Employment Insurance and teachers

If you are a teacher you may be paid Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. However, because of contractual arrangements in the teaching profession there are some variations to the EI rules. This means that:

  • if you are a teacher under a continuing contract in pre-elementary, elementary, intermediate, secondary, including technical and vocational schools, you cannot be paid regular benefits during non-teaching periods, even though you are unemployed, unless your contract ends. However, you may be paid maternity, parentalcompassionate care or parents of critically ill children benefits;
  • if you are a teacher above the secondary school level—at universities, community colleges and CEGEPs—the same rules for regular benefits will apply as other claimants;
  • if you are a casual or substitute teacher you can be paid regular benefits during non-teaching periods.

Non-teaching periods

Non-teaching periods are periods during which no work is performed by people engaged in teaching. They generally include the summer break, Christmas and the mid-winter or spring break. A statutory holiday is not considered a non-teaching period, unless it falls within a non-teaching period.

The non-teaching periods may vary among provinces and even from one school to another within a region.

Exceptions

Qualifying period

The qualifying period is the shorter of:

  • the 52-week period immediately before the start date of your claim; or
  • the period from the start of a previous benefit period to the start of your new benefit period, if you applied for benefits earlier and your application was approved in the last 52 weeks.

When any or all the insurable hours that fall within the qualifying period have been accumulated while you were employed as a teacher, no regular benefits can be paid for any week of unemployment that falls in a non-teaching period.

However, three exceptions to that rule allow you to be paid regular benefits. These exceptions are:

  1. Your teaching contract has ended.
  2. Your employment was on a casual or substitute basis.
  3. You qualify for benefits with an occupation other than teaching. 

1st exception - Your teaching contract has ended

  • A contract is considered as no longer in effect on the day following the last day of the contract, as long it is not renewed or no other contract exists. Consequently, regular benefits are payable for any part of a non-teaching period until a new contract is signed or effective.
  • If you are in a repetitive 10-month contract you are considered to have a termination of contract at the end of the teaching period. However, if a contract for the next teaching period is signed or agreed with the same school board prior to the termination, you cannot be paid regular benefits for the non-teaching period.

    If during the non-teaching period a contract for the next teaching period is signed, you cannot be paid regular benefits as of the date of the signature of the new contract.

  • There is no contract termination if you are suspended or on an approved leave of absence with or without pay.
  • If you do not meet the 1st exception you need to meet the 2nd or 3rd exception to be paid regular benefits during a non-teaching period.

2nd exception - Your employment was on a casual or substitute basis

  • If the nature of your teaching employment in the qualifying period is on a casual or substitute basis, regular benefits are payable for any part of a non-teaching period, in certain situations.
  • Casual teaching means irregular, occasional or incidental teaching. If the employment involves filling an unexpected or temporary absence for a short period and, if the employment can be cancelled at any time, it is of a casual nature.
  • Substitute teaching means the replacement of another teacher for part or all of a school year. However, when teachers sign repetitive 10-month contracts for substitute positions with the same school board and work the full school year, regular benefits cannot be paid unless their contract is actually terminated.
  • If you are employed on a casual or a substitute basis, for any part of the qualifying period, and you, since the beginning of, or prior to, the non-teaching period have signed or agreed to a regular teaching contract for the following school year, you may not be entitled to benefits during any non-teaching periods that fall within your current benefit period.
  • If your employment was both regular and casual or on a substitute basis in the qualifying period, you may qualify for benefits even if there was full-time teaching in the qualifying period. For example, if you are under a contract to work full-time from September to January of each year, worked as a substitute teacher from January to March, and on a casual and substitute basis from March to June, you may be paid regular benefits for a non-teaching period.

3rd exception - Qualify for benefits with an occupation other than teaching

  • If you have accumulated sufficient insurable hours in the qualifying period with employment other than teaching, you can be paid regular benefits during a non-teaching period.
  • The benefit rate during the non-teaching period is calculated using the earnings from the other employment. However, if you become unemployed after a non-teaching period and if you are entitled to be paid benefits, your benefit rate will be adjusted to take into account your insurable earnings from your teaching employment.
  • If you are employed in an occupation other than teaching, during part of the qualifying period, and then sign a contract to teach on a regular part-time or full-time basis for the following school year, you can still be paid regular benefits during the non-teaching periods that fall within your benefit period.

Proof that you are available for work

Like any other person who claims regular benefits, to be paid benefits you must prove that you are capable of and available for work and unable to find suitable employment for any working day that falls within your benefit period, including any non-teaching period.

As a teacher, you need to show that, during a non-teaching period, you are willing and able to accept immediately any offer of suitable employment and that no restrictions exist that would limit your employment opportunities. As few teaching opportunities exist during a non-teaching period, you may have to consider non-teaching jobs depending on your claimant category, and the number of weeks that have elapsed on your claim. This means that you must show that you are actually seeking a type of work which you can reasonably hope to obtain, particularly when some non-teaching periods are spread over many weeks.

Working while receiving benefits

Under the EI Act, if you work and receive regular benefits at the same time, you are entitled to earn a certain amount without having your benefits reduced. You can usually earn up to $50 per week or 25% of your weekly benefit, whichever is higher. Any money earned above that amount will be deducted dollar for dollar from your benefits.

However, until August 6, 2016, a Working While on Claim (WWC) pilot project is in place which changes the way earnings you receive while on claim affect your weekly EI benefits.

Under this pilot project, once you have served the waiting period, if your earnings are equal to or less than 90% of your weekly earnings that were used to calculate your benefit rate, your benefits will be reduced at a rate of 50% of your earnings. Any earnings that exceed this 90% threshold will be deducted dollar for dollar from your benefits.

Under the previous WWC pilot project, if claimants earned less than $75 or 40 per cent of their weekly EI benefits, whichever was greater, their benefits were not reduced. However, benefits were reduced by every dollar earned above this threshold.

EI claimants in receipt of Regular, Parental, Compassionate Care or Parents of Critically Ill Children benefits (including fishing), who had earnings between August 7, 2011 and August 4, 2012 and who were eligible for the previous WWC pilot project may be able to opt to revert to the rules that existed under the previous WWC pilot project.

The option to revert to the previous pilot project does not apply to Self-Employment Benefits.

If you are working part time (approximately one day a week) and are unable to secure additional work or the type of benefits you are receiving do not require that you be available for work, it may be more beneficial to elect to have your claim reverted to the previous WWC pilot project.

Once you decide to revert to the provisions of the WWC previous pilot, it will apply for the entire duration of your claim, or until August 6, 2016, whichever is earlier. Your decision will be irreversible, even if your personal circumstances change.

If you are working more than one to two days a week and there is the possibility that you may work more, then the current WWC pilot project may be more beneficial for you.

Maternity and parental benefits

You can be paid maternity and parental benefits during both the teaching and non-teaching periods, as long as you meet the requirements to receive benefits.

Sickness benefits

Sickness benefits can be paid during the teaching period only, including situations where the illness during the teaching period extends over to the non-teaching period, or where the illness during the non-teaching period extends over to the teaching period.

Sickness benefits will not be paid to you during non-teaching periods unless one of the three exceptions is met.

Compassionate care benefits

Compassionate care benefits can be paid during both the teaching and non-teaching period, as long as you meet the requirements to receive benefits. 

Parents of critically ill children benefits

Parents of critically ill children benefits can be paid during both the teaching and non-teaching period, as long as you meet the requirements to receive benefits.

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