This guest post is provided by Service Canada, which offers Canadians a single point of access to a wide range of Government of Canada services and benefits either in person, by phone, by Internet, or by mail.

Until recently, only employees - those who work for others - who qualified for benefits through the Employment Insurance (EI) program could receive financial support when they got sick, gave birth, adopted a child, cared for a newborn, or took care of a family member who was seriously ill.

Under the Employment Insurance Act, as amended by the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act, self-employed Canadians - those who work for themselves - can now apply for these special benefits when they register for the EI program. Registration is voluntary for self-employed people.

Who can register?

You can register if you operate your own business, or if you work for a corporation but previously could not access EI benefits because you controlled more than 40% of the corporation's voting shares. You must also be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada. Other terms and conditions apply.

What are EI special benefits?

There are four types of EI special benefits:

  • Maternity benefits are for mothers who give birth. These benefits cover the period surrounding the child's birth (up to 15 weeks).*

  • Parental benefits are for any parent (mother or father, natural or adoptive). Either parent can receive benefits, or they can share benefits between them (up to 35 weeks).*

  • Sickness benefits are for people who cannot work due to injury, illness, or the need to be isolated in quarantine because they may be carrying a disease (up to 15 weeks).

  • Compassionate care benefits are for people who must be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is seriously ill with a significant risk of death (up to 6 weeks).

*Note: Self-employed residents of Quebec are already covered for maternity, paternity, and parental benefits under the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP). If they choose to participate in this new measure, they may be eligible for EI sickness and compassionate care benefits only.

To learn more about EI special benefits for self-employed people and find out if they are right for you, visit Employment Insurance Special Benefits for Self-Employed People.