Employment Insurance

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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta.  This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.

This topic provides a brief summary of the Employment Insurance (EI) program.  It is a complex area of law and you are encouraged to contact your local Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) office for further information for your specific situation.

Employment Insurance is a type of benefit paid to provide temporary financial relief while you are actively looking for work.  You have an obligation to be willing and able to work at all times and to keep a record of the times you are not available for work.  You must also keep a record of employers and dates that you contacted them and report all money earned while on EI.

To be eligible for employment insurance:

  • You must not have worked or been paid for at least 7 consecutive days, and
  • Worked a certain number of insurable hours within a qualifying period.  The qualifying period is the past 52 weeks or the time period since your last claim.

Contact your local Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) office to find out how many insurable hours you need to make a claim for benefits.  Generally you will need between 420 and 700 insurable hours of work in your qualifying period to qualify for EI benefits.  However, if you are in the work force for the first time or are returning to work after a 2-year leave of absence you will need a minimum of 910 hours in the qualifying period.  If you had violations from previous EI claims, the number of insurable hours will increase.  Your insurable hours are determined by the number of hours you worked during your employment.  No insurable hours can be paid if you are self-employed.  Contact your local Human Resources Development Canada office to see how many hours you need to quality.

If you do not have the necessary insurable hours within the qualifying period, ask the HRDC office if you can have the qualifying period extended to include other insurable hours because you were not available to work due to certain reasons.  They may consider your reasons meet the criteria for an extension of time.  For example, you may have been sick or attending a course.

You must apply for the benefits within 4 weeks from your last working day otherwise you risk losing benefits.  If you already filed a claim within the past 52 weeks you may revive that claim for benefits.  Advise the HRDC office that you made a claim.  Your employer should issue your Record of Employment (ROE) within 5 days of your unemployment.  As soon as you receive your ROE, make your application to the HRDC office.  If you do not receive your ROE from your employer within 14 days, apply without the ROE and prove your employment by submitting your pay stubs.

Once you apply for EI benefits, there is a 2-week waiting period during which you will not be paid.  Your first payment will be made within 28 days of the start date of your claims.  If you earn any money during the waiting period of 2 weeks, you must report the earnings.  The earnings will be deducted from the first 3 weeks of payable benefits. A report must be filed with EI every 2 weeks before your EI benefits are paid for those 2 weeks.  You will receive a notice in the mail which will tell you how to fill out the report and the date by which it must be returned to EI.

You may collect benefits from 14 weeks up to 45 weeks.  The number of weeks you are entitled to collect benefits will be determined by the number of insurable hours you have in the qualifying period.  You will be advised of the number of weeks you qualify for when you begin receiving your benefits.  The benefits you collect must be paid within a time period of 52 weeks.  If you receive worker’s compensation or become pregnant you may ask the HRDC office to extend the time period so that you can collect the rest of your entitled benefits.  If you feel you have other valid reasons to have the time period extended so that you can collect your benefits, advise the HRDC office of your reasons.

The amount of benefit you receive from EI is 55% of your average insured earnings up to a maximum of $413 per week.  The calculation to determine the amount you are paid is determined by the amount of total earnings paid within the last 26 weeks of employment.

You may be entitled to a Family Supplement which may raise the amount of your benefit rate up to a maximum of $413 per week.  To qualify for a Family Supplement you must have:

  • An income of less than $25,921 per year, and
  • Have children, and
  • You or your spouse receives the Canada Child Tax Benefit.

If you are eligible, this entitlement will be automatically added to your EI payments.  The amount of the entitlement will depend upon your net family income and the number of children you have and their ages.

You cannot work full time and collect EI benefits.  However, you can work part-time and earn 25% of your weekly benefits up to $50 a week without having your benefits reduced.  Any money earned above that will reduce your benefits for that week.  All earnings must be reported while collecting EI benefits.

It is important that the information you supply in claiming EI is correct.  If you are found to have knowingly given false information or withheld information that would have reduced your benefits you can be fined and/or sentenced to jail.  This also applies if you receive overpayment and do not report it or cash a benefit cheque that is not your own.

If the Employment Insurance Commission terminates your benefits and you do not agree with their reason for doing so, you may appeal the decision.  To appeal, you must send a letter stating that you wish to appeal and the reasons within 30 days of receiving notice that your benefits are being terminated.  Continue to send in your claimants’ report cards during the appeal so that you will receive payment for that period if you win.

If you have any questions about your claim, contact the Human Resources Development Canada office at 1-800-266-7218.