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THE QUESTION

I am currently a retail worker in Ontario. I have been collecting CERB/EI because of stores being closed because of the pandemic. I believe when I go back to work I am still entitled to some employment insurance as my hours will be limited for a while. However, I was recently offered a new job with better future prospects. But the new job only guarantees a minimum of 20 hours a week. Even though the new position pays more, the limited hours would make it very difficult to cover all my expenses. My question is, can I take the new position and still be eligible for a top-up from EI?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Jim Wu, Employment Lawyer, Forte Law Corporation, Surrey, B.C.

If you work fewer than 35 hours in a week, you are eligible for a top-up. Here’s how you calculate how much of top-up:

  1. Find how much EI you get paid every week before taxes.
  2. Calculate what is 90 per cent of that amount.
  3. Anything that is 90 per cent or less is deducted at 50 cents on the dollar and anything over 90 per cent is deducted dollar for dollar.

COVID-19 has also changed the rules such that until September, 2021, if you are approved for regular EI benefits, you will receive between $500 to $590 per week.

Let’s apply these rules in an example:

Let’s say you get paid $500 a week for EI, so 90 per cent of that amount is $450. If your new 20-hour per week job pays you $20 an hour, this is $400 of gross income per week.

Since $400 is less than the 90 per cent threshold, this amount is deducted from your $500 EI payment at 50 cents on the dollar, leaving you with (before taxes) $300 in EI benefits. When added to your gross income of $400 per week, this gives you a total weekly income of $700. In essence, your EI has topped you up to a full-time income! Not bad, eh?

Just make sure you don’t go over 35 hours a week. If you work 35 hours or more, you will have worked a full work week and will not get paid any EI benefits for that week.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Busayo A. Faderin, senior associate, Monkhouse Law Employment Lawyers, Toronto

As I’m sure you are aware, you are required to report any income that you earn while in the receipt of employment insurance benefits. You cannot work full-time while receiving EI benefits. However, you may work part-time and still receive a top-up of EI benefits.

If you start working at a new job, you are still able to collect EI benefits provided your earnings do not surpass 90 per cent of the weekly insurable earnings used to calculate your EI benefit amount. For every dollar you earn, you can keep 50 cents of your EI benefits up to 90 per cent of the weekly insurable earnings. If you earn any money above this limit, it will be deducted dollar for dollar from your benefits.

Your weekly insurable earnings are calculated based on your total earnings before deductions during the best weeks (weeks that you earned the most money) in your qualifying period. The qualifying period is the 52-week period prior to the start date of your EI claim. Depending on what region you are in and the unemployment rate, the number of your best weeks used to calculate benefits will be between 14 to 22 weeks. You should also be able to access this information on your approval letter for EI benefits.

It is important to report your work earnings and hours during the week in which you worked to Service Canada. If you incorrectly combine the hours and earnings of more than one week, you should report the error to Service Canada as soon as possible.

Have a question for our experts? Send an e-mail to NineToFive@globeandmail.com with ‘Nine to Five’ in the subject line. Emails without the correct subject line may not be answered.

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