Applying for EI benefits is often a stressful experience. The process is not user friendly. First, you have to go to the government website and look for the EI application. Once you have found it, you then have the arduous process of going through it, which can take hours. Also, calling the 1-800 number for help may take even more hours! (This is understandable right now, during the coronavirus crisis. The number of EI claims is shocking! At last count, there were 2.2 million new EI claims in Canada.)
However, if you have lost your job and have no other money coming in, you need to apply for Employment Insurance. So, what are some things that you need to know when you are applying for EI benefits? Here are 5 things that you need to know:
Applying for EI Benefits: Apply Immediately (Even Without a Record of Employment)
Surprisingly, many do not apply for EI right away, thinking that they need to wait for their record of employment. They might think that it’s pointless to apply without their ROE. This is 100% wrong. You should apply for EI benefits right after you finish your last day of work, period. Why? First, you only have 4 weeks from your last work day to apply. If you do not, you could get less benefits than you are entitled to.
Second, most records of employment are automatically sent to EI by your employer. So even if you haven’t received one yet, it’s most likely that the government has it already.
Third, the government can make a temporary record of employment based on your application and set up your EI claim using that. Once the actual record of employment comes in, your application can be recalculated.
Applying for EI: More Details are Better
For some reason, many people don’t want to describe the reasons why they are no longer working. Maybe it’s because they are shy or perhaps, they do not want to seem to complain about their situation. However, it is extremely important to give full details on why you are no longer working, especially if you quit or were dismissed. More is better! Think about it this way: whoever is going to look at your application has no idea of the situation at all. For them, it’s like looking at a blank canvas. You need to create a detailed picture or painting. The more details you can provide, the clearer the picture is. This helps the benefits officer make a better decision on your application.
Applying for EI: Dismissal is Not Actually Bad
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about EI. Most people think if you get dismissed or fired from your job that you automatically won’t get EI. Employers will even tell employees that it’s better for you to quit than to get fired. This is absolutely not true! Why? Because if your employer dismisses you, the onus is on the employer to prove misconduct on the part of the employee in order to deny their EI benefits. A lot of EI adjudicators use the Black’s Dictionary of misconduct to define whether someone has done something that is willful and of evil intent.
For example, if your employer dismissed you because you were not good at your job that is not misconduct. Even if you were late for work, or were argumentative etc., the employer would have to show that they addressed the issue. For example, were there warnings, conversations and the like? Even, for things like accusing an employee of theft, the responsibility is on the employer to show or prove that this happened. For example, were their witnesses? Is there video? Did they call the police and file a police report?
Also, if an employee was paid severance by their employer, this shows that there wasn’t misconduct The thinking behind this is why would you pay additional money to someone who committed misconduct? As you can see, with dismissal the pressure is on the employer to prove misconduct, which is not easy to do.
It’s a Lot Harder to Get EI Benefits if You Quit
Many people do not realize this, but it is really hard to get EI benefits if you quit. Unfortunately, people think that it’s better than getting dismissed or fired. This is false, because f you quit all the pressure is on you to prove that you had “just cause” in quitting. What does this mean? It means that you had no other choice.
For example, suppose you were being harassed at work by a co-worker. You couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to quit. However, for EI purposes you would have to exhaust your alternatives first. Did you talk to a manager about the harassment? Had you gone to your union about the harassment? Did you go to Human Resources? Did you go to Labour Standards or Human Rights? If you did and there was still no real change in your situation then you would have a chance to get EI benefits.
A tool that can help you if you are in this position of either thinking of quitting your job or you’ve already done so is the EI Digest. This document lays out how different EI issues are looked at. It can give you some insight on what information you would need to provide on your EI application.
If Rejected, Appeal
It is always tough to get a rejection letter, but especially when it comes to EI benefits. As a result, many people give up and move on. However, in a lot of cases you should appeal the decision. You might feel intimidated because when you appeal, it says there will be an appeal hearing with a 3-person tribunal (called a board of referees). You have the option to be present for it. It is like going to court and who wants to go to court? However, there is a step that’s not mentioned that might help you if you write an appeal letter on why you feel the decision made was incorrect.
Before an appeal goes to the board of referees, it goes to the appeal department. This department is made of experienced adjudicators who will look at the application again. They see if the original decision made was correct. And they also decide if they could possibly allow the claim based on information the client has provided on the application and any new information in their appeal letter.
The advantage of this is that you have a more experienced adjudicator looking at your EI claim with even more information. This gives you a better chance at being approved. Also, sometimes they might find another way for you to qualify for EI benefits. For example the information you provided might qualify you for sickness benefits, rather than regular Employment Insurance. So, it doesn’t hurt to try to appeal a decision if you are rejected.
Applying for EI benefits is hard and can be emotionally draining. However, if you keep the above points in mind, hopefully the process will be a bit easier Applying for any government benefit seems intimidating but the more you know about a program, the easier it is to navigate through it. Hopefully, this results in a favourable outcome for you.