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Recent Changes to EI for Self-Employed

Self-Employed people have always lived with the fact that they have less financial security than a regular, employed person due largely to the fact that self-employed individuals did not qualify for Employment Insurance Benefits for periods when they were unable to work.

In November 2009, the Government of Canada introduced the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act to address some of these concerns.  In brief, this is what the Act provides:

  • maternity benefits (15 weeks maximum), which are available to birth mothers and cover the period surrounding birth (a claim can start up to 8 weeks before the expected birth date);
  • parental/adoptive benefits (35 weeks maximum), which are available to biological or adoptive parents while they are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, and may be taken by either parent or shared between them (if parents choose to share these benefits, only one waiting period must be served);
  • sickness benefits (15 weeks maximum), which may be paid to a person who is unable to work because of sickness, injury or quarantine; and
  • compassionate care benefits (6 weeks maximum), which may be paid to persons who need to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is gravely ill with a significant risk of death.

There are, however,  certain qualifications that must be met to be able to access these benefits. For example, you must have earned at least $ 6,000 in self-employment earnings in the preceding year. Entry into the program is voluntary.  Also, if you have not made one of the above claims while on the Self-Employment EI Plan, you may opt-out at the end of any tax year. However, here’s the catch: make a claim and you must stay enrolled for as long as you are self-employed.

One last thing. Note the exclusion of EI for “lack of work” for the self-employed. A self-employed individual can not “lay themselves off” due to a lack of work and collect EI. No “EI Ski-Team” benefits for us  >.<

For more information, check out the link above or contact me and I will try to fill in some of the gaps.


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