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Employment Insurance (EI) and Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) – COVID-19

SHOULD I APPLY FOR EI OR CERB? According to Service Canada, if you have stopped working because of COVID-19 you should apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, whether or not you are eligible for Employment Insurance. The Benefit is available for the period from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020.

As of April 6, 2020, there is a single portal to assist you with the application process. You can apply here.

From this portal, you will then be guided through your responses to a few simple questions to complete the application best suited to you (i.e. eligibility for Employment Insurance benefits or not).

Canadians who are eligible for Employment Insurance and who have lost their job can continue to apply for Employment Insurance.

If you became eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits on March 15, 2020 or later, your claim will be automatically processed through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

WHAT IS EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE (EI)? Employment Insurance provides income replacement when employees lose their jobs through no fault of their own. This can include layoffs or shortage of work, or in our current circumstances EI is available to those affected by COVID-19. There are two types of EI benefits that may apply in this case, as well as a special subsection of EI Sick Benefits for those on quarantine or directed to self-isolate due to COVID-19 pandemic. 

  1. EI Regular Benefits: Applies to people who lose their jobs through no fault of their own, such as mass layoffs or a shortage of work 

  2. EI Sick Benefits: Provides up to 15 weeks of income replacement for employees unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine. 

    1. If you’re under imposed quarantined or directed to self-isolate due to COVID-19, you can apply for sickness benefits under a dedicated hotline.

HOW DOES IT WORK?  While the percentage of money you can receive varies from person to person, according to the federal government. For most people, the basic rate for calculating EI benefits is 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount. As of January 1, 2020, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $54,200. This means that you can receive a maximum amount of $573 per week.

EI Sick Benefits can provide you with up to 15 weeks of financial assistance if you cannot work for medical reasons. Under normal circumstances you must get a medical certificate to show that you’re unable to work for medical reasons. Medical reasons include illness, injury, quarantine or any medical condition that prevents you from working. Under this program there is a 1 week waiting period, after which benefits begin for eligible recipients.

For those under Imposed Quarantine or who have been directed to Self-Isolate: 

  • Over the next six months, EI is lifting the waiting period  

  • No medical certificate from a doctor will be required

  • People who cannot complete their claim for EI sickness benefits due to quarantine may apply later and have their EI claim backdated to cover the period of delay

You may be entitled to EI Benefits (Regular and Sick Benefits) if you:

  • were employed in insurable employment;

  • lost your job through no fault of your own;

  • have been without work and without pay for at least 7 consecutive days in the last 52 weeks;

  • have worked for the required number of insurable employment hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter;

  • are ready, willing and capable of working each day;

  • are actively looking for work 

  • you are not entitled to EI if you were dismissed from your job for misconduct, quit voluntarily, are in jail or are participating in a strike


  1. Ensure your employer has completed a Record of Employment. These can now be submitted electronically by your employer directly to Service Canada. If you receive a paper copy, have this on hand.

    1. Visit and choose the right type of benefits:  - Regular Benefits: Layoffs - Sick Benefits: Illness, injury, or quarantine

    2. Review your eligibility.

    3. If you are eligible, fill in the application for the appropriate benefits. If you are directly affected by the COVID-19 because you are sick or quarantined and you have not yet applied for EI benefits, please submit your application before contacting them. This will allow them to better serve you and prevent delays in establishing your claim. 

    4. For COVID-19 eligible employees: Once you have completed the application for EI sickness benefits and you would like to have the one-week waiting period waived, call the new toll-free phone number below. It is important to note that no other request will be actioned on this phone line. They will take action only for sick or quarantined clients affected by the COVID-19 for which the application for sickness benefits has been filed. Telephone: 1-833-381-2725 (toll-free) Teletypewriter (TTY): 1-800-529-3742

Note that it can take about an hour to apply, and the sooner you can send in your application the better. EI will be facing delays in processing with a very high volume of people needing their assistance during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

If you are experiencing symptoms such as cough, fever, difficulty breathing or you are in self-isolation or quarantine, do not visit or enter any Service Canada office.  As an alternative, you may access our services online or by calling 1 800 O-Canada. 



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