How to Access EI Benefits as a Self-employed Worker

How to Access EI Benefits

One of the biggest challenges of being self-employed is what happens when you need extra support. Whether you are ill, expecting a new child, or need to care for a loved one, these kinds of situations can be detrimental to your business.

Individuals who work for a business are automatically enrolled in the Employment Insurance program, paying regular premiums to safeguard against sudden unemployment or the need for long term leave as in the situations listed above. But that isn’t the case for self-employed Canadians.

Self-employed Canadians are entitled to many of these same programs, however, they must choose to register for Employment Insurance special benefits to help secure against unforeseen circumstances that can impact your ability to work.

Who Qualifies

If you are Canadian citizen or a permanent resident and operate your own business, or if you work for a corporation but cannot access EI benefits because you control more than 40% of the corporation’s voting shares, you can register.

A successfully registered individual can make a claim if they have been registered for at least one year. In order to make a claim you must have reduced the amount of time dedicated to your business by at least 40% and have earned a minimum specified amount of net self employed earnings in the calendar year before their claim.

For example, to make a claim in 2019 you will need to have registered at least one year prior and earned a minimum of at least $7,121 in self-employed earnings in 2018.

injured person with walker

What Is the Cost?

As with any insurance program, you will need to pay premiums. In 2019, for every $100 you earn, you will need to contribute $1.62 in EI premiums up to a defined maximum—the same amount that employees pay. This means the most you will pay in EI premiums for 2019 is $862.22.

You can cancel within the first 60 days to avoid paying the premiums. After the 60-day period, you can still terminate your registration at any time, however keep in mind this termination will be effective at the end of the calendar year, so you will have to pay EI premiums for the entire calendar year.

Once you have claimed EI benefits, your participation in the program lasts indefinitely. You will have to pay premiums for the entire duration of your self-employed career, regardless of any change in the nature of your self-employment.

What is Covered?

MaternityFor mothers who give birth. These benefits cover the period surrounding the child’s birth (up to 15 weeks).
ParentalFor any parent (mother or father) to care for their newborn or newly adopted child or children. The benefits are available to biological, adoptive, or legally recognized parents. There are two options available for receiving parental benefits: standard or extended.
SicknessFor people who cannot work due to injury, illness, or the need to be isolated in quarantine because they may be carrying a disease (up to 15 weeks).
Compassionate CareFor people who must be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is seriously ill with a significant risk of death (up to 26 weeks). The 26 weeks of benefits can be shared between different family members who applied and are eligible to receive them.
Family Caregiver for ChildrenFor family members who must be away from work to care for or support a critically ill or injured child. Family members can receive benefits or they can share benefits between them (up to 35 weeks).
Family Caregiver for AdultsFor family members who must be away from work to care for or support a critically ill or injured adult. Family members can receive benefits or they can share benefits between them (up to 15 weeks).

How to Register

Visit the Service Canada Website to sign up for a My Service Canada Account. Once your account has been verified, usually 10 days, you will be able to login and register for your EI benefits. You will be able to claim benefits after one year of premiums.

How to Claim

If you need to make a claim, the first thing you will need is documentation to support your need.

Sickness benefitsA medical certificate to prove illness
Compassionate Care benefitA medical certificate to prove illness
Parental benefitsExpected birth date or official placement date in the case of birth or adoption.
Select a whether you would standard or extended benefits
Family caregiver benefits.
A medical certificate completed by a medical doctor or nurse practitioner stating that your care or support is required by your critically ill or injured family member.
As well as an authorization to release medical information.

Once you have your documentation, log into your My Service Canada Account to make a claim.

How Much Will you Receive?

If you are eligible for maternity, standard parental, sickness, compassionate care or family caregiver benefits you can expect to receive 55% of your earnings from self-employment up to a maximum amount. In 2019, you can receive up to $562 per week. If you are still able to conduct business partially, there are special provisions for how much you will be paid out.

These funds may be significantly less than your regular earnings in the period, however, if you are unable to work they help safeguard your financial stability during these kinds of stressful times.

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