Although the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”) ended on October 3, 2020, many Canadians still find themselves in need of financial assistance due to the impact of COVID-19.

As a result, changes have been implemented to make Employment Insurance (“EI”) benefits more accessible. These changes are anticipated to be in effect for one year starting September 27, 2020.

Under the revised EI program, Canadians who were on CERB will receive $500 per week, the same amount they had received on CERB.

Canadians can also work while on EI and earn up to a maximum of $38,000 annually.

If a Canadian received CERB through Service Canada, in order to receive EI, most will not have to apply. However in order to continue receiving benefits, Canadians are required to continue completing reports to demonstrate their eligibility.

If a Canadian does not qualify for EI, they will be notified by mail. Those that will need to reapply include those who have a SIN that starts with a 9, those who are self-employed, and those who declared that they returned to full-time work on their CERB report.

If a Canadian received CERB through the Canada Revenue Agency (the “CRA”),  they will need to apply for EI.

Canadians may be eligible for EI If the following criteria are met:

  • did not leave their employment voluntarily;
  • for regular EI benefits, they must be ready, willing, and capable to work each day;
  • for EI maternity, parental, sickness, compassionate care, and family caregiver benefits the individual must be unable to work due to providing care for someone else; and
  • employed for at least 120 insurable hours in the past year (however, if an individual received CERB, the period to accumulate insured hours will be increased).

On October 2, 2020, the COVID-19 Response Measures Act, SC 2020, c 12 was passed, creating three new recovery benefits in an attempt to fill gaps in the EI program. It had been unclear whether this bill would be passed and Canadians would receive the three new recovery benefits. These benefits are now retroactive to September 27, 2020 and will be available for one year, ending September 25, 2021. The three new benefits are as follows:

  • The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit will provide $500 weekly for up to two weeks to workers who are unable to work at least half of the week for multiple reasons related to COVID-19, including contracting COVID-19 and self-isolating due to COVID-19.
  • The Canada Recovery Benefit provides Canadians $500 per week for up to 26 weeks if they have stopped working, are not eligible for EI, or have had their income reduced by at least 50% as a result of COVID-19.
  • The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit provides $500 weekly for up to 26 weeks for Canadians who are unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they must care for an individual whose school or care facility is closed due to COVID-19, the individual they care for is sick or required to quarantine, or the individual they care for is particularly susceptible to poor outcomes from COVID-19. Only one household member may collect this benefit.

It is clear that COVID-19 has had a lasting impact on the finances and employment of many Canadians. It is hoped that the transition from EI to CERB will be seamless and provide Canadians with the financial assistance they require.  At the same time, it is hoped that the benefits will not hinder the transition back to work for employees who have been given the option of returning to their workplace.


Deanna Froese, Harper Grey LLP, published on Lexology.com on Oct. 7, 2020

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