We have done our best to explain the new EI changes, but things are changing fast. Some things are also still not clear. This information may outdated or even wrong, so do not rely on it as legal advice.

1.  What changes have been made to EI because of COVID-19?

The government has made a number of temporary changes to make it easier to qualify for EI

  • You now need fewer hours worked to qualify;
  • The minimum EI benefit is $500 each week; and
  • You will get at least 26 weeks of regular EI benefit, though you can still qualify for more.

2.  How long will these changes last?

Most of the new changes will apply to EI claims that start between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021. But some changes may end before that, so double check.

3.  How many hours do I need to qualify?

You need at least 120 hours worked for all types of EI benefits. This includes regular benefits and special benefits like sickness, pregnancy, parental, and caregiving benefits. The number of hours you need is now the same no matter where you live. The lower 120 hour rule only applies to your first EI claim on or after September 27, 2020. If you file a second EI claim, the usual rules will apply and you will need more hours.

4.  When do I have to have worked the hours?

Usually you must have worked the 120 hours you need in the last 52 weeks. But you will get an extra 28 weeks if you got the CERB (including the EI Emergency Response Benefit through Service Canada) last spring or summer. So most people transitioning from CERB to EI on September 27, 2020 can count back 80 weeks from September 27, 2020.

The extra weeks only apply to your first EI claim starting on or after September 27, 2020. If you file a second EI claim, the usual rules will apply.

5.  I was pregnant, or caring for my child, or caring for a sick family member last spring or summer but did not have 600 hours to qualify for EI. Can these changes help me?

Yes. You can apply now and your EI claim will be back dated to when you would have qualified. You will still need 120 hours worked, but not the usual 600 hours.

Make sure you apply as soon as possible. After October 31, 2020 you may have to explain why you did not apply sooner.

6.  How much will I get if I qualify for EI?

You will get 55% of your average weekly earnings or $500, whichever is higher. The most you can get is $573 each week.

7.  How does the move from CERB to EI work?

If you still have CERB benefits left to use up, you will get CERB until October 3, 2020. Then you will be transitioned to EI. If you have no CERB benefits left, you can start getting EI on September 27, 2020.

If you applied for CERB through Service Canada because you normally would have qualified for EI (in other words, your EI claim was delayed because of CERB) you should be automatically transferred to EI when your CERB is all used up.

If you applied for CERB through the Canada Revenue Agency and now want to apply for EI, you will have to file an EI application.

8.  Do I have to serve a waiting period?

Usually, EI makes you wait one week before you can start getting benefits. This is called a “waiting period”. If your claim starts on or before October 25, 2020, you do not need to serve a waiting period.

People claiming EI sickness benefits do not need to serve a waiting period, even after October 25, 2020.