Employment Insurance (EI) is a government insurance plan for workers, which used to be called Unemployment Insurance (UI). Most workers pay into EI from their income, and employers also pay into EI on behalf of their employees. People who are self-employed can register and contribute to EI. People who have paid into EI may be eligible to collect EI benefits if they stop working.
There are two types of EI benefits:
- EI Regular Benefits for people who have stopped working but are available and looking for work or are in approved training (EI regular benefits are not available to people who are self-employed).
- EI Special Benefits:
- sickness benefits for people who have stopped working because of illness or disability.
- pregnancy/maternity and parental benefits for people who are having or adopting a child.
- compassionate care benefits for people who are taking time off work to care for a family member or close friend who is seriously ill.
- benefits for parents of critically ill children who take time off to care for a critically ill or injured child.
People who are self employed are not eligible for regular benefits but may be eligible for special benefits. If you are self-employed, it is a good idea to get legal advice before you decide to make contributions to EI.
EI only provides money, it does not provide prescription drugs or other benefits. For information about Ontario Drug Benefit programs, please visit our Ontario Drug Programs page.
EI has a “Family Supplement” for families with children and low incomes. Usually, you should apply for EI within 4 weeks of stopping work or you might get fewer payments. The rules about EI can be complicated so you should get legal advice.
If you do not agree with an EI decision, you have 30 days to start the first stage of the appeal process. You should get legal advice before you appeal an EI decision (see Getting Legal Help below).
You can get more Employment Insurance information from the Government of Canada: toll-free telephone 1-800-206-7218, TTY toll-free 1-800-529-3742, www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/index.html.
Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) has two booklets about Employment Insurance available on the CLEO website and in print:
- Employment Insurance: www.cleo.on.ca/en/publications/emplns.
- Pregnancy and Parental Leaves and Benefits: www.cleo.on.ca/en/publications/pregparnt.
Getting Legal Help
The law can be very complicated so if you have a question or problem, we recommend that you get legal advice about your situation:
- People living with HIV in Ontario can contact us for free legal advice.
- You can contact your local community legal clinic to find out about services in your community. You can find your local community legal clinic as well as specialty legal clinics using the Legal Aid Ontario website: https://www.legalaid.on.ca/services/legal-clinics/.