Types of Employment Insurance Benefits in Canada

Jodee Redmond
Help for Unemployed Canadians

Employment insurance in Canada is a program designed to provide temporary financial support for people who are out of work.

Employment Insurance in Canada: Types of Benefits

Canada's Employment Insurance program has a number of types of benefits available to those who are unable to work for different reasons.

Regular Employment Insurance Benefits

Regular employment insurance benefits are paid to people who are without work through no fault of their own, including the following circumstances:

  • Mass lay-off
  • Seasonal lay-off
  • Shortage of work

Regular benefits may also be paid to people who are ready and available to work but who are unable to find a job.

Maternity and Parental Benefits

Women who have pregnant or have recently given birth and who qualify can collect maternity benefits. A woman may start collecting maternity benefits up to eight weeks before her due date, but no maternity benefits will be paid after 17 weeks following the baby's birth. A total of up to 50 weeks of benefits (combination of maternity and parental) may be collected.

Parents of either gender who are away from work to look after a child who has recently come into their care (either through birth or adoption) may be entitled to parental benefits. Under the Employment Insurance in Canada plan, up to 35 weeks of parental benefits may be paid. One parent can take all 35 weeks or the benefits may be split between the parents in whatever way they choose. For example, the mother could take 15 weeks of parental leave and the father could take the remaining 20 weeks.

For other parents, it may make sense for the mother to return to work after her maternity leave and for the father to take 35 weeks of parental leave. Some women return to work after their maternity leave and then decide that they would rather stay at home after a few weeks. The mother can start her parental leave at that point.

The benefit period starts to run as of the date the child was born or adopted and runs for 52 weeks. The parental benefits must be claimed during this time. An exception is made if the child is hospitalized. In that case, the parent may claim benefits during the time the child is in hospital or after he or she is released.

Compassionate Care Benefits

The Canadian government enacted a law which took effect on January 4, 2004 which allows eligible employees to take up to six weeks off work to care for a gravely ill family member. The time off can be taken over a six-month period. During this time, the employee can collect employment benefits. His or her job is also protected. To be eligible for compassionate care benefits, the worker must produce a medical certificate stating that the family member is at "high risk" of death within the next six months. Under the law, a "family member" may be any one of the following:

  • Aunt
  • Brother
  • Child
  • Common-law partner
  • Foster Parent
  • Grandchild
  • Grandparent
  • Guardian
  • In-law
  • Nephew
  • Niece
  • Parent
  • Sister
  • Spouse
  • Uncle
  • Ward

Fishing Benefits

Self-employed people working as fishers may be able to collect employment insurance benefits in Canada, depending on how much they earned in the 31 weeks before they made a claim for benefits. An individual must have earned between $2,500-$4,200 to be eligible for benefits. The exact amount required will depend on the local unemployment rate. A higher rate means less earnings are required to claim benefits.

Eligibility for Employment Insurance Benefits

To be eligible to collect employment insurance benefits in Canada, an employee must have paid employment insurance premiums and have worked for minimum of 600 hours in the past 52 weeks or since the date of his or her last claim, whichever is more recent. To find out more about Employment Insurance in Canada, visit the Service Canada web site.

Types of Employment Insurance Benefits in Canada