You can enter into an agreement, or register, with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission through Service Canada if you:

  • operate your own business, or if you work for a corporation but cannot access EI benefits because you control more than 40% of the corporation’s voting shares; and
  • are either a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada.

Note: Some individuals who work independently and are not hired as employees cannot register for these EI special benefits because they are already eligible to receive benefits through the regular EI program: barbers, hairdressers, taxi drivers, drivers of other passenger vehicles who are not hired as employees but whose employment is insurable under the EI Regulations, and fishers who are included as insured persons under the EI Fishing Regulations.

Qualifying for EI

Once you have registered and waited 12 months from the date of your confirmed registration, you will qualify for EI special benefits if:

  • you have reduced the amount of time devoted to your business by more than 40% because:
    • your child was born;
    • you are caring for your newborn or adopted child or children;
    • you are ill, injured, or in quarantine;
    • you need to provide care or support to a gravely ill family member; or
    • you need to provide care or support to your critically ill or injured child
  • you have earned a minimum amount of self-employed earnings during the calendar year preceding the year you submit a claim. This amount may change from year to year. If you want to apply for benefits in 2015, for example, you would need to earn at least $6,645 in 2014; and
  • for EI sickness claims – you have provided a medical certificate as proof that you are unable to work because of illness, injury, or quarantine; or
    • for compassionate care benefit claims – you have provided medical proof showing that a gravely ill family member who is at risk of dying within 26 weeks needs your care or support;
    • for EI maternity or parental benefit claims – you have provided the expected date of birth of the child and the actual birth date once it has occurred, or the official placement date in the case of adoption; or
    • for parents of critically ill children claims – you have provided a medical certificate completed by a specialist medical doctor stating that your care or support is required by your critically ill or injured child.

If you are self-employed and are also receiving insurable earnings as an employee, you can choose to apply for EI special benefits either as a self-employed person or as an employee, as long as you qualify for both. Refer to the Amount of weekly benefits page for more information.

To help you determine if these EI special benefits are right for you, please look through some examples of individual situations.