UPDATED – Coronavirus and Employment Insurance Benefits

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(Please check the lecture titled “Update April 16: Eligibility REVISED – Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)” posted April 16, 2020, which has the latest update on eligibility for CERB.)

This is an updated video on the same topic. If you have watched it earlier, you may skip forward and review additional information at 6.00. This relates to the government’s latest announcement regarding illness benefits to self-employed and other individuals who, otherwise, may not qualify for illness benefits.

This lectures provides a basic understanding of different kinds of employment insurance benefits that may be available to employees whose employment is affected by Corona Virus. For details, please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/canadas-covid-19-economic-response-plan-support-for-canadians-and-businesses.html

This lecture is taught by Amer Mushtaq, LL.B., M. Engineering , B.Sc. (Hons.), who is the Principal and Founder of Formative LLP.   Through his YouTube channel, YouCounsel, Amer shares practical advice from his years of legal experience to help anyone access justice and achieve their goals.  Subscribe today to learn more.


Show Notes:


Lecture Slides:

Welcome to YouCounsel.

Today’s lecture explains some of the options with respect to employment insurance benefits that may be available to various employees, due to the recent outbreak of Corona virus.

Please note that this lecture is not legal advice. If you have any specific questions, regarding your issues, you should contact a lawyer or a paralegal or the Law Society of Ontario for a referral.

We’ll talk about 4 kinds of benefits that may be available under the Employment Insurance Act:

1st is illness benefits;

2nd is temporary layoffs;

3rd is care giving benefits; and the

4th is work sharing program.


  • With respect to illness benefits: (a) first you need to make sure that you are eligible for illness benefits under the Employment Insurance Act. What are some of the criteria that is for the illness benefits: (i) Number One you should be working for an employer that pays employment insurance premiums for you.  (ii) Secondly you are unable to work due to injury, illness or quarantine.  (iii) Number three, your weekly earning (the regular weekly earning) is decreased by more than 40%.  If you’re not working at all, then obviously the weekly earning is 0.  (iv) And, then you have 600 insured hours of work in the last 52 weeks. It is important to know that the time period to calculate is last 52 weeks.

For example, if you are one of the people who have just returned from parental leave or maternity leave and you do not have sufficient 600 insurable hours in the last 52 weeks, then you will not be eligible. Now there are 2 scenarios: one is the quarantine scenario. If you are in quarantine because of your own trip, recent trip or exposure to coronavirus or because of a family member, then you are able to get 2 weeks of employment insurance benefits through, E.I. illness program.  For that you do not require a doctor’s note or medical certificate.  But, if you need to extend the quarantine for longer than 2 weeks, then you would require a certificate from a physician.

Now with respect to illness, if you are ill or you have to stay in quarantine for longer than 2 weeks, then as I indicated, you will require a medical certificate. The illness benefits under the Employment Insurance Act can be up to 15 weeks and the income that you earn during the illness program is 55 percent of your income—up to a maximum of $573.00 per week. It comes out to be about, if you’re earning about $52,400.00 annually, then that’s what you get for $573.00 per week, but not more than that.

  • Let’s talk about temporary layoff. A temporary layoff happens when there is shortage of work, for whatever reason at your workplace and the employer is temporarily laying you off. Your employment is not terminated. Temporary layoff is not the same as termination of employment.  So an employee can be laid off temporarily from his or her employment for up to 13 weeks in 20 consecutive weeks.  That is one scenario or it could be longer than that.  It could be up to 35 weeks in 52 consecutive weeks.  There is specific requirement to be entitled to 35 weeks of temporary layoff and those are stipulated in Employment Standards Act.

Now just as a side note, not every employee can be temporarily laid off. An employer does not have an automatic right under Employment Standards Act to temporarily lay off employees. That right needs to be specified in the individual employment contract of that employee. If your employment contract does not stipulate that your employment can temporarily be laid off, then your employer does not have the right to temporarily lay you off and your temporary layoff maybe considered termination, depending upon the circumstances.

With respect to eligibility, it’s quite similar to the eligibility for regular benefits.  Obviously you should be working for an employer who pays premium on your behalf for employment insurance benefits and then your insurable hours can range from 420 to 700 hours depending upon the area that you live in. These are different hours.

  • The third kind of benefits are caregiver benefits. Now there are 3 kinds of caregiving benefits; (i) family caregiver for children, (ii) family caregiver for adults and then (iii) compassionate care giver benefits. For family caregiver for children, the child has to be under 18 years of age. The person should be either critically ill or injured. Under certain circumstances of Corona virus, the person can be considered critically ill. The benefits can be up to 35 weeks and then the person, you don’t have to be related to that person who is ill, as long as that person considers you family and you don’t need to be living with that person to be a family caregiver. With respect to family care benefits for adults. Now the adult has to be 18 years or over.  The benefits are up to 15 weeks and again you don’t have to be related to that person. With respect to compassionate care, this applies only if you are looking after someone for their end-of-life care and age is not relevant and the benefits are up to 26 weeks.
  • The last category is a work sharing program. This is a specific program under the Employment Insurance Act; there is a 3 way agreement essentially in this program. The agreement is between employer, employee and Service Canada. All 3 of the parties have to agree to work sharing program. The essential goal of this program is to avoid temporarily laying off employees.  Essentially in this program if you are approved / if your company is approved for work sharing programs and you as an employee have signed up for the program, then essentially you work reduced hours and you share all of the work with other employees who are in that program. There is more detail about this work sharing program that I will include in a separate lecture.

Hopefully this gives you a sense of some of the benefits that are available under Employment Insurance Act. Obviously there are specific requirements with respect to each category of benefits so please make sure to check the Employment Insurance Canada website, the Service Canada website or contact their phone number.  In the following lectures I will try to cover the Corona Virus issues with respect to Employment Standards Act, Privacy Act and human rights issues. I also wanted to mention some of the measures taken by Government of Canada with respect to illness benefits. 

There is a posting on the Government of Canada website, which is entitled “Canada’s Covid Economic Response Plan”. You can Google it. In here you will see that, the Canadian government is introducing emergency care benefits, which will be introduced. The legislation is still not approved, but it will be done hopefully by April and under these emergency care benefits people will be entitled to $900.00 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks. This is a flat payment.  This would apply to people who are self-employed and people who otherwise will not qualify for sickness benefits. Similarly for individuals, including self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with covid and they are not entitled to E.I. sickness benefits or people who will not earn any employment income because they are taking care of their children who are at home due to school or daycare closures.

Please bookmark this page and keep an eye on it. It will have further information about this and you will see that emergency care benefits are expected to be approved by early April 2020.

Thank you for watching.

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