EI Benefits and COVID-19: Do I get paid if I self-isolate, quarantine, or stay home with kids?
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
March 18, 2020 UPDATE: The Federal Government made significant announcements today, including the creation of a new Emergency Care Benefit or Emergency Support Benefit.
The information below relates primarily to EI entitlements, but if you do not qualify for EI, you will likely qualify for the new Emergency Care Benefit or Emergency Support Benefit. Click here to learn more.
Summary - Will I Get Paid if I Stay Home?
ASSUMING YOU HAVE MET ALL OTHER ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA (described below), then the short answer is currently as follows:
If you choose to self-isolate, you likely will not qualify for EI benefits;
If you stay home with the kids while schools are closed, you likely will not qualify for EI;
If you are ordered quarantined by a doctor or healthcare professional, you probably qualify for EI;
If your employer has been shut down due to the Declaration of Emergency this morning, you likely qualify for EI;
If your employer has otherwise voluntarily shut down operations and sent you home, you probably qualify for EI.
However, the situation is very fluid, and both the Provincial and Federal Governments have announced that they are "looking at changes." In an interview this morning, Trudeau stated that "the government will introduce measures such as employment insurance supports and direct income supports for those who don't qualify for employment insurance." He announced a further $27bn in funding for the creation of a new Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support benefit for those who do not qualify for EI. Click here to learn more about these benefits.
If you are self-isolating or staying home to care for your children, you need to understand that there is a difference between receiving EI benefits and protections from being fired (terminated). While you may not currently qualify for Employment benefits for self-isolation or staying home with the kids, you may be protected from being fired (terminated) by your employer. This means that while you may not receive EI, you are entitled to return to work after the crises resolves. For more information on protections from being fired, refer to this blog post.
How Employment Insurance Normally Works
To understand whether you will qualify for Employment Benefits for self-isolation, being in quarantine, or staying home with the children, you have to understand how Employment Insurance normally works. For our purposes, Employment Insurance offers two types of benefits: Sick Pay, and Regular Benefits (for Job Loss).
(1) Sick Pay
In normal circumstances, Employment Insurance (also called "EI") provides sick pay for up to 15 weeks for eligible employees who are unable to work because of illness or injury. To qualify for sick pay you have to submit an application and demonstrate that:
You were unable to work for medical reasons;
Your regular weekly earnings from work had decreased by more than 40% for at least one week; and
Your accumulated 600 insured hours (for example, 20 weeks of work at 30 hours a week) in the 52 weeks before the start of your claim, or since the start of your last claim, whichever is shorter.
You can read more about sick pay by clicking here.
(2) Regular Benefits (for Job Loss)
EI also covers individuals who lose their jobs through no fault of their own (for example, due to shortages of work, lay-offs, or seasonal work ending). To qualify for Regular Benefits, you have to demonstrate that you:
Were employed in insurable employment (meaning your employer and you were paying EI premiums);
Lost your job through no fault of your own;
Have been without work and without pay for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks
Have worked for the required number of insurable employment hours (this varies by region from 595 - 720 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; and
Are actively looking for work (you must keep a written record of employers you contact).
These "general" criteria are changed for certain industries, such as farmers, fishers, teachers, and self-employed people. You can read more about Regular Benefits by clicking here.
One Week Wait Period - Different from Processing Time
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, whether you applied for Sick Pay or Regular Benefits, there was a one week waiting period. This meant that after your claim was approved, you would not receive pay for the first week after you were off work.
NOTE that this is different from the processing time, which is how long it takes for a Service Canada case worker to review your application and either approve or deny it. Normally, the process of reviewing and approving or denying your application could take anywhere from 2-6 weeks (or longer, if Service Canada is dealing with a lot of applications). If approved, you would then receive a lump sum as back-pay, dating back to 1 week after you were off work, and you would receive ongoing pay until you return to work.
Amount You Can Receive While on EI
The amount you will receive while on EI is determined by a complex formula. The formula takes into account: (1) how many hours you have worked without receiving employment insurance; and (2) the Regional Unemployment Rate (how many people are on unemployment in your region). It's therefore impossible to say how much you will receive until your application is processed.
However, for most people, the basic rate is 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum yearly insured amount of $54,200. This means that most people will receive a maximum amount of $573.00 per week (NOTE: this is the maximum amount, so you may receive less).
You can read more about how much you could receive by clicking here.
Changes to the EI Program
A few days ago, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a few changes to this program. The changes might not be as widespread as you think. While no legislation has been tabled, the Prime Minister did announce the following:
The 1-week waiting period will be waived for those applying for Sick Benefits due to quarantine or self-isolation;
Setting aside a $5million fund to cover the cost of waiving the 1-week waiting period.
The Federal Government is "exploring" other measures to support those who are not otherwise eligible for Sick Pay or Regular Benefits; and
The Federal Government is "looking at" waiving the requirement for a medical certificate to get Sick Pay.
Currently, the only concrete change is the waiving of the 1-week waiting period. This means that if you are required to go into quarantine, you will be eligible to receive pay for the whole 14 day quarantine, instead of just 1 week. PLEASE NOTE that the 1-week waiting period is different from processing time (as described above). It does NOT mean that you will immediately receive your payment for time off.
In the normal course, to qualify for Sick Pay, you are required to demonstrate that you are unable to work for medical reasons. This is typically done with a medical certificate. While the Government announced that they are "looking at" other options, it is not currently clear whether you would be required to present a medical certificate for self-isolation or quarantine to receive benefits.
CLP Law remains available to answer any questions or concerns. Feel free to reach out to us by logging in and commenting below, via email, phone, or through our website's online contact form.
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Related Questions and Posts:
I can't get EI. Will I still get paid if I stay home. Click here to find out more.
Do I have to pay my mortgages and bills if I lost my job, or if I'm in self-isolation, quarantine, or staying home to watch my kids? Click here to find out more.
Can my employer fire me if I have to stay home to self-isolate, quarantine, or watch my kids? Click here to find out more.
I am a business owner. What supports will I have to stay open and meet payroll? Click here to find out more.
(DISCLAIMER: This post does not constitute legal advice. It is meant to provide you some general information about eligibility for Employment Benefits. Every person has unique circumstances, which requires individual assessment to determine whether you qualify. Contact our office if you have questions or want a better understanding of whether you qualify.)