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Employment Insurance (EI) benefits

Expert: Julie King

Tara asked:

I was employed and contributed to EI for many years. I was laid off in June 2007 and became eligible for EI in April 2008. I was self-employed taking on contracts between October, 2007 and June 2008, so did not apply for EI as I did not expect to need EI. As I had no work in July, August and September, 2008, I decided to look for work as an employee and applied for EI. I began receiving payments in October, 2008 and have been looking for work as an employee during that time. I have received two contracts since October, each or them one week in duration. One paid $3000.00 and the other $4200. I declared the income on my EI reports. I have been looking for employment as the contract work is not providing a steady income and has become unreliable. I have recently received an offer of ten days of work at about $700 per day between now and February 2009, but will continue to look for work and would be able to start a job at any time.

I am wondering if I am considered to be self-employed in the weeks that I am not earning anything as well as in the weeks I am earning. I would like to know whether to indicate on my reports to EI that I am self-employed in all weeks that I am not earning. I have been looking for employment as the contract work is not providing a stable income. I want to be accurate in reporting to EI as I don't want to face penalties.

Julie King answered:

First, we contacted HRSDC to ask about what checkbox you should use. This was their response:

"Individuals are required to report all employment activities and earnings arising from self-employment during the weeks in which the work is performed and earned. Self-employment does not need to be reported during weeks in which the person does not perform any work, or earn income from their self-employment."

"More detailed information on self-employment and EI benefits is available at"

"In addition, we encourage individuals to contact a Service Canada expert to discuss their specific details at 1-800-622-6232 or visit the web site at"

Also, there is a program you may want to investigate. Some provinces run a self-employment program that helps you start a business, and will pay a stipend of about $430 / wk for a full year, plus provide classroom training. Since you are already taking on a number of self-employment contracts, this could be ideal for you.

About the author

Julie King is the co-founder and managing editor of CanadaOne, Canada's first small business portal.

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