Employees gripe about deductions for employment insurance (EI) premiums taken directly from their paycheque, yet few know when and how they can apply for payment of EI benefits.
Eligibility for EI (formerly called “unemployment insurance”) has three simple rules: You must go without work or pay for at least seven consecutive days; you must have worked enough hours during the qualifying period; and you must suffer an interruption of earnings through no fault of your own. But just because you are eligible does not mean you will be granted benefits.
In my practice I’m frequently consulted by former or current employees looking to secure benefits for a period of unemployment. While each situation is unique, by following these rules, you will be paid benefits more often than not:
Do not delay. If you wait longer than four weeks to submit your claim, the government may deny it, regardless of your eligibility or entitlement.
Request a record of employment. To complete an application, you need a record of employment, issued by your employer or ex-employer. Although employers have a legal duty to provide the form shortly after any disruption of earnings, not all do so promptly and some don’t do it at all. Therefore, be prepared to present proof of employment in your application. You may be asked to provide pay stubs, cancelled paycheques, T4 slips, or work schedules.
Challenge allegations of misconduct. An employee who was fired for misconduct is disentitled to EI. However, just because an employer alleges misconduct existed, doesn’t necessarily make it so.
Don’t resign without legal advice. Employees who resign without a legitimate reason are not entitled to collect EI. Legitimate reasons include a harassing or intolerable work environment, a serious and negative change in working conditions or a substantial decrease in pay.
Remain ready, willing and able to work. You are only entitled to benefits for when you are capable and available for work. If you take a holiday, don’t look for suitable work or refuse an offer of suitable employment, you may be disentitled to benefits.
Don’t forget to appeal. If you disagree with a determination or believe you are entitled to benefits that have been withheld, you have the legal right to appeal the decision.