Sometimes life happens, and you might need to take a bit of time away from work to recover. Normally, this would mean taking your sick leave assuming your employer offers it. However, there are times when you might be seriously sick, injured, or even quarantined (like most were during the Covid pandemic) and simply unable to work
Under certain circumstances, you may qualify for Medical Employment Insurance (EI), a benefit provided by the government that will help cover at least some of your expenses for a short time while you are recovering.
Let’s get into details to help you understand what the benefit provides, how to qualify, and some changes resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
What is Medical EI?
Medical EI is a financial benefit that you may qualify for which provides up to a certain amount of your regular pay for a 15-week period in the event that you are unable to work for reasons of sickness, injury, or quarantine.
Under the Medical EI benefit, you might be eligible for up to 55% of your insurable earnings, which includes salary, tips, bonuses, and commissions. The maximum benefit based on the 2021 maximum insurable earnings is $573 per week. This number is reported on your tax return, so make sure to check your T4 to confirm the right figures are being considered when you apply for Medical EI.
While you might be eligible for up to 15 weeks, the actual number of weeks you will qualify for depends on a certificate which you will obtain from your doctor. This certificate is signed and submitted when you apply and should be kept safe while you are on Medical EI in case you are asked for it.
Benefits are sent to you either by direct deposit or by a check which is mailed to you. Bear in mind that your EI benefits are taxable, so you’ll need to declare it as income when you submit a tax return.
While your Medical EI benefits are limited, some employers offer employees a “top-up,” or additional medical leave to help cover the remainder. These vary and may not be offered by some employers, so be sure to check with your benefits coordinator.
How To Qualify for Medical EI
In order to qualify for Medical EI, you must first meet several requirements, the first of which is you have been paying EI premiums. These are deducted from your pay along with income and other taxes and paid into the national insurable earnings fund. Quebec works a bit differently, though the requirement still stands.
You also must meet the specific criteria for receiving Medical EI. This is confirmed by receiving a certificate from your doctor that clarifies what your condition is that will keep you from working.
More importantly, the certificate includes the number of weeks your doctor determines you need away from work. This certificate may be asked for at a later date, so keep it handy while you’re on leave.
Your normal weekly earnings are reduced by more than 40%. This is fairly self-explanatory. If you’re salaried, this obviously isn’t a big problem. If you are part-time and some of your work can be completed from home, you may need to do some math.
You have accumulated at least 600 hours (about 75 8-hour working days) of insurable employment during the qualifying period. The qualifying period is either the 52-week period before benefits start or the period since the start of previous EI benefits.
Changes During the Covid-19 Pandemic
The government temporarily made a few changes to the medical EI benefits in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting quarantine requirements. The Covid-19 changes will be in effect until September 25, 2021.
The waiting period will be waived – there is normally a one-week waiting period where you won’t be paid, which is temporarily waived.
You don’t need a medical certificate – this was done to reduce in-person visits, which are normally required to complete the certificate.
You only need 120 insured hours to qualify for benefits
You’ll receive at least $500 per week before taxes but may receive more if you qualify
If you received the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB), the 52-week period to accumulate insured hours will be extended.
While not being able to work may lead to some angst, it is a very good idea to familiarize yourself with the medical EI benefits. There are some who may not know about them or may think they won’t qualify, but all that’s needed is to have paid premiums, get a doctor’s note, have worked at least 75 days previously, and have a proven reduction in income.
The benefit itself may not make your household income whole at only 55% of your insurable earnings, but be sure to check your employer because they may have sick leave benefits which help bring that figure up.
Lastly, several changes during the Covid-19 pandemic have made the requirements far easier to meet for those experiencing sickness, injury, or quarantine and may need a bit of help.