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Counsellor's Corner: Why you need an EI Ruling ASAP

“My baby is due in three weeks and I want to go on maternity leave. I applied for employment insurance, parental benefits, but Service Canada told me that I’m not eligible, even though I have been paying into EI for the last six years. Help!!!”

If that’s not a great way to start your week, then I don’t know what is. Many small business owners assume that they are either eligible or ineligible for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits because they either pay into it, or do not. The fact is, however, that unless you get an EI Ruling for yourself or family members who work for your company, you don’t know. And the least ideal time to find out is when you are due to give birth in three weeks.

The first step in assisting this member was to determine whether or not they wanted to be eligible, or “insurable”. At first blush you may think, well, obviously she’ll want to be insurable, otherwise she won’t be covered while on mat leave. This is not necessarily true, however, you see, our member had been paying into EI for the last six years, and I had the knowledge and resources to help her get a refund for up to three years of those payments. So in this case, she could either collect up to 12 months of EI benefits while on maternity leave if she was found insurable, or up to 36 months refund if she achieved an uninsurable ruling. Does three times more money sound good to you? Yeah, me too. We discussed the potential for having more kids in the future or the need to collect EI in the future (illness, injury, etc), and established that while having three years of EI payments in-hand for this pregnancy would be nice, she planned on having a larger family and wanted the security of EI benefits.

Service Canada declared her uninsurable, and our member wanted to be eligible for benefits. This gave us two options going forward: 1) Appeal for a review with Service Canada to have them change their ruling 2) Accept their ruling, apply for a refund, and then register for EI for Self Employed.

Because of the tight three week deadline (birthday?), our member opted for a review from Service Canada, as the refund process can sometimes take a couple months. Our member and I reviewed her employment specifics and the guidelines which define insurable and uninsurable. After confirming that she met the criteria, we coordinated in writing a letter that would highlight the reasons she believed she was insurable and help guide Service Canada toward the desired ruling. Knowing that an interview phone call was sure to follow the letter, I rehearsed the call with our member and coached her on the questions to expect and how to make the interviewer’s job easier in getting the answers they needed.

We mailed that appeal letter the same day. By week’s end our member received a phone call from Service Canada to verify the statements in the letter, and our member calmly answered all of their questions. Exactly one week later our member received a letter in the mail stating that she was eligible to start receiving EI maternity leave benefits from the date of birth of her child. I am pleased to say that on baby’s birthday, while there wasn’t a five dollar bill in a birthday card, there was maternity leave cheque #1 from Service Canada in her mailbox.

Case closed.