Employment Insurance Changes – COVID-19

In light of the recent developments with regards to the COVID-19 crisis, Canadian businesses are forced to make quick and often dramatic changes to how they operate. Unfortunately, this could result in a temporary shut down of operations and lost hours for employees. To help employees get through this challenging time, they must understand what options they have available on claiming EI benefits during the shutdown. The purpose of this post is to outline the steps required to apply for EI benefits as well as some of the temporary changes that have been put in place by the federal government in response to the crisis.

For employees that are directly affected by an illness:

Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement and is available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine. Successful applicants can receive 55% of earnings up to a maximum of $573 per week. The amount depends on the insurable hours of the previous 52 weeks or since the start of the last EI claim, whichever is shorter.

In order to qualify, the applicant will be required to demonstrate the following:

  1. They are unable to work due to medical reasons
  2. Their weekly earnings have decreased by more than 40% for at least one week
  3. They have worked more than 600 hours in 52 weeks before the claim is made (or since the start of the last EI claim, if applicable)

In order to qualify, a medical certificate must be obtained to show that the employee is unable to work for medical reasons.

To start an application for the EI sickness benefit click on the following link:


For employees placed under quarantine due to COVID-19:

The one week waiting period is waived in these cases, and as a result, those who are quarantined can be paid in the first week of their claim. The application process for these types of claims is also sped up and placed in priority over all other EI claims.

In addition, the requirement to produce a medical certificate is waived. If the employee is unable to make a claim due to being under quarantine, they can apply at a later date and have the EI benefits backdated to the period they were under quarantine.

For more information, individuals can call the new dedicated toll-free phone number:    1-833-381-2725

For employees on temporary leave due to the COVID-19 crisis:

Although the federal government has not made any changes to the conventional EI benefits program as a result of COVID-19, the program is still available for those affected by it. In the event that employees are required to be off work as a result of the crisis but are not sick or under quarantine, they are still able to claim EI. If the employee is temporarily laid off as a result of COVID-19, they can make a conventional EI claim so long as the following conditions are met:

  1. They have been off work for at least seven days
  2. They have sufficient insurable employment hours for the 52 weeks prior to the claim

There are two other requirements: that the employee is ready and capable of working, and they are actively looking for work. Given that the leave from work is the result of the pandemic, and if it were not for the crisis, they would quickly be back to work; these criteria should easily be met.

To start an EI benefits application click on the following link:


Additional benefits for those who do not traditionally qualify for EI:

The federal government introduced a temporary measure on March 18th in order to help those who do not qualify for the EI sickness benefit described above. The “Emergency Care Benefit” program will provide up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks for specific individuals impacted by the crisis.

In order to qualify for the Emergency Care Benefit program, the applicant must meet one of the following three criteria:

  1. Individuals who are under quarantine or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefit.
  2. Individuals who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for the EI sickness benefit.
  3. Parents who are unable to earn an income due to having to care for children during school closures.

The program will be administered by the Canada Revenue Agency and will be paid as a flat payment. The application process is expected to open in April 2020. We will keep you posted as this program develops and provide more details regarding the application process as it becomes available.

For additional details, please see the following: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html

If you have any questions or need help with the above, feel free to contact us.