Eligibility criteria

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To be entitled to receive regular EI benefits, I need to have lost my employment through no fault of my own. What does this mean?

If we consider that you are responsible for the loss of your employment, you may not be entitled to receive EI benefits. Here are a few examples of situations in which you may be considered to have been responsible for the loss of your employment:

  • you left your employment voluntarily and without just cause (you did not consider all the reasonable alternatives available to you to keep your job);
  • you were dismissed for misconduct (it was determined that you voluntarily or deliberately committed an inappropriate action, a violation, or professional misconduct); or
  • you are unemployed as a result of a labour dispute in which you participated, whether it is a strike, a lockout, or other type of dispute.

However, we may consider that you are not responsible for the loss of your employment if:

  • your employer ended your employment, but it was not as a result of misconduct on your part; or
  • you left your employment for reasons that could be considered just cause for leaving the employment (for example, harassment, discrimination, or dangerous working conditions).

In these cases, you may be entitled to receive regular benefits if you meet the eligibility criteria.

Need more information on these situations? See the “Additional information” section on Section 2.

How many hours of insurable employment do I need to qualify for regular benefits?

It depends on your situation. However, in all cases, the hours of insurable employment that are used to calculate your benefit period must have been accumulated during your qualifying period.

What is the qualifying period?

The qualifying period is the shorter of:

  • the 52-week period immediately before the start date of your claim; or
  • the period from the start of a previous benefit period to the start of your new benefit period, if you applied for benefits earlier and your application was approved in the last 52 weeks.

Exception: In some cases, the qualifying period may be extended to a maximum of 104 weeks if you were not employed in insurable employment or if you were not receiving EI benefits.

You will need to have accumulated between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment during the qualifying period to be entitled to receive EI regular benefits.

The number of hours of insurable employment required is determined when you apply for benefits, depending on the following:

  • your place of residence; and
  • the unemployment rate for your region.

What do you mean by “ready, willing, and capable of working each day”?

To receive EI benefits, you need to show that you are ready, willing, and capable of working each day.

Being “ready to work” means that your conduct shows your desire to work, but you have been unable to find a job.

Being “willing to work” means that you are actively seeking and willing to accept all types of work that your abilities, skills, training, or experience enable you to do. The wages you are expected to accept may vary depending on your past usage of the EI program and the length of your unemployment.

Being “capable of working” means that you are, first of all, able to work. Ability to work is characterized by the physical and mental strength required to perform the duties of an employment under the same conditions as workers who usually do that type of work.

What about if you leave your employment voluntarily but you believe you have valid reasons for doing so?

You may have excellent reasons for leaving your employment voluntarily, but this does not mean that you have just cause for leaving your employment. Before deciding to leave your employment, you should always analyze the problem and use the measures or reasonable alternatives available to you to fix the situation. If you leave your employment without considering all the measures or reasonable alternatives available to you, you will need to explain why you did not consider these measures or reasonable alternatives.

Depending on the circumstances, the reasons listed below may be just cause for leaving your employment voluntarily:

  • you are a victim of sexual or other harassment, or you are a victim of discrimination because you belong to an association, organization, or union of workers;
  • you need to accompany your spouse or dependent child to another residence;
  • you are a victim of discrimination;
  • your working conditions are dangerous to your health and safety;
  • you need to care for a child or a member of your immediate family;
  • you have reasonable assurance of another employment in the immediate future;
  • your wages or salary have been significantly changed, or your employment conditions have changed to the extent that they have significantly impacted your wages or salary;
  • you are asked to work an unreasonable amount of overtime or your employer refuses to pay you for the overtime work;
  • your duties have changed significantly;
  • you experience antagonism with a supervisor, and you are not primarily responsible for the antagonism;
  • your employer has certain practices that are contrary to law; or
  • you are unduly pressured by your employer or your co-workers to leave your employment.

If your employer is permanently reducing its work force and offers you the option of leaving your job to protect the job of a co-worker, we consider that you had just cause for leaving your employment voluntarily. However, the company you work for must show that the downsizing is permanent and that your resignation allowed the company to protect the job of another employee. If your employer gives you the option of leaving your job within the context of a work-force reduction, it is best to first consult with Service Canada before making a decision. You should not assume that you will automatically be entitled to receive benefits.

Other reasonable circumstances may be considered to be just cause for leaving an employment voluntarily. However, while you may be considered to have just cause for leaving your employment in certain situations, there may be doubts as to your availability for work. An example of this is a person who leaves an employment to look after a child or a member of the person’s family. If you are not sure whether you can establish just cause for leaving your employment voluntarily and your availability for work, contact us for more information.