I’ve been fired because I didn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine. Can I get EI?
No, you probably can't get Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. Service Canada says you are not eligible for regular benefits if you are fired because you didn't follow your employer's mandatory vaccine policy. This could be a policy your employer chose to make, or one the government said your employer must have.
But there are some special situations when you might qualify for EI. Even if you're not sure, apply as soon as possible. You should apply within 4 weeks of being fired.
Once you apply, Service Canada might call you to ask some questions. They might also call your employer. Service Canada will use the answers to these questions to decide if you qualify for benefits.
If you are fired because you didn't follow your employer's mandatory vaccine policy, Service Canada might ask you these questions:
- Did your employer tell you that they have a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy?
- Did your employer tell you that you could lose your job if you don't follow the policy?
- Was your employer's policy reasonable?
- Did your employer fail to accommodate you when you had a good reason for not getting the vaccine?
Your employer should have told you clearly that they have a COVID-19 vaccine policy and what could happen if you don't follow it. For example, some employers might give copies of their written policy to employees to read and sign. That document might say that employees could be fired if they don't give proof of vaccination by a certain date.
When your employer makes a COVID-19 vaccine policy, the rules need to be reasonable. What is reasonable depends on where you work. For example, it might be fair for an employer to require vaccination if employees work closely with other workers and clients indoors. But it might not be fair for an employer to have the same rule for employees who work at home.
And you might have a good reason for not getting vaccinated. If you can't get vaccinated because of religious or health reasons, you can ask your employer for an exemption. Your employer may ask for proof to help them decide, like a doctor's note or letter from your religious leader. If you get an exemption, it means you won't have to be vaccinated.
You can only get a vaccine exemption because of some religious beliefs or health conditions. You can read the Ontario Human Rights Commission's policy statement to learn more about what counts as a religious belief or creed. The Ontario government has a list of health conditions that might require a vaccine exemption.
Once you've shown that you have a valid reason for not getting vaccinated, your employer must work with you to figure out a solution. For example, your employer might let you work from home. Or you might have to get regular rapid tests before you come to the workplace.
If you've been fired because you're not vaccinated, it's a good idea to get legal help before you apply for EI.
You might also want to talk to a lawyer if:
- you need advice about your employer's vaccine policy
- your employer is treating you badly because you can't get a COVID-19 vaccine