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Nelligan O’Brien Payne gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Kris Ade, Student-at-Law in writing this blog post.

Missing work because of an illness or injury can take not only a personal toll, but also a financial one. Fortunately, if you are unable to work, you may be eligible for sickness benefits provided through the Employment Insurance program.

sick leave

What is the EI Sickness Benefit?

Canada’s Employment Insurance program provides individuals with temporary financial assistance when they are out of work. This assistance includes “sickness benefits” to support individuals who would otherwise be able to work were it not for an illness or injury.

Who is eligible for the EI Sickness Benefit?

If an illness or injury is preventing you from working, you can apply for the EI Sickness Benefit so long as you:

  • Are employed in an insurable environment;
  • Have had your normal weekly earnings reduced by more than 40% due to illness or injury; and,
  • Have accumulated at least 600 hours of insurable employment during the qualifying period.

You will also need to obtain a medical certificate signed by a doctor or approved medical practitioner (which includes a chiropractor) attesting to your illness or injury.

What is the qualifying period?

According to the Government of Canada, you need to have accumulated at least 600 hours of insurable employment during the qualifying period. The Government of Canada calculates the qualifying period as the shorter of:

  • The 52-week period immediately before the start date of your EI claim; or
  • The period from the start of a previous EI benefit period to the start of your new EI benefit period (if you applied for benefits earlier and your application was approved in the last 52 weeks).

How much is the EI Sickness Benefit?

Since January 1, 2018, the amount that individuals may receive in EI Sickness Benefits is $547 per week for a maximum of 15 weeks. This is dependent on their total earnings before deductions during the 14 to 22 weeks during which they made the most money in the qualifying period.

For most people, the EI Sickness Benefit amounts to 55% of their average insurable weekly earnings based on maximum annual insurable earnings of $51,700.

Individuals with a net family income of $25,921 or less who have children and a spouse receiving the Canada Child Tax Benefit may also be eligible for the Family Supplement. In such circumstances, the EI Sickness Benefit may amount to as much as 80% of average insurable weekly earnings.

How to apply for the EI Sickness Benefit?

Individuals may apply for EI Sickness Benefits online through the Government of Canada website (see details below). It is important to apply as soon as possible after stopping work; delaying an application for more than four weeks may result in a loss of benefits.

If you are eligible, in addition to supplying the necessary personal information, you will also need to provide the following employment information to complete your application:

  • The names and addresses of all employers you worked for in the last 52 weeks, as well as the dates of when you worked for them and why you are no longer doing so; and,
  • The dates and earnings for each of your highest paid weeks of insurable earnings in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is the shorter period.

Note that if you quit or were dismissed from a job in the last 52 weeks, you will also need to provide a detailed version of the facts leading up to your resignation or dismissal.

Things to remember

EI benefits, including the EI Sickness Benefit, are taxable, which means the required federal and provincial taxes will be deducted from your payment. Also, after you apply for EI benefits and while receiving them, you must complete and submit EI reports to get the benefits you are entitled to.

More information?

To apply for EI Sickness Benefits, visit the Government of Canada website here. For more information on what you need to do before you apply for EI Sickness Benefits, see here.

And if you have any questions about your eligibility or the process, you can contact our Employment Law Group.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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