Employment Insurance and the Self-Employed

As an addendum to my last blog on EI benefits I realized that I had better explain the EI benefits available to the self-employed.  The truth is the benefits are extremely limited and are NOT the same as you get when you are an employee and lose your job.  In fact, in my opinion the “benefits” are kind of a joke.  You have to jump through a lot of hoops, and I suspect actually trying to claim them would be similar to making a WCB claim for being hurt (that is to say extremely frustrating).  All you have to do is read the first few sentences on the website to see they are called “special benefits”, which means there are only special circumstances under which you will be able to collect any benefits.

Below are some excerpts from the Service Canada Website (why re-create the wheel right?).  I have also provided a direct link to the actual website so you can view examples and get information on cost, should you be silly enough to disagree with me and think paying into EI for the benefits available is a good idea.


What are EI special benefits?

  • Maternity benefits are for mothers who give birth. These benefits cover the period surrounding the child's birth (up to 15 weeks).
  • Parental benefits are for any parent (mother or father) to care for their newborn or newly adopted child or children. Either parent can receive benefits, or they can share benefits between them (up to 35 weeks).
  • Sickness benefits are for people who cannot work due to injury, illness, or the need to be isolated in quarantine because they may be carrying a disease (up to 15 weeks).
  • Compassionate care benefits are for people who must be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is seriously ill with a significant risk of death (up to 26 weeks). The 26 weeks of benefits can be shared between different family members who applied and are eligible to receive them.
  • Parents of critically ill children benefits are for parents who must be away from work to care for or support their critically ill or injured child. Either parent can receive benefits or they can share benefits between them (up to 35 weeks).

How much money will You receive?

If you are eligible for EI special benefits, you can expect to receive 55% of your average weekly earnings up to a defined annual limit. In 2015, you can receive up to $524 per week, based on the maximum insurable earnings of $49,500 for that year.

The amount of your benefits may decrease if you continue to work or if your business generates earnings while you are collecting EI special benefits.


As I stated above I don’t think the potential benefits are worth the cost (In fact I think the idea is misleading).  There is NO protection against income interruption (being laid off) such as is occurring right now in Alberta, so calling it EI is misleading as it is really limited insurance against medical problems you or your family may encounter.  If you are self-employed, and want to protect yourself it is time to start saving, budgeting and planning for the future.  EI is NOT the answer and will NOT protect you in the way most people think that it should.