Caution: Although every effort is made to ensure that the information here is accurate, viewers should consult Service Canada's Website, which is the official source of information about Employment Insurance. Of particular interest is a section of the site entitled Employment Insurance (EI) and Teachers.


What Types of Benefits Are Available? Top of page

Regular Benefits

Regular benefits are available to teachers who have lost their job through no fault of their own, who are available and able to work, and who are unable to find work. To receive benefits, teachers must apply, must have paid EI premiums, must have been without work for at least seven consecutive days and must have worked a specified number of hours based on the unemployment rate in the area in which they live. Applicants for regular benefits must “actively seek employment” throughout a claim and keep records of their job search for EI audit purposes.

Special Benefits

There are four kinds of special EI benefits:

  1. Maternity benefits, payable to a maximum of 15 weeks.
  2. Parental/adoption benefits, payable to a maximum of 35 weeks.
  3. Sickness benefits, payable to a maximum of 15 weeks.
  4. Compassionate care benefits, payable to a maximum of 6 weeks in a 26-week period.

A special benefit period can interrupt a period of regular benefits. There are possible variations of benefit (such as combination of maternity, parental/adoption and sickness benefits). Contact EI or the Teacher Welfare to determine qualification requirements for such a combination.

Maternity Benefits

Maternity benefits are available to natural mothers, who are entitled to up to 15 weeks of benefits payable at any time (including non-teaching periods) during the period beginning eight weeks before the expected date of birth and ending 17 weeks after the week in which the birth occurred. Benefits commence after the normal two-week waiting period has been served. However, if a woman has been on paid sick leave from her school board before claiming EI maternity benefits, EI may consider the last two weeks of the sick leave as the waiting period and waive the normal waiting period. Teachers should contact an Association staff officer to discuss the most advantageous start date for their benefits and the applicability of the waiver to their circumstances. For many teachers, waiving the waiting period is not beneficial and can have negative effects.

If the woman works for a school board that has a Registered Supplementary Unemployment Benefit (SUB) plan (also known as a Registered Supplementary Employment Benefit [SEB]) in place, the school board will (during teaching periods only) top up those benefits to a maximum (depending on the plan) of 100 percent of her gross weekly salary. Teachers who receive SUB payments will not have this amount deducted from their EI benefits.

There are two types of SUB plans. Health-related SUB plans come into effect after the baby is born and cover whatever health-related leave the woman's physician orders. Fixed SUB plans are in effect for a specified number of weeks (usually no less than 13) and cover both the pre- and post-delivery periods. Because each SUB plan is slightly different, teachers should consult the Association before notifying the board of upcoming maternity leave.

Teachers planning to go on maternity leave should call the Association in any event to find out what they are entitled to under their collective agreement. The Association will provide advice so the teacher can determine the best time to apply.

A mother who claims EI maternity benefits followed by EI parental benefits is not required to serve an additional two-week waiting period before receiving parental benefits. She can also apply for both benefits at the same time.

Parental/Adoption Benefits

Natural and adoptive parents can collect up to 35 weeks of benefits while they are caring for their newborn or adopted child. The benefits can be paid to the mother only, the father only or (if both parents are eligible) shared between them. If benefits are shared, there will be only one two-week waiting period. Parental benefits may be claimed any time during the one-year period following, in the case of a natural child, the birth of the child or, in the case of an adoption, the child’s arrival at home.

Since August 5, 2012 and until August 1, 2015, individuals receiving parental/adoption benefits will be able to keep 50 cents of their EI benefits for every dollar earned, up to 90% of the weekly insurable earnings used to calculate the EI benefit amount. This 90% amount is called the earnings threshold. If you earn any money above this threshold, EI will deduct it dollar for dollar from your benefits.

To claim a parental benefit, teachers should submit an online application form, a Record of Employment, an adoption or birth certificate, and a written declaration of their intent to stay at home to care for the child.

Sickness Benefits

Teachers who, because of illness, are unable to earn regular pay may claim EI benefits for up to 15 weeks at any time during a benefit period. However, EI sickness benefits are available only after teachers have used up all benefits (such as cumulative sick leave and extended disability benefits [EDB]) to which they are entitled from their employer. If EDB benefits are not available immediately after the cumulative sick-leave entitlement has been exhausted, the teacher can claim EI sickness benefits for the intervening period. Claimants may use the last two weeks of their sick-leave entitlement as the waiting period for EI. If they intend to do so, they should apply for EI as soon as possible before their sick-leave entitlement expires.

To apply for EI sickness benefits, teachers should submit an online application form, a Record of Employment and a medical certificate.

Compassionate Care Benefits

This special benefit is available to individuals who must be away from work for up to six weeks to care for a critically ill family member who faces a significant risk of death within 26 weeks. Individuals who are unemployed and on regular EI may also be eligible for this type of benefit.

To qualify, claimants must (1) have accumulated 600 hours of insurable earnings in the preceding 52 weeks or since the start of a previous EI claim (if that claim started during the 52-week period) and (2) have experienced a decrease of more than 40 percent in their regular weekly earnings from work.

For the purposes of this benefit, click here to find the list of individuals who are considered family members.

Compassionate care benefits can be shared with other family members provided that the other members apply for and are eligible for these benefits. Only one waiting period needs to be served. If the claimant is currently receiving sick leave, the two-week waiting period may be waived.

When requesting compassionate care benefits, an applicant must provide a medical certificate that has been completed and signed by a medical practitioner authorized to treat the gravely ill family member. The claimant is responsible for paying any fees that the doctor may charge to produce a certificate.

A maximum of six weeks of compassionate care benefit is payable within the 26-week period that starts with the earlier of

  • the week the doctor signs the medical certificate;
  • the week the doctor examines the gravely ill family member; or
  • the week the family member became gravely ill, if the doctor can determine the date (for example, the date of the test results).

The benefits end when

  • six weeks of compassionate care benefits have been paid; or
  • the gravely ill family member dies or no longer requires care or support (benefits are paid to the end of the week); or
  • the 26-week period has expired.

How Does My Last Employment Status Affect My Eligibility for EI Benefits? Top of page

Teachers on Continuing Contract

Although teachers on continuing contracts (that is, contracts that remain in force from year to year) experience an interruption of work during July and August, they are prevented by EI legislation from receiving benefits unless they are on maternity or parental leave. Teachers whose continuing contracts are terminated at the end of June may apply for benefits during the months of July and August provided that they maintain an active job search. This should be an active search for non-teaching jobs. See more information below about being "ready, willing and capable of working each day." 

In September, these teachers may resume searching for a teaching position and continue to qualify for EI benefits. However, after a “reasonable” period, the EI Commission will expect them to look for work in other fields.

Teachers on Temporary, Interim or Probationary Contracts

Service Canada has ruled—and the Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed—that teachers on term contracts who have obtained a new teaching contract for the fall semester are not eligible for EI benefits during the summer months. Also, teachers who have term contracts that run through the summer into a new school year are not eligible for EI benefits because they are considered employed.

Substitute Teachers

Substitute teachers may qualify for EI benefits if they have accumulated the required number of hours of insurable employment either during the 52 weeks preceding their application for EI benefits or since the start of their last EI claim. What is important is the total number of hours worked during the period, not the amount worked for any one employer. Teachers having concerns about whether they have accumulated enough hours should contact Service Canada directly.

An EI benefit period runs from the date of application for a maximum of 52 weeks, minus a two-week waiting period. The benefit entitlement ranges from 14 to 45 weeks, and benefits may be claimed any time during the benefit period. If substitute teachers are employed intermittently during their benefit period, they may still claim, during periods of unemployment, the number of weeks to which they are entitled provided that they do so within the 52-week benefit period. Any unused entitlement cannot be claimed after the benefit period has expired. However, teachers may file a new claim provided that they have accumulated the required number of insurable hours. A new two-week waiting period will apply.

Retired Teachers

Unless they resigned for “just cause” or are participating in a registered workforce reduction program, retired teachers are generally ineligible for EI benefits because they are (1) no longer in the labour force and (2) are collecting a pension. However, retirees who, before accessing their pension, undertake employment that does not require them to contribute to the Alberta Teachers' Retirement Fund may become eligible for EI benefits upon leaving their post-retirement employment provided that they have the required number of insurable hours and that they maintain an active job search. Note that pension earned must be reported and will be deducted from the weekly EI benefit.

Teachers Who Accept a Voluntary Severance Plan

In rare instances, teachers taking voluntary severance may be eligible for EI benefits. If you are receiving a severance package, the full amount of your severance pay will be shown on your Record of Employment, and it will delay your ability to receive EI benefits. Nonetheless, you should apply for benefits as soon as possible after your last day of work or you may lose your eligibility. EI will reject claims that are not received within the four-week period following your last day of work. If you are retiring, your ability to receive EI benefit will be offset by your ATRF pension.

The EI Commission considers severance and Early Retirement Incentive Plan (ERIP) payments as “earnings” for the purpose of determining eligibility for EI benefits and allocates them over a period of several months, as if they were the teacher’s regular salary. Although teachers in receipt of severance or ERIP payments who apply for EI will have their benefit period established immediately, their earnings will be allocated and their benefit period will be extended correspondingly. As a result, claimants can participate in EI programs (such as effective job search techniques) during the allocation period. Before accepting an ERIP, teachers should check with the Association to determine whether their circumstances will qualify them for benefits.

Teachers Who Quit or Are Fired

EI exists primarily to assist people who have lost their employment due to circumstances beyond their control. Therefore, teachers who are fired for misconduct or who voluntarily leave their employment will, in most cases, be deemed ineligible for EI benefits. Contact EI directly if you have questions about “just cause” and whether eligible for EI benefits.

What does it mean by "ready, willing, and capable of working each day"? (quote from Service Canada’s website)?

  • To receive EI benefits, you need to show that you are ready, willing, and capable of working each day. Being "ready to work" means that your conduct shows your desire to work, but you have been unable to find a job.
  • Being "willing to work" means that you are willing to accept all types of work that your abilities, skills, training, or experience enable you to do, and you are willing to accept labour market conditions (for example, going rate of pay, hours of work).
  • Being "capable of working" means that you are, first of all, able to work.
  • Ability to work is characterized by the physical and mental strength required to perform the duties of an employment under the same conditions as workers who usually do that type of work.

If you are not or cannot be ready, willing and capable of working each day, do not apply for regular employment insurance benefits. Doing so under these false pretenses means you are committing fraud.

How Much Do I Pay In Premiums? Top of page

Like other employees, teachers currently pay a premium of $0.0188 on each dollar of the first $48,600 they earn during a year. The annual maximum premium is $931.68.

How Long Do I Need to Wait Before Receiving Benefits? Top of page

There is usually a two-week waiting period for benefits, which is calculated from the Sunday of the week during which the application was processed. No benefits are paid during this period.

In some instances, teachers can opt to waive the waiting period. However, doing so can have some unfavourable consequences, especially during a maternity leave. Therefore teachers who are considering waiving the waiting period should discuss the matter with an Association staff officer before making a decision.

How Many Hours Do I Need to Have Worked to Qualify for EI Benefits? Top of page

To qualify for regular EI benefits, teachers who have been in the workforce continually for at least two years will need to have accumulated between 560 and 700 hours (depending on geographic region) within the last 52 weeks or since the start of their last claim (whichever is shorter). Insurable hours are the number of hours a teacher has worked for which he or she has paid a premium. The number of insurable hours are reported on the Record of Employment that the board issues to teachers when they leave their employment. New entrants (teachers entering the workforce for the first time) and re-entrants (teachers who are re-entering the workforce after an absence of two or more years) will need to have accumulated 910 insurable hours of work within the last 52 weeks to qualify for regular benefits.

To qualify for special benefits (maternity, parenting/adoption and sickness), claimants must have accumulated at least 600 insurable hours in the previous 52 weeks. The requirement is the same for all claimants, regardless of how long they have been in the work force.

How Long Can I Receive EI Benefits?Top of page

The maximum period that a person can receive regular EI benefits is between 36 and 44 weeks (depending on geographic region). This period varies according to the number of hours a claimant has worked in insurable employment during the last 52 weeks or since the last claim (whichever is shorter) and the regional unemployment rate. The maximum period that a woman can claim special benefits (that is, a combination of sickness, maternity and parental benefits) is 65 weeks.

Important: To continue to collect EI Benefits, teachers claiming regular EI benefits must conduct an active job search. A job search during the non-teaching period (July and August) must be outside the field of education and, if the teacher plans to return to teaching in the fall, may be restricted to jobs of a temporary or seasonal nature (see above).

What are the Tax Implications of Receiving EI Benefits? Top of page

Service Canada will issue T4E slips to all EI recipients because Canada Revenue Agency regards EI benefits as income. However, EI premiums paid while employed are deductible and will offset the income slightly.

As a result of reporting EI benefits as income, there has been occasion when higher-income earners, depending on their claim history, are required to repay a portion of their EI benefits. Consult Service Canada’s Website for more information.

Where Can I Get More Information? Top of page

Additional information about EI benefits can be found on Service Canada’s Website

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