How Does Employment Insurance Work for Gig Workers?

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PUBLISHED BY Alwin Wong / July 7, 2020

According to Stats Canada, 1.7 million people in Canada do some sort of gig work. While the percentage of gig workers is continuously on the rise, many are left feeling uncertain if they qualify for employment insurance. Though financial support from the government is available, it does not help that the benefits are constantly evolving.

And let’s be honest…

Browsing through the Government of Canada’s website in search of eligible benefits can get a little confusing. That’s why we’ve done the research for you!

What is employment insurance?

Employment Insurance (EI) is a benefit provided by the government designed to help you financially when you lose your source of income. This could be due to mass layoffs, high unemployment rates, job loss, childcare leave, compassionate care, and many more circumstances.

To qualify for employment insurance, you must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident (PR).

Gig workers are considered as independent contractors or freelancers, which is why you don’t get deducted for EI on your paycheques!


[Side Note: Although you are not paying into your EI or CPP, you may still owe taxes to the CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency). Although you could save money by avoiding EI or CPP contribution, it is wise to be aware of self-employment tax when filing your taxes.]

Gig workers are known to have multiple streams of income. If you have contributed towards 120 hours of EI, you will be eligible for EI. Employment insurance is available for any Canadian resident who has lost their job through no fault of their own. Below you will see the benefits available for gig workers, who these benefits are for, the minimum and maximum weeks available, as well as steps on how to apply.

Do gig workers receive self-employed benefits?

The answer is no!

If you are a gig worker, you are NOT considered self-employed to the government and will not receive self-employed EI benefits. Under, you will find this statement:

Under, it is clearly stated that people are self-employed if they operate their “own business or control more than 40% of their corporation’s voting shares”.

This shows that, as a gig worker, you will not be qualified for self-employed EI.

If gig workers cannot apply for self-employed benefits, what can they apply for?

As an independent contractor and multiple income earner, you should apply for Employment Insurance Benefits if you have accumulated at least 120 hours of insurable work.

For example, if Bob has a job at Grocery Happy, he gets paid in traditional income. Bob also works for Uber as his side hustle for extra money.
Bob will be eligible for employment insurance benefits if Bob works for Grocery Happy for at least 120 hours.

The table below shows the 4 most common benefits for gig workers.

It is important to mention – apply for the appropriate benefit as soon as you feel the need. If you delay in applying past 4 weeks, you may lose out on the opportunity to claim your benefits.

Benefit Name Who is this benefit for? Minimum & Maximum weeks available How much you could receive – Minimum & Maximum before taxes
Regular If you have lost your job through no fault of your own. Minimum: 26 weeks (approximately 6 months)

Maximum: 45 weeks (approximately 10 months)

Depending on unemployment rate in your region

Minimum: $500/week

Maximum: $573/week


Sickness If you are unable to work because you are sick, injured or quarantined. Minimum: Depends on how long you’re unable to work for medical reasons.

Maximum: 15 weeks (approximately 3 and a half months)

Minimum: $500/week

Maximum: $573/week


Maternity and parental If you are pregnant, have recently given birth, caring for a newborn, or adopting a child. 1. Maternal (person giving birth)

Maximum: 15 weeks

2. Standard parental

Maximum: 40 weeks

3. Extended parental

Maximum: 69 weeks


1. Maternity

Minimum: $500/week

Maximum: $573/week

2. Standard parental

Minimum: $500/week

Maximum: $573/week

3. Extended parental

Minimum: $300/week

Maximum: $344/week


Caregiving and leave If you are providing care to someone who is severely sick, injured or needing end-of-life-care 1. Family Caregiver for children

Maximum: 35 weeks

2. Family Caregiver for adults

Maximum: 15 weeks

3. Compassionate care

Maximum: 26 weeks

Minimum: $500/week

Maximum: $573/week


Take note: Insured hours are the number of hours worked by a worker proven through the employer.


Insurable earnings include most of the different types of compensation from employment, such as wages, tips, bonuses and commissions. The Canada Revenue Agency determines what types of earnings are insurable.

To view what types of earning are insurable, click here.

The 4 benefits are designed to be quite similar in nature. They have complementary eligibility criteria with very similar ranges of money available to you and similar steps on “how to apply.” The details below show the exact same criteria and information for all 4 benefits. If there are differences in any of the requirements, they will be displayed under the requisite benefit.


  • You need 120 EI insurable hours to qualify.
  • Your regular weekly earnings have decreased by more than 40% for at least one week.

To prove eligibility, you will be required to fill out bi-weekly reports by internet or telephone and update the government on any changes that occurs between weeks in terms of employment.

How much money you could receive:

  • There is no fixed calculation for determining how much you could receive.
  • Basic rate is 55% of your average weekly earnings. Weekly earnings are calculated using your best-earned weeks (weeks that you have earned the most money, including insurable tips and commissions). The calculation uses 14 best weeks in regions with highest rates of unemployment and uses 22 weeks in regions with lowest rate of unemployment. In other regions, somewhere between 14-22 weeks will be calculated to determine your average weekly earnings within best weeks.
  • Minimum amount you can receive is $500/week and the maximum is $573/week except for maternity and paternal benefits. The amount of money you receive will be dependent on unemployment rate of your region and best average weekly earnings. Some other factors will also be taken into consideration and your application will be assessed on an individual level.
  • Benefits are taxable. – Beware of this. During tax season (April), you will owe money to the CRA. This money will be a percentage of your benefits.

How to apply:

  • If you have not received CERB, you will have to fill out a 60-minute application form to prove eligibility. Once you complete your application, you will receive your access code in the mail over the course of a few days.
  • If you have already received CERB, you should already have an access code.

This access code is essentially your employment insurance number and it will be used to fill out your biweekly reports. The access code will be sent to you via mail and the document will look like this:

1.     Regular benefits

  • Provides regular benefits to individuals if they have lost their job through no fault of your own. For example, if there has been a mass layoff or end of seasonal work, individuals may receive regular benefits.
  • As of September 27, 2020, a minimum unemployment rate of 13.1% applies to all regions across Canada.
  • If your region’s unemployment rate is higher than 13.1%, the government will use the higher unemployment rate in your region to calculate your benefits.


  • Lost your job through no fault of your own.
  • You have been without work and pay for 7 consecutive days in the last 52 weeks.
  • You are also ready, willing and capable of working every day.
  • You are constantly looking for work.

How to apply:

  • If you started a new Employment Insurance (EI) claim within the last 52 weeks and there are still weeks left that you could receive benefits on that claim, the government will automatically reactivate (renew) your existing claim when you submit your application.
  • Please double check what you are eligible for after September 27,2020. In some cases, it might be beneficial to start a new claim because you might be eligible for more money or increase how long you can receive the benefits for.

Once you have completed the above steps, please click here. After reading the privacy notice statement click “Start my application”.

2.     Sickness benefits

  • If you become sick and are unable to work due to illness, injury, or quarantine, you may qualify for sickness benefits.
  • Apply as soon as possible. If you wait more than 4 weeks to apply after your last day of work, you may lose out on benefits.


  • You are unable to work due to medical reasons.
  • You will need a medical certificate to prove eligibility.

How to apply:

Once you have completed the above steps, please click here. After reading the privacy notice statement click “Start my application”.

3.     Maternity and Parental benefits

  • Provides financial assistance to recent parents who are away from work because they are either
    • Recently given birth.
    • Caring for newborn child.
    • Caring for a newly adopted child.
  • Maternity benefits are available for individuals who are pregnant and cannot attend work.
  • Parental benefits are available for individuals who are caring for a newborn child or newly adopted child. Individuals applying for this benefit must choose between 2 options.
    • Standard parental benefits
    • Extended parental benefits

Your choice will display how many weeks you want to receive the benefit for and how much you will receive.


  • For maternity benefits, you must be pregnant or recently given birth.
  • For parental benefits, you must be caring for a newborn or newly adopted child.
  • Your regular weekly earnings have decreased by more than 40% for at least one week.

How to apply:

Once you have completed the above steps, please click here. After reading the privacy notice statement click “Start my application”.

4.     Caregiving benefits and leave

  • Allows you take time of work while you take care of a person who is severely sick, injured or needing end-of-life-care.
  • You do not need to be related to the person, but the person should consider you as family.


  • You will need to display that you are either a family member or are considered like a family member of the person you are taking care of.
  • If you are not a family member, you need to fill out an attestation form to confirm that the person in care considers you as a family member.
  • A doctor or nurse practitioner has certified that the person you are taking care of is indeed severely ill and needs care.

How to apply:

Once you have completed the above steps, please click here. After reading the privacy notice statement click “Start my application”.

Those are the 4 main employment insurance benefits you can receive as a Canadian gig worker. There are 2 more benefits that are available for Canadians which are:

What’s next?

Gain more confidence in your money saving abilities, get smart about the value of investing and realize the power of compounded interest. Getting into the habit of growing an emergency fund is an important one. Learn more financial tips for freelancers with Moves!

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Alwin Wong

Alwin is the Growth Manager at Moves and a part-time freelance photographer. With the rise of the gig economy, he is excited by a world where people can have greater flexibility over their work and challenge the norms of having a traditional 9-to-5 job. Alwin is also an avid travel enthusiast and Toronto Raptors basketball fan.

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