Employment Insurance. It is one of those things you really wish you didn't have to pay into every single paycheque. It's only a few dollars, really, but it sure adds up over time. I watch my paycheques throughout the year, and it starts off with $20 here, and $20 there. Suddenly, by the end of a year, I realize that I've “lost” $600 paying into Employment Insurance, and I really don't know what EI even is, as I've never had to use it. Well because my job transferred to a new location, and because my wife is married to me, she was able to apply for Employment Insurance. Yeah, apparently EI covers more than just losing your job. EI will cover you if you do lose your job, yes, but they will also cover you if you are available for employment but don't have any. They will also cover you if you are sick and unable to work, they are the ones that pay you for maternity leave and parental leave, and they will even cover you if you have to leave your job to take care of a sick relative. Who knew?

The only problem with Employment Insurance is that they aren't going to chase you down to make sure that you are taking advantage of their benefits. You have to know their regulations, play by their rules, and jump through their hoops. If you do so, however, you can get yourself covered while you take care of yourself, your relative, or while you are looking for work. As my wife and I have gone through this lately, here's what you have to do in order to get EI.

Check EI Qualifications

Even if you have lost your job, you have to lose your job in a specific way to qualify for Employment Insurance. Setting your place of employment on fire (purposefully) while emailing your boss how much you hate him will most likely disqualify you. Check this link for more specific details as to who, exactly, can apply for EI. My wife and I had absolutely no idea that she might qualify for EI until one of our friends mentioned it to us. I guess they had known someone else who was able to apply, so asked if we were going to. This, of course, led us to actually look into it and see if it was true – which it was. So we applied!

Apply For Employment Insurance

That's the second step to getting EI. You actually have to start filling out paperwork. Make sure you apply as soon as you stop working. The quicker you get your application in, the sooner they can process it and get the money flowing into your bank account. You can't apply until you are done work, but make sure you have everything ready to apply the day you are done. Otherwise you will be stuck in limbo without any cash flow while you wait for papers to show up and get processed. Something strange happened with our application, for example. We were waiting for my wife's work to send us her Record of Employment so that we could show Services Canada that she was, in fact, done work. We waited three weeks before phoning to see what had happened to it. Apparently they had not processed it yet (has to be delivered within 15 days by law), but would now do it because we had asked. So that put us over three weeks behind schedule in terms of our application. It had been so delayed, in fact, that my wife had to go through the entire application process over again because of the delayed ROE. So make sure that you have all the necessary documents in place ahead of time (see this website), make sure they get delivered to Services Canada so that you can be sure that you get your money as soon as possible!


The one thing that Employment Insurance requires is a report every two weeks. They just want to make sure that you are still unemployed, and that you are still employable and looking for work. In order to complete these reports, my wife has been writing down every single job that she has been applying for. That way she can prove, should the government ask, that she is still looking for work and not just waiting for her EI to run out. These reports will also ask if you have worked during the two week period, received training, or became unavailable for work. Simply fill out the report (it is all online) every two weeks per their request, and then EI will send you your next cheque (direct deposit).
Thankfully, that's all there is to EI. Like so many other benefits, however, you have to know about it, and you have to pursue them in order to take advantage of them. Even if you think you don't qualify for EI, but are unemployed, it is worth double chequing to see just in case you are actually eligible for EI. If you are able to apply, be sure to play by their rules to ensure a smooth transition from your job into unemployment, and hopefully back into employment!
Have you ever applied for Employment Insurance? How did it go?

About Alan Schram

Alan Schram writes about personal finance and his encounters with it in his everyday life. Alan is recently married and is looking to save money on expenses and reduce his debts.