickness benefits. (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.)

NOTE: For more information on claiming sickness benefits, please refer to the ESDC website: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/ei/ei-list/reports/sickness.html.

D. Compassionate Care Benefits

Compassionate Care Benefits may be paid up to a maximum of 26 weeks to a major attachment claimant who has to be absent from work to provide care or support to a gravely ill family member and is at risk of dying within 26 weeks. The benefits for compassionate care must be claimed within a 52-week period that generally starts on the day the doctor certifies the family member is likely to die. Unemployed persons on EI can also apply for this type of benefit.

To be eligible for Compassionate Care Benefits a claimant must apply and show that:

  • their regular weekly earnings from work have decreased by more than 40 percent; and
  • they have accumulated 600 insured hours in their qualifying period.

Due to Covid-19 claimants will only need 120 insured hours to qualify for benefits because they will get a one-time credit of 480 insured hours to help them meet the required 600 insured hours of work. (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.)

The EI Act’s expanded definition of “family member” includes a claimant’s:

  • own child or the child of the spouse or common-law partner;
  • wife/husband or common-law partner;
  • father/mother or father’s wife/mother’s husband, if parent is remarried;
  • common-law partner of father/mother, if there has been no remarriage;
  • other relatives; and
  • anyone that the gravely ill person considers to be like a family member .

To establish a claim for compassionate care benefits in order to care for a gravely ill person who considered you to be like a family member, medical proof is required. This includes an Authorization to Release Medical Certificate form signed by the gravely ill person or their legal representative and a Medical Certificate for Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits form signed by the medical doctor.

1. Sharing Compassionate Care Benefits

Compassionate care benefit can be shared with other family members as long as each one of the family members is also eligible. Family members can claim the benefits at the same time or at different times as long as the number of weeks claimed for compassionate care benefits does not exceed 26 weeks altogether.

There is still a one-week waiting period before benefits can be claimed. However, if the benefit is to be shared with other family members, only the first family member to claim compassionate care benefit has to serve the one-week waiting period.

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.)

NOTE: For more information on claiming compassionate care benefits, and for a comprehensive list of persons included under the term “family member,” please refer to the ESDC website: http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/types/compassionate_care.shtml#Definition.

E. Benefits for Family Members of Critically Ill Children (PCIC)

Eligible family members who take leave from work to provide care or support to a child with a life-threatening illness or injury can receive up to 35 weeks of benefits. The benefits must be collected in the 52-week window beginning on the day a medical certificate is issued showing that the child is critically ill or, if the claim is made before the certificate is issued, from the date a specialist medical doctor certifies that the child is critically ill or injured. The child must be under the age of 18 at the time that the beginning of the benefit window; if the child turns 18 at any time during the benefit window besides the beginning, the claimant will remain eligible to claim PCIC benefits.

As with other special benefits, the claimant must have an interruption of earnings (for special benefits, a greater than 40% reduction in earnings) and have 600 hours in their qualifying period. Due to Covid-19 claimants will only need 120 insured hours to qualify for benefits because they will get a one-time credit of 480 insured hours to help them meet the required 600 insured hours of work.

These benefits are not available to family members of a child with a chronic illness or condition that is their normal state of health. There must be a significant change from the child’s normal or baseline state of health at the time they are assessed by a specialist medical doctor.

PCIC benefits can be shared between both eligible family member. Eligible family members can claim for PCIC benefits at the same time or at different times as long as the sum of the weeks claimed does not exceed the 35 weeks.

NOTE: For more information on claiming PCIC benefits, please refer to the ESDC website: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/family-caregiver-children.html.

F. Benefits for Family Members of Critically Ill Adult (PCIA): the Family Caregiver Benefit for Adults

Eligible family members who take leave from work to provide care or support to a family member with a life-threatening illness or injury can receive up to 15 weeks of benefits. The benefits must be collected in the 52-week window beginning on the day a medical certificate is issued showing that the adult is critically ill or, if the claim is made before the certificate is issued, from the date a specialist medical doctor certifies that the adult is critically ill or injured. The adult must be over the age of 18 at the time that the beginning of the benefit window.

As with other special benefits, the claimant must have an interruption of earnings (for special benefits, a greater than 40% reduction in earnings) and have 600 hours in their qualifying period. Due to Covid-19 claimants will only need 120 insured hours to qualify for benefits because they will get a one-time credit of 480 insured hours to help them meet the required 600 insured hours of work. (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.)

These benefits are not available to family members of an adult with a chronic illness or condition that is their normal state of health. There must be a significant change from the adult’s normal or baseline state of health at the time they are assessed by a specialist medical doctor.

PCIA benefits can be shared between more than one eligible family member. Family members can claim for PCIA benefits at the same time or at different times as long as the sum of the weeks claimed does not exceed the 15 weeks.

NOTE: For more information on claiming PCIA benefits, please refer to the ESDC website: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/family-caregiver-adults.html.

G. Pregnancy Benefits

Pregnancy benefits are paid to an expectant or newly delivered mother. A mother can be entitled to both pregnancy benefits and parental benefits. Like sickness benefits, pregnancy and parental benefits can be distinguished from regular EI benefits, because they are paid even though the applicant is not available for work.

1. Entitlement

A claimant for pregnancy benefits must:

a) be a major attachment claimant;

b) prove her pregnancy; and

c) have an interruption of earnings.


NOTE: Pursuant to s 40 (5) of the EI Regulations, a claimant who terminates her pregnancy within the first 19 weeks is entitled to collect sickness benefits.

2. Benefit Period and Duration

Benefits can only be paid for a maximum of 15 consecutive weeks. The period can start no more than 12 weeks before the week when the claimant’s due date is expected or the week when the birth actually occurs, whichever is earliest (EI Act, s 22(2)).

Benefits must be collected within 17 weeks after birth or due date, whichever is later. If the child born from the pregnancy is hospitalized, the benefit period may be extended by one week for each week or part of a week that the child is hospitalized (EI Act, s 22(6)). However, benefits may last no longer than 15 weeks total, even if extensions have been granted. As with claims for regular benefits, there is a one-week waiting period after the claim is made before benefits become payable.

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.)

3. Pregnancy Benefit Rate

The pregnancy benefit rate is the same as the regular benefit rate. All earnings received from other sources reduce benefits. However, no proof of availability is necessary. Money received under an employer’s sickness or maternity plan, other than a SUB plan (an employer’s plan to top off their employee’s EI), is regarded as earnings, and will be deducted. For a comprehensive list of what is and is not, regarded as earnings, see s 35 of the EI Regulations. See also Section V.C: Effect of Earnings, above.

NOTE: For more information on claiming pregnancy benefits, please refer to the ESDC website: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-maternity-parental.html.

H. Parental Benefits

There are two options available to parents; they may choose to get 55% of their wage for 40 weeks or they may choose to receive 33% of their wage for up to 69 weeks. These benefits are available to any parent, including adoptive parents, who experience an interruption of earnings to care for their new child. However, birth mothers can collect parental benefits in addition to their pregnancy benefits.

Should parents elect to receive benefits for up to 40 weeks, parents can share the 40 weeks of benefits between them. However, each parent cannot individually claim more than 35 weeks. For example, if one parent claims 35 weeks of benefits, then the other parent may claim a maximum of 5 weeks.

Should parents elect to receive benefits for up to 69 weeks, parents can share the total benefit between the them as they choose. However, no parent may receive more than 61 weeks of benefits individually.

In either case, only parents who are major attachment claimants (i.e. have at least 600 insurable hours in their qualifying period) can qualify. In other words, each parent must qualify individually, and one parent cannot qualify on behalf of the other. Due to Covid-19 claimants will only need 120 insured hours to qualify for benefits because they will get a one-time credit of 480 insured hours to help them meet the required 600 insured hours of work.

The period during which parental benefits can be claimed begins on the day the child is born, or placed with the parent for the purposes of adoptions, and ends 52 weeks later. The 40 weeks of parental benefit do not need to be collected in consecutive weeks and can be collected at any time during this period. Like other EI benefits, the claimant will receive 55% of their average weekly earnings.

Due to Covid-19 claimants will receive at least $300 per week before taxes for extended parental benefits but could receive more. (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.)

I. Provisions for Low Income Families

For claimants with children and low family incomes, there is a family supplement that could raise their benefit rate to a maximum of 80 percent. Low-income families are defined as those who qualify for the Canada Child Benefit, with a combined annual income of less than $25,921.

J. Employment (Training) Benefits

The EI budget includes discretionary funding for retraining. Eligibility for these benefits is determined by the criteria in s 58 of the EI Regulations, and includes anyone whose benefit period ended within the last 60 months (see s. 76.11). Section 9 of the EI Act lists out certain types of benefits that could be conferred to claimants that meet the criteria in s 58.

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