How Many Hours Can You Work While on EI?
The Government of Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) program is meant for individuals who have lost their jobs through situations out of their control. EI benefits provide short-term income support while they look for work or to upgrade their skills.
Canadians can also qualify for employment insurance if they have taken time away from work due to illness, pregnancy, or various caregiving responsibilities. But with so many EI rules, it can be challenging to understand the ins and outs of how employment insurance works.
EI Benefit Amount: How Much Will I Receive?
In most cases, the earning threshold for EI benefits is 55% of a person’s average insurable weekly earnings at their last job, up to a maximum dollar amount. According to the government, the maximum payment is $638 per week, based upon the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount of $60,300 (eff. Jan. 1, 2022).
How Long Can I Access EI Benefits?
The duration of your EI benefits depends partly on the unemployment rate in your region, but typically, benefits last between 14 to 45 weeks. Seasonal workers may be eligible for five additional benefit weeks, to the 45-week maximum.
How Is My Regular EI Benefit Amount Calculated?
The government uses a 4-step process to determine your weekly EI benefit amount:
Step 1: Calculate total insurable earnings for the required number of best weeks (when you made the most money, including tips and commissions.) The government collects the data from information you provide and your Record of Employment (ROE).
Step 2: The government determines the divisor (number of best weeks) based on the rate of employment in your region.
Step 3: Total insurable earnings for your best weeks are divided by the number of weeks.
Step 4: The amount is multiplied by 55% to arrive at the final weekly benefit.
Note: The best 14 weeks are used in regions with the highest unemployment. In regions with the lowest unemployment, your best 22 weeks are used. Other regions fall somewhere between 14 and 22 weeks.
Can You Work While on EI?
Many people don’t realize that you can still receive EI benefits while working. In 2018, the government made the Working While on Claim program permanent.
Working While on Claim lets workers continue to receive EI benefits after they resume regular employment. The program incentivizes returning to work because you can make more money working and collecting EI than simply receiving EI benefits.
Under the program, you’ll lose $.50 of EI regular benefits for every dollar you earn at your job.
How Much Can You Earn While on EI?
How much you can earn while on EI depends on several factors, but generally speaking, you can make up to 55% of your average insurable earnings up to a maximum weekly payment of $638. Benefits can be received up to 45 weeks, depending on several factors.
Do I Have to Look for Work While On EI?
The EI rules stipulate that you must actively look for work to continue to receive benefits. The government requires you to fill in bi-weekly reports and show evidence of your efforts to find work. If you don’t fill out the reports, you risk being cut off from EI benefits altogether.
Different Types of EI Benefits
The EI program supports Canadians beyond the regular benefits triggered by a loss of employment. Here are the different ways you can qualify for EI in Canada.
EI Regular Benefits
Regular EI benefits are for individuals who have lost their job through no fault of their own, i.e., work shortage, layoffs. It is for people who want to work but can’t find a job. If you find yourself in this situation, Services Canada advises that you apply for weekly benefits as soon as you become unemployed.
You can receive up to 15 weeks of EI if you can’t work for medical reasons. You will need to provide evidence of an injury or medical condition.
Maternity and Parental Benefits
The government extends Maternity benefits to people who have left their job because they are pregnant or have given birth. Parental benefits are for parents who have left work to care for a newborn or newly adopted child.
Standard Duration of Maternity and Parental Benefits
Benefit Type Maximum Duration Maximum Weekly Payment
Maternity Up to 15 weeks Up to $638 (55%)
Standard Parental Up to 40 weeks Up to $638 (55%)
Extended Parental Up to 69 weeks Up to $383 (33%)
Note: In the case of Standard Parental benefits, one parent cannot receive more than 35 weeks of standard benefits. As for Extended Parental benefits, one parent cannot receive more than 61 weeks of extended benefits.
For example, if the birth parent opts for the maximum extended parental leave (61 weeks), the partner could choose to take the additional eight weeks for a total of 69 weeks.
Caregiving Benefits and Leave
There are three different types of caregiver benefits under the EI program. The benefit for children provides up to 35 weeks of EI coverage if you have to leave work to provide care to a critically injured or ill family member under 18 years of age; up to 15 weeks of support to care for a critically ill or injured adult; and up to 26 weeks to provide end-of-life care to an individual of any age.
Self-employed individuals can qualify to receive EI 12 months after registering for the program and paying EI premiums. There are a few additional conditions; you must have decreased the amount of time spent on your business by 40% for at least one week and have earned a minimal amount of self-employment income in the calendar year before you apply for the benefits.
Are EI Benefits Taxable?
Employment Insurance benefits are considered taxable income in the tax year in which they were received. The taxable amount is reported on a T4E slip, which Service Canada will make available by February 1st.
Final Thoughts on Working While on EI
The federal government has recently made enhancements to the EI program, including temporary measures required to manage the massive losses of employment during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we explored here in this article, one of the positives of the EI program is that you can still receive benefits after returning to work. In fact, you can make more money by returning to work. After all, when you’ve lost your job, returning to work is all most people really want.