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Canadians who find themselves out of work may be able to get financial compensation from the Canadian federal government in the form of employment insurance (EI) payments. EI is a financial assistance program that is meant to help unemployed Canadians keep up with their bills.

But what about if you quit your job? Will you still be able to qualify for EI benefits?

What Is Employment Insurance (EI)?

Employment insurance (EI) is a program overseen by the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC) that offers temporary financial assistance to unemployed Canadians who are legally permitted to work in Canada. 

In order to be eligible, EI recipients must have lost their job due to circumstances beyond their control and must be willing and able to return to work.  

Here’s a list of documents you’ll need to get a job in Canada.

How Much Can You Get On EI? 

The benefit amounts will vary from one person to the next, as there is no specific amount that would be applicable to everyone. Instead, eligible EI recipients will receive approximately 55% of their average weekly earnings. That said, there is a maximum weekly benefit of $638 per week or 60,300 a year for 2022. 

How Long Can You Recieve EI? 

The time frame within which EI benefits are paid out ranges from anywhere between 14 to 45 weeks. However, this number is based on your local unemployment rate and the number of insurable hours worked over the last 52 weeks, or since the last EI claim was filed, whichever of the two is less.  Seasonal workers may extend their benefits for an additional 5 weeks, for a maximum of 50 weeks. 

What Is EI Sickness? 

 EI Sickness benefits offer up to 15 weeks in payments for those who cannot work due to a medical reason. So, they are not the best option for anyone who is suffering from a long-term debilitating disease or ailment that has left them unable to work. Those with long-term sickness or disability can look into Canada Pension Plan disability benefits and the Disability Tax Credit (DTC)

What Is EI Maternity Leave?

Under the Employment Insurance Act, you’re also eligible to receive up to 16 weeks of maternity leave benefits. You can get up to 55% of your earnings, with a cap of $650 weekly.

If EI isn’t enough to cover your expenses, learn more about taking out a loan while on EI.

Who Is Employment Insurance For? 

In order to be eligible for EI, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You’re a Canadian citizen or permanent resident legally allowed to work in Canada
  • You have a Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • Your job is considered insurable employment  
  • The reason for your job loss is through no fault of your own  
  • You have been out of work for at least 7 consecutive days over the last 52 weeks
  • You’re ready, willing, and able to work
  • You’re actively looking for a new job 

EI is also available to those who are not working due to reasons other than being laid off, such as for maternity or paternity leave, illness, or caregiving responsibilities.

Insurable Hours Requirement 

Another requirement you must meet to qualify for EI is the number of insurable hours you worked.  To be eligible, you must have worked the required number of insurable hours over the last 52 weeks or since your last EI claim, whichever of the two is less. 

Due to COVID-19 the required insurable hours will vary based on when you apply. 

  • Till September 24, 2022 (Temporary) – You’ll need 420 hours of insurable hours to qualify.
  • After September 24, 2022 –  You’ll need to have worked between 420 – 700 insurable hours. The exact amount is dependent on your local unemployment rate.

Who Isn’t Qualified For EI?

Not everyone may qualify for EI. If any of the following apply to your situation, you may be denied EI benefits:

  • You voluntarily quit your job without good reason
  • You were fired because of poor work conduct
  • You’re involved in a labour dispute

COVID-19 Note: If you quit or lose your job for not complying with the mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations policy in your workplace, then you are unlikely to be eligible for the EI benefit. 

Can You Get Employment Insurance If You Quit?

You may only qualify for EI benefits if you have good reason to voluntarily leave your job. For instance, you may be eligible for EI for maternity, paternity, illness, and compassionate care reasons if you qualify. 

You may also qualify if you can prove that you had “just cause” to quit. Here are some reasons that can be classified as just cause:

  • Workplace harassment (sexual, age, etc)
  • Discrimination  (age, race, sex, etc)
  • Moving to another place of residence with a spouse/partner or dependent child 
  • Workplace is proven to be unsafe or unhealthy 
  • Immediate need to care for an immediate family member 
  • Employer refuses to pay overtime rate
  • Employer is breaking the law
  • Supervisor is creating a difficult work environment
  • Significant changes to terms and conditions of the job that affects salary
  • Significant change in work duties

Without just cause for leaving your job, you will not be eligible for regular EI benefits. Check out the Government of Canada website for more information on causes that are justified for voluntarily leaving your job.

What Are Reasonable Alternatives Before Applying For EI?

Before you leave your job, it’s strongly recommended that you take every step possible to avoid becoming unemployed, otherwise you will not be considered to have just cause for quitting. And if so, you won’t be eligible to receive EI benefits.  

For starters, try to rectify the situation with your employer or union representative to see if the problem at work can be fixed. For example, consider the following alternatives before quitting:

  • Ask to have your work schedule changed
  • Ask to be given different responsibilities or transferred to a new department 
  • Find a solution to child care
  • Request a leave of absence until an ideal solution is found

You may also want to review your collective agreement or employment contract to find out if there’s a certain protocol that should be followed to handle a situation like yours.  

If your labour rights are being violated, look into the laws regarding workplace health and safety or human rights. Be sure to take notes on the steps you’ve taken, and speak with an attorney if necessary. And if you ultimately decide to quit, look for another job first. 

Ultimately, you’ll need to make sure you have just cause to quit in order to be eligible for EI benefits. If you are expecting benefits to be paid to you, you’ll need to verify whether or not just cause exists.

How To Qualify For Employment Insurance If You Quit

When you apply for EI, you must explain why quitting was your only reasonable option. You might need to gather evidence to support your side of the story. The more evidence you can gather to support your reason to quit, the better your odds of getting approved for EI. 

Evidence collected can include the following:

  • Finding other people who can back up your claims
  • Documents that show why you had felt the need to leave your job
  • Notes regarding your attempt to rectify the issue and why it didn’t work

You may also consider writing to Service Canada to explain your situation. Be sure to include the evidence you gathered in your letter and keep a copy for your records. Hopefully, Service Canada will get in touch with your former employer to inquire about the facts you provided. 

How To Apply For EI If You Quit Your Job

In general, it is recommended that you apply for EI as early as possible after you’ve stopped working. Even if you haven’t received your ROE from your employer, it’s best not to delay your application. If you wait for more than 4 weeks after you stopped working, you could lose out on your benefits. 

Service Canada may still approve your EI application if you can prove that you had good reason to wait to apply, but you must have a good reason for delaying your application. 

When you’re ready to apply, you may do so online, whether from home or at an internet kiosk at a Service Canada centre. 

What Do You Need To Apply?

Be sure to have the following information ready if you quit your job before applying for EI:

  • The reason why you quit your job
  • The steps you took to try to rectify the situation before leaving work
  • Your attempts to find another job

Types Of Special Programs You May Qualify For

If Service Canada believes that you had just cause to quit your job, you may be eligible for special benefits, including the following:

  • Sickness benefits if you can’t work due to illness or injury
  • Maternity benefits if you’re pregnant or recently had a baby 
  • Parental benefits if you’re a parent caring for your newborn baby or a child you just adopted
  • Compassionate care benefits if you must care for a family member 
  • Family Caregiver Benefit for Children if you must care for your sick child

Employment Insurance FAQs

What should you do if you’re denied EI?

If Service Canada denies your EI application, you have the option to appeal. If you choose this route, you’ll need to send in a written request within 30 days. 

Can I get EI if I was fired?

You won’t automatically be denied EI if you get fired. You might still be eligible for EI if the reason you were fired was not because of misconduct, as long as you worked the required insurable hours.

Can I get EI for an authorized period of leave?

Yes, as long as the reason for this temporary leave of absence meets the same criteria for “just cause” if you left your job for good.  

If I apply for EI after I quit, will my employer be contacted?

Your employer will likely be contacted and asked to provide information about why you quit to help ensure that a fair decision is made on whether or not your reason to quit is just and if you will be eligible for regular EI benefits. They will be asked for details, especially about the workplace environment. 

Final Thoughts

Just because you quit your job does not automatically disqualify you from receiving EI benefits. As long as your reason for quitting is justified and you can show that you took steps to rectify your situation, you may still be eligible for EI. Make sure you’ve done your homework before voluntarily leaving your job if you intend to collect EI benefits.

Lisa Rennie avatar on Loans Canada
Lisa Rennie

Lisa has been working as a personal finance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same.

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