Employment Insurance Changes for COVID-19
The EI program will be expanded to allow applicants to apply with a reduction in the number of hours of work required to qualify, and increased weekly benefit, and an extended program duration.
Reduced Hours Needed for Eligibility
- Access to EI benefits is normally based on the number of insurable hours an individual has worked in the year prior to their application, or since their last claim. This is known as their qualifying period. Since some people may have had hours reduced to the point that they are ineligible to apply, this change will allow individuals to qualify with a minimum of 120 hours of work.
- To do so, the EI system will reduce the hours required to be eligible to 420 across the board. In addition, EI claimants will receive a one-time insurable hours credit of 300 insurable hours for claims for regular benefits (job loss) and 480 insurable hours for claims for special benefits (sickness, maternity/parental, compassionate care or family caregiver). With the reduction and the credit, a minimum of 120 hours will now be required for eligibility.
- The hours credit will also be made retroactive to March 15, 2020 for claimants who were looking to transition early from the CERB to EI maternity, parental, compassionate care, family caregiver or work-sharing benefits but could not establish their EI claim due to insufficient hours. For these claimants, the qualifying period will also be extended.
- The hours credit will be available for new EI claims for one year
Increase Weekly Benefit
- New EI claimants as of September 27, 2020 will receive a minimum benefit rate of $400 per week (or $240 for extended parental benefits), if this is higher than what their benefits would otherwise be.
- The EI benefit rate is typically based on a worker’s average weekly earnings before their EI claim. However, the COVID-19 pandemic may have had a negative impact on a worker’s weekly earnings either because they lost their job or saw their hours of work reduced. The minimum benefit rate of $400 will reduce the negative impact on EI benefit rates for these workers.
Increased Duration of EI Benefits
- As part of these changes, the minimum duration of EI benefit payments will be increased to 26, with a maximum of 45. This increases the minimum duration from a previous minimum of 14 weeks.