I am too sick to work. Can I get EI?

1. Figure out if you can get sickness benefits

To get up to 15 weeks of sickness benefits, you need to show that:

  • your normal weekly earnings have been reduced by more than 40% because you are sick
  • you have enough hours of insurable work in your 
  • you would be able to work if you were not sick, injured, or in quarantine

Qualifying period

Your qualifying period is usually the last 52 weeks before the start of your claim. To figure out your qualifying period, start on the Sunday before your , and then count backwards 52 weeks from there.

Your qualifying period can sometimes be shorter than 52 weeks. For example, if you have been on EI in the past year, your qualifying period will only go back to the start of your last EI claim.

Your qualifying period can be longer than 52 weeks if there were times in the past year when you could not work because, for example, you were sick, injured, pregnant, or in jail and later found not guilty.

If you are self-employed, you can apply for these benefits if you have paid EI premiums for at least 52 weeks. To arrange to pay premiums as a self-employed worker, you can set up an online account at www.servicecanada.ca. Choosing to pay premiums as a self-employed worker is an important decision that usually cannot be changed. It is important to get legal advice about whether paying premiums is the right decision for you.

Insurable hours

The total number of hours you worked in your qualifying period is called your “insurable hours”.

To qualify for sickness benefits, you usually need 600 hours. You can qualify for EI sickness benefits with less than 600 hours if you stopped working for another reason and are already on regular EI benefits when you fall ill, or are injured or quarantined.

EI rules have changed because of COVID-19. As of September 26, 2021, the government has reduced the number of insurable hours for sickness benefits to 420 hours. This is expected to last until September 24, 2022.

If you have more than one job during your qualifying period, you can add up the hours from all of your jobs to figure out your insurable hours.

If you give information to Service Canada staff that you know is not true or not accurate, it is called a “violation”. If you have any violations in the last 5 years, you might need more insurable hours to qualify for EI.

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