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Unemployment leaves many Canadians in desperate situations where the money needed to keep up with their bills is suddenly lacking. Thankfully, the government has a number of programs available to financially support those who have lost their jobs and their wages. Employment Insurance is one of the main programs unemployed Canadians rely on after losing their jobs. Given that people need an income to pay their bills, the importance of understanding how to apply for EI and getting funds through EI is crucial for many.

What Is Employment Insurance? 

Employment Insurance (EI) is a government program that provides individuals who have lost a job with temporary income support. Applicants must qualify for EI benefits in order to receive this temporary financial relief. Employees must have paid premiums over the past year and meet certain qualifying conditions to be eligible for EI benefits.

Who Is Eligible For EI?

Not all unemployed Canadians can receive EI benefits. In order to qualify for EI you must meet certain requirements including the following: 

  • You were working an insurable job
  • You did not quit your job 
  • You have been out of work for at least 7 consecutive days within the last year
  • You have worked in insurable employment for at least 420 hours within the last year or since the last time you claimed EI 
  • You must be willing and actively looking for work

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Can You Recieve EI If You’ve Been Fired For Misconduct?

If you’ve been fired for misconduct, you will not be eligible for EI regular benefits, however, you may still be eligible for other benefits. For example, if you’ve been laid off before taking maternity leave, you will still be eligible for EI maternity leave benefits if you qualify for the benefit.

How Much Can You Receive Through EI?

The exact amount you receive depends on your individual circumstances, but in general, the EI benefit is calculated by taking the applicant’s average weekly earnings and multiplying it by 55% (0.55). However, the maximum amount you can receive per week is $595. To receive the maximum, you’ll need a yearly income of $56,300

Check out if you qualify for the gst/hst tax credit.

The amount of time you can receive these benefits depends largely on the unemployment rate in your region and the number of insured hours you’ve worked. It can range from 14 weeks up to 45 weeks. For example, if you’ve worked 455 to 489 insured hours and your region has an unemployment rate of 13%, the maximum amount of weeks you’ll receive EI is 24.

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How To Apply For Employment Insurance (EI)?

Understanding how to apply for EI can be a bit confusing, so we’ve compiled all the information you need to know. To receive your EI benefits, You will need to take certain steps, including the following:

Provide Necessary Information

Documents and information that may be required to apply for EI include:

  • Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • Proof of immigration status and work permit if your SIN starts with a 9
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Current home and mailing addresses
  • Banking information
  • Information regarding employment, including names, addresses, and dates of employment
  • Reason for parting with your employers over the past year
  • Insurable earnings 
  • Salary received, before deductions, for the last week worked

Online Application

In order to see if you’re eligible for EI, you’ll be required to complete and submit an online application. The application is quite detailed and takes about 1 hour to complete. You can start your application here.

Provide Documents

Certain paperwork may have to be submitted, such as your Record of Employment form (ROE). This form is completed by employers for employees who have to stop working and are no longer being paid by the employer. The ROE is the most important document required when applying for EI and can be submitted electronically or via paper form. 

You can visit My Service Canada Account (MSCA) to look over any ROEs that you have been issued in the past by previous and current employers. If you cannot work due to an illness or injury, you will need a medical note that confirms your medical situation. 

Check out the difference between a T4A and a T4.

Wait For Your Access Code

After you have successfully applied for EI, you’ll receive a 4-digit access code and benefit statement by mail. The code and your SIN will be needed to receive updates about your application and to fill out regular bi-weekly reports.

Look Over Your Status

Once you receive your benefit statement, make sure to review it in detail and understand where you are in terms of your application status. 

How Fast Will I Get My EI Payment?

It’s understandable that people who have been laid off will want to gain access to funds right away to make sure they do not fall behind on any bills. But there will still be a certain waiting period that applicants will have to go through before their application is accepted and payments start being made. 

However, in general, those who applied and have been approved should receive their first EI payment within 28 days of submitting their application. 

Can I still apply for a personal loan during the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak?

New Rules On How To Apply For EI Amid COVID-19

Given the unique circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has introduced additional financial support for employees who otherwise would not qualify for EI benefits to make sure nobody falls through the cracks. The new measures would allow for the creation of an emergency benefit for employees who are off work as a result of being laid off or who are self-isolating.

Check out if you qualify for the COVID-19 benefit CRB.

A number of rules apply when applying for EI benefits under normal circumstances. But given that this is a unique situation, certain requirements have been changed or been waived when applying for EI, namely: 

  • No medical note is required to apply for EI
  • The one-week waiting period may be waived

Considering the social distancing that we are all being asked to practice, online EI applications may be made, especially for those who are in quarantine or who are ill. There is also an exception being made for those who are unable to complete their EI application as a result of COVID-19. In this case, applicants can apply at a later date and have their EI claim backdated to cover the delayed time frame. 


Do I still have to provide bi-weekly reports when receiving EI? 

Yes, when applying for EI, bi-weekly reports will need to be completed to prove your eligibility for the EI benefits, or else you risk losing them. 

Can I receive both EI and CERB?

No, you cannot apply for both CERB and EI. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians received double payments. If you received two payments you may have to repay the extra payment

What is the EI waiting period?

When you apply for EI, there’s one week you may not be paid for. This is called the “waiting period”. The unpaid period works like a deductible when you buy insurance. 

What are insurable earnings?

Insurable earning is income used to contribute towards your employment insurance premiums by you and your employer.

Final Thoughts

Unemployment is certainly a trying time for most Canadians and people all over the world. Not only do we have to protect our health, but we must also do what is necessary to keep up with bill payments, which can be very difficult for those who have lost their jobs as a result of an accident, injury, or illness. Fortunately, our government takes steps to provide financial help to those who need it. While understanding how to apply for EI is a bit complicated, help is always available.

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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