The Ultimate Guide for Canada Employment Insurance

Canada Student Loan

If you’re reading this because you need to get on employment insurance, I’m sorry – but I’m also excited for you. To give you some context, I too was on Employment Insurance (EI). In fact, I first wrote this piece while on EI.

It’s a little scary to be let go from your job. But it’s really important to remember, it most likely was not your fault. Company priorities change. The only thing you can do is play the cards you’ve been dealt. In fact, I love the fact that I’m on EI right now. I have the time to hone in on skills that I didn’t have time to hone while working. I have time to try new things. And I have time to apply for jobs that I want, as opposed to finding the first job that comes my way. The reason I have all this flexibility is because I have my finances in order and because EI is able to cover all my expenses.

Hopefully you’ve already read most of the other guides and have your finances in order. Now let’s make sure you get your EI without any delays. You can get all the details for EI at Service Canada. Below is a summary of what they say.

How to qualify for EI

EI is not something that you will automatically get if you were let go. Instead, you will have to apply to be qualified for EI. In order to qualify, you will need to have worked at least 700 hours (17.5 weeks, assuming 40hours a week) in the last 52 weeks and must have been paying the employment insurance premium during that time. This is probably the case if you were being paid as a full time or part time worker. EI premiums are automatically deducted from your pay.

If however, you were structured as a contractor, you will have to check your paystub to see if you were contributing to EI.

How much does EI pay and for how long?

If you qualify for EI, you will be paid 55% of your average insurable earnings up to a set limit. Insurable earnings simply mean from your full-time job (and not any side projects you might have). As for average, this is how the government describes it:

The amount of weekly benefits is calculated as follows:

  • We calculate your total insurable earnings for the required number of best weeks (the weeks that you earned the most money, including insurable tips and commissions) based on the information you provide and/or your Record(s) of Employment
  • We determine the divisor (number of best weeks) that corresponds to your regional rate of unemployment
  • We divide your total insurable earnings for your best weeks by your required number of best weeks
  • We then multiply the result by 55% to obtain the amount of your weekly benefits.


For the most part, the number of best weeks they will look for is 22 (unless you live in a province that has really high unemployment).

As for how long, it depends on how long you’ve worked before you were let go. If it was the 700 hours mark, you would get insured for 14 weeks. If you worked over 1820 hours (45.5 weeks), you are qualified for the maximum at 36 weeks.

Applying for EI

When I was first looking to apply for EI, I was thinking it would be a huge headache, that I would have to go into the office, mail off papers and what not. But when I actually got to it, pleasantly surprised would still not be enough to describe how I felt. I did not expect that you could apply for EI online!

That said, please go to Service Canada’s website to start your EI application.

After I finished my application, I stopped thinking about it as there was nothing else to do. The website states that it might take up to 28 days for you to get your first payment, and that you would be notified if you do not qualify. I took that as no news is good news. But that ended up hurting quite a bit.

So here’s my suggestion: check with your employer to confirm that they will send in a record of employment to the government. This is most likely digital. If they say yes, then you’re set. However, if they aren’t going to do it, you will need to ask your employer for a physical copy and submit it yourself to a Service Canada location.

This was the part that I got stuck on for over 3 months. My employer didn’t send in a digital copy of my record of employment (ROE). They were a startup so they just didn’t know it was important. However, I would have never known if I didn’t go into Service Canada to find out what the delay was as they do not send any emails asking for missing documents.

So if you’re waiting longer than normal (the 28 days), then go into a Service Canada and inquire about the status of your application.

While on EI

EI is meant to help you make ends meet while you’re searching for a job. That means they will continue to pay you so long as you are actively searching, networking, improving your resume. Now, they don’t check on you if you’re actively applying or not. Instead, you are required to fill out an online form that asks you a bunch of questions about the last two weeks. They do, however, have the rights to ask you for proof of job search efforts for 6 years.

One of the questions they ask is if you left the country during that time. If you did, answer yes. They get reports from other parts of the government and if they find out that you lied, it can get pretty ugly.

Another question they ask is if you’re getting money from other sources. What they mean by this is active money (something you have to commit to full time). I didn’t know that and answered yes (as I am getting rental income) and when I talked to someone from the government over the phone, they told me that passive income is not part of the other sources as it is passive. This is also true for dividends or interest that you might be getting.

Making the Most of EI

So yes, you could be taking it easy during this time. Or you could be so focused applying to anything and everything. I believe either of those ideas are terrible (assuming you’re able to make ends meet while on EI).

Instead, I would suggest taking some time to reflect on what’s happened the last few years. Are you happy with the direction you were going before you were let go? This is a good chance to think about what you want in life. What you want to stand for. What do you want to experience? What industries or skills will get you there? Once you have a rough idea, work on those skills, talk to people in that industry. Is it really what you envisioned it to be? What are the downsides and are you okay with it?

If that is what you want to do next, then continue building your network in that area and applying for jobs. Tell yourself that you’re worth it and don’t take the first job offered to you if it’s not what you want.

Something else to consider

If you still have student debt and you decided to stay with Canada Student Loan (as opposed to putting it all on your student line of credit), you should request for the repayment assistance plan. Read that section under student loans for more details on the program.

And if you are looking for others who are in a similar situation, go to the facebook group and search / post with #ei.

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