Since January 2010, self-employed persons have been able to
pay EI premiums on a voluntary basis, in order to qualify for EI
special benefits, including
maternity benefits (maximum 15 weeks, a claim can
start up to 8 weeks before the expected birth date)
parental/adoptive benefits (maximum 35 weeks),
sickness benefits (maximum 15 weeks),
compassionate care benefits (maximum 6 weeks - Federal
2015 Budget increased this to 6 months effective January 1,
benefits for parents of critically ill children (PCIC, effective June
9, 2013, maximum 35 weeks)
These EI benefits are taxable.
Under the legislation, prior to claiming
benefits, self-employed Canadians:
are required to opt into the program at least
one year prior to claiming benefits
need to have earned a minimum of $6,000 in
self-employed earnings (net income from self-employment) over the
preceding calendar year. This amount increases to $6,222 as of
January 1, 2012.
can opt out of the EI program at the end of any
tax year, as long as they have never claimed benefits.
must contribute on self-employed earnings
for as long as they are self-employed, if they have claimed benefits.
will pay the same EI premium rate as salaried
will not pay the employer portion of EI premiums,
in recognition of the fact that they cannot collect regular EI
The program had a start date of January 2010,
so claims could have been made as early as January 2011.
Self-employed Quebec residents still receive benefits
of maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave and adoption leave through the Quebec Parental Insurance
Program (QPIP) provided through the Quebec government. They are
still eligible to take advantage of the EI sickness and compassionate
care benefits being offered by the Government of Canada. If they opt
into this program, their premium rates will be the same as the rates for
employees in Quebec.