COVID-19 Layoffs: EI Sickness vs Regular EI

Hi everyone. I am reaching out to see if people have information on how Service Canada is processing EI applications for people laid off due to the COVID-19. This would be situations where business are shutting down and doing layoffs, not where a person is sick.

We are hearing stories that some Service Canada agents are pushing people into the EI sickness program (under the quarantine clause) rather than regular EI benefits. The EI sickness program offers much less in terms of benefits as compared to Regular EI.

We are having problems getting information from official channels, so I an reaching out to all of you to see if you have any personal experience or know people who are applying for EI.


David Brannen

Disability Lawyer with Resolute Legal

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Well like you said the difference is that sick benefits EI is yes for medical reasons, such as the coronavirus. But regular EI is for unemployment. The main and I think biggest difference is the amount of pay you get, medical EI only goes to 15 weeks and the regular EI from 14 weeks to max of 45 weeks. Thing is, I think this is because for some people they have no disability pay through their employer or private insurer for the first 3 months of work missed (about 15 weeks), so they apply for the medical EI instead; and I guess if people try to return to work then or can’t and get fired, they can then apply for regular EI. I think the two basically bridge the other, that’s all. But you have to physically be unemployed to get regular EI; and for the most part, people are just being laid off during the virus outbreak, not actually fired. I hope that makes sense… When I first feel ill I didn’t have shorter disability benefits through my employer, only private long term ones, so my employer told me to apply for medical EI; they said because technically I was not fired and didn’t quit, and it was for medical reasons I was off of course. Thats my personal experience with the medical sickness benefits, not so much the regular EI though. I do however want to say that sickness EI only lasts for 15 weeks and perhaps they are hoping the virus outbreak is done by then, and people can return to work. Whereas if they have everyone on regular EI they can get paid to a max of 45 weeks, so ya I really think it comes down to money; they want people to go back to work be productive once the quarantine and outbreak is over, and not have a reason to sit at home and collect a cheque until 45 weeks. Some people abuse the regular EI system, and don’t actually look for a job while on it, just ride it out to get the free income. I think they don’t want that happening is all.

Hopefully it is less/manageable by then. :slight_smile:

Yes me too. Based on what they are saying, it looks like we have another few months of this to go. It took China about 4 months from start to finish to finally get it under control in their country (Dec-Mar); we pretty much are all following what they did, having to shut down a lot of things to stop the spread.

If you followed the news about the outbreak in China you would’ve noticed the difference in measures between China and Western countries. China used so called “draconian” measures. Not sure if they can do that in EU or America. These countries are all about freedom and human rights. For now they are just encouraging people to be socially responsible, self isolate, wash hands and keep a distance. I read that in Italy they charged more than 50,000 people with violating the lockdown. Same in France. It doesn’t look like they will be able to contain it as fast as China. We’ll wait and see.

Thank you everyone for sharing this information