Employment Insurance Benefits for Self-Employed People

Since 2011, self-employed Canadians have been 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 have been eligible to access the EI special benefits since 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 are required to voluntary opt into the Program at least one year prior to claiming benefits. Premium payments begin in the tax year in which they enrolled in the EI Program. The program started January 1, 2010. Claims could be made beginning January 1, 2011. Register to participate in the EI program through “my service Canada account.”

Self-employed individuals need to have earned a minimum of $6,222 in 2011 of self-employed earnings to access the 2012 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 $840 in 2012). 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 can also choose to apply for the federal program mentioned above.

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