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How to access EI when you’re self-employed

Running your own business has many benefits, but the inability to access Employment Insurance (EI) is not one of them. As a self-employed Canadian, you can access EI Special Benefits if you register with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission.

What are Special Benefits?

Special benefits are EI programs for time off work due to specific life events, including:

  • Illness
  • Pregnancy
  • Caring for a newborn or newly adopted child
  • Caring for a critically ill child, or for a family member who is seriously ill with a significant risk of death


Am I self-employed?

You are considered self-employed if you:

  • Operate your own business; or
  • 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 permanent resident


How does it work?

Self-employed individuals who register for the Special Benefits program pay a premium that is calculated the same way as an employee’s: $1.63 per $100 of earnings ($1.27 in Quebec) up to a maximum insurable earnings of $51,300 (in 2017). There is no employer portion to be paid.

Regardless of when during the year you register, your EI premiums will be payable based on your self-employed income for the entire year. So if you register in June, 2017, your premiums will be calculated on your 2017 income tax and benefit return and will be payable by April 30, 2018.

You have to wait 12 months from the date of your confirmed registration before applying for EI special benefits.

What if I change my mind?

You may cancel within 60 days of registering without incurring any premiums. You may cancel after 60 days if you have never received EI special benefits as a self-employed person; however, the termination will not be official until December 31 (regardless of when you file the request) and premiums will be calculated on that year’s entire income. There are no refunds.

If you receive EI special benefits you are not able to cancel participation and you will have to continue paying EI premiums as long as you are self-employed.

For more information, including how to register, please visit EI Special Benefits for Self-Employed People.