Beginning in January 2011, self-employed Canadians will be able to voluntarily access Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits. There are four types of EI special benefits:
- Maternity benefits (15 weeks maximum) available to birth mothers. It covers the periods surrounding birth. A claim can be submitted up to 8 weeks before the expected date of birth;
- Parental / adoptive benefits (35 weeks maximum) available to adoptive or biological parents while they are caring for a newly adopted or newborn child. It may be taken by either parent or shared between them;
- Sickness benefits (15 weeks maximum) which may be paid to a person who cannot work because of injury, sickness, or quarantine; and
- Compassionate care benefits (6 weeks maximum), that may be paid to persons who have to be away from work temporarily to provide support or care to a family member who is gravely ill with a significant risk of death.
You may be eligible to access the EI special benefits beginning in January 2011 if you:
- Are a self-employed person; and
- Are a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada; and
- Have voluntarily entered into an agreement with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission through Service Canada.
Self-employed Canadians will be required to voluntary opt into the Program at least one year prior to claiming benefits. They will make premium payments beginning in the tax year in which they enrolled in the EI Program. The program had a start date of January 1, 2010. Claims could be made beginning January 1, 2011.
Self-employed individuals need to have earned a minimum of $6,000 in self-employed earnings during the previous year to access the EI special benefits.
Self-employed persons can opt out of the EI Program at the end of any tax year, provided they have never claimed any benefits. If a claim for benefits was made they have to continue to contribute to the EI Program on their self-employed earnings for as long as they are self-employed.
Self-employed Canadians that opt into the EI Program will pay the same EI premium as salaried employees (maximum of $747 in 2010). She or he will not be required to pay the employer’s portion of the EI premiums.
Self-employed residents of Quebec continue to receive maternity and paternal payments under the Quebec Parental Insurance Program. Self-employed Quebec residents could also choose to apply for the federal program mentioned above.