How many hours can you work while on EI?

In Canada, the federal government offers the employment insurance program to unemployed workers. The program aims to temporarily support your income if you are out of work. May it be due to a lay off or shortage of work. However, if you are working while claiming employment insurance, you may be wondering, how many hours can you work while on EI? If you are eligible under the Canadian EI program, you can still work part-time while receiving partial EI benefits. But once you become a full-time worker, your EI benefits will most likely cease. In this article, we will discuss how EI works. Plus, the golden question, how many hours you can work while on EI in Canada. Continue reading to learn more!

How many hours can you work while on EI

What is Employment Insurance?

The employment insurance program, or just EI for short, is a government program that provides income support to unemployed workers looking for jobs or those out of work for certain reasons. It was first introduced in Canada in 1940 and administered as part of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)

As a Canadian, you are eligible for EI if you can provide proof that you lost your job. At the time of applying, you should not hold employment. Normally, proof of unemployment is complete through a Record of Employment (ROE). You may become a recipient of EI if you:

  • Are ill or caring for a critically ill or injured person.
  • Are unable to work due to other medical reasons.
  • Have lost your job unintentionally and in most cases, due to layoffs, shortage of work, or seasonal work.
  • Are out of work for at least a week.
  • Are in search of a job and ready to work each day.
  • Have earned at least 420 hours of insurable employment.

Note that self-employed workers may also participate in EI and receive special benefits. In cases where you lose your job due to no fault of yours, you can file an EI claim immediately. You may lose these benefits if you file a claim weeks after your last day as a worker.

If you are receiving EI, you need to be actively looking for a job. However, if you get a job that pays less than the former job position, you may still be eligible to receive a portion of your EI benefit. According to the CRA, you will be allowed to keep 50 cents for every dollar you make until you reach 90% of your previous salary earnings.

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What would cause you to not receive full EI benefits?

Apart from finding a part-time job, other circumstances can cause you not to receive full EI benefits. They include:

  • If you have an EI or other benefits related debt. Such as a back pay from an extra CERB payment that was not made. This may affect the amount of EI benefits you are eligible to receive. In some cases, your EI benefits are reduced to 50% of what you are eligible for to enable you to clear the debts.
  • If you owe money to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Any taxes that are owed to a government, whether they are federal or provincial, can be deducted from any EI payments that you are eligible to receive. This very much reduces your chances of receiving your full EI benefit.
  • In some cases, the Department of Justice can take from your EI earnings for any form of court order. This would most likely be a little portion and not the full EI benefits.
  • Social assistance is a great way to take an advance. But it can also be deducted if they are not paid back on time.
  • If you quit your job, as opposed to being laid off or your employer has a shortage of work. The only exception is if you had no other choice but to quit your job. May it be for poor working conditions, unfair employment practices, or a similar reason.

How many hours can you work while on EI?

In Canada, full-time work will require you to spend more than 40 hours per week. So, if you want to remain a recipient of the weekly EI benefits, you simply must only work less than 40 hours per week. Once you work for more than 40 hours in a week, your benefits will stop.

Note that if you are working for a full week, you will not qualify to receive the EI program special benefits. To prove your eligibility and remain a recipient of the EI payments, you need to submit an EI report every two weeks and on time.

Can you get EI and work part-time?

Yes. If you are a recipient of the EI program in Canada, you can still work part-time. This means working less than 40 hours a week. In Canada, part time work is often classified as 20 hours a week, but it could be less or more depending on the agreement you have with the employer. However, you will only have access to partial EI benefits if you choose to work.

As earlier mentioned, you can retain 50 cents of your EI benefits, which makes for 90% of your weekly insurable earnings. If you exceed 90%, you will experience a deduction from your EI benefits.

A part-time job will help with your expenses while allowing you to access your EI benefits. If you are looking for a good part-time employment opportunity to earn some more cash while still receiving EI benefits, take a look at some of the best online part-time jobs to apply for.

Related Reading: What to Know About Being Self Employed

Can I take a vacation while on EI?

Yes. It’s possible to take a vacation while on EI. Contrary to several rumors that say you are not allowed to go on vacation while on EI, you are permitted to as long as you state your absence or unavailability for work in your EI report.

Although, it will affect the amount of the benefit you receive. When you state your unavailability for the week you were on vacation, the EI system will simply not pay your benefit for that week. If you were on vacation for three days, say Monday to Wednesday, your EI benefit for the three days are payable.

Generally, if you are away from Canada, you are not qualified for regular EI benefits. However, if you inform Service Canada that you are available for work but temporarily away, you may still access your El benefits. In addition, you should be able to prove that you are still looking for employment actively despite being on vacation.

You can be outside Canada for a full week for the following reasons and still receive full benefits:

  • If you are attending the funeral of a close member of your family or a relative;
  • Visiting a member of your immediate family who is seriously ill or injured? If yes, you can take a getaway for this purpose;
  • If you are accompanying a member of your close family or relative to a medical facility. In such cases, the treatment is not available in the family member’s place of residence in Canada;
  • Are you attending a bona fide job interview? This reason also allows you to take a vacation, pending the duration of the interview.

If you explain that you can be reachable if a job opportunity presents itself during your vacation and can return to Canada within two days, Service Canada will accept your proof of availability. However, the service system will put your claim on pause for proper assessment upon your availability request outside of Canada.

Note that each EI claim has one total entitlement week and two expiry dates. For instance, if you decide to go on a two-week vacation on the 20th week and have entitlement to receive 37 weeks of EI benefits. In such a case, you will have to return on a Sunday and be available for work the following Monday. This implies that you will collect your 21st payment after you return from your two-week vacation.

True, your payment timeline may be pushed down by two weeks. But you will need to ensure you collect your total entitlement weeks before the expiry date of your EI (52 weeks). Any unpaid EI benefit will not be payable beyond the expiry date of your claim.

It is important to note that the system for the assessment of your vacation claim has the right to freeze your claim for security reasons if you stay beyond four consecutive weeks. When you return, you must re-activate your claim (same procedure for filing your first online application). 

Once the system re-activates it after recognizing you have an unexpired claim, you can continue working while on EI. However, it may take 21 business days for it to be up and running again.

Ensure that you often visit and refresh the reporting site to know when you can start reporting. Start as soon as possible because the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) can share your travel history with the EI processing center.

Related Reading: 20 Things to Do in Retirement

Is it worth working while on EI?

Now that we’ve resolved the question, how many hours can you work while on EI, is it worth it? Let’s talk about it! 

Whether working while on EI is worth it or not depends on your situation. If you are not certain you can keep working while under an EI program, then it just might be a good idea since it’s usually difficult to access your claim. Such a decision will not use up your yearly EI hours, however, if you can continue working then it’s a good idea to end your claim.

EI benefits are a great temporary source of income for those searching for jobs, out of work, ill, or injured from a job. However, if you’re solely depending on EI benefits to pay your bills, then you may fall hard and fast. Go through some of the part-time jobs that will allow you access to these benefits and extra money on the side.

Read More: How much tax is deducted from my pay?

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