It can be a worrying time if you’re a casual worker. Luckily, there are a few ways to get help. We’ve put together a list of what you need to know, especially if you need to take time off, become unemployed or your workplace temporarily closes.
If you lose your job or have shifts cut as a result of the coronavirus, you may qualify for EI depending on how many insurable hours you’ve worked over the past 12 months.
Insurable hours are hours for which you were paid as reported by your employer your a Record of Employment (ROE), which is submitted to the government. Because you took part of your earnings from those hours and put it into the EI program, your income from those hours becomes part of what determines how much money you’ll receive from EI.
The minimum number of insurable hours you have to work to be eligible for EI is based on the unemployment rate where you live. For example, as of March 24, 2020, if the unemployment rate in your region is 6% or less, you have to work at least 700 insurable hours to be eligible for EI. But if the unemployment rate is between 9.1% and 10%, you have to work at least 560 hours.
The maximum amount of EI you can get is 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount. As of January 1, 2020, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $54,200 (or $573 per week).
Recipients are required to file a report to the government every so often to confirm that they are looking for work and not simply using their benefits to take time off. (This reporting requirement may be waived depending on the type of benefit you’re receiving. For instance, you’re not expected to be looking for work while on sickness benefits, so you don’t have to file a report.)
Yes, if they’ve worked enough insurable hours to be eligible. But the government needs to have ROEs as proof of hours worked, so workers need to be sure their employers have submitted this. Employers are not required to submit an ROE every time a small job is done, but they do when:
an employee requests an ROE and an interruption of earnings has occurred
an employee is no longer on the employer’s active employment list
Service Canada requests an ROE
an employee has not done any work or earned any insurable earnings for 30 days
You may be eligible for EI regular benefits if you:
were employed in insurable employment
lost your job through no fault of your own
have been without work pay for at least 7 consecutive days in the last 52 weeks
have worked at least a certain minimum number of insurable employment hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter
are ready, willing and capable of working each day (otherwise, you may need sickness, disability or maternity benefits)
are actively looking for work (you must keep a written record of employers you contact, including when you contacted them)
You may not qualify for EI:
if you haven’t worked enough insurable hours
if you voluntarily left your job without just cause
if you were dismissed for misconduct
if you are unemployed because you are directly participating in a labour dispute (for example, a strike, lockout or other type of conflict)
during a period of leave that compensates for a period in which you worked under an agreement with your employer, more hours than are normally worked in full-time employment.
Yes, but it could affect your earnings. According to Employment and Social Development Canada, you can keep 50 cents of your EI benefits for every dollar you earn up to 90% of your previous weekly earnings. After that, your EI benefits are reduced dollar for dollar.
To work while receiving benefits, simply declare the income you’re making when you file your report with the government.
Yes. But the sum total of weeks you can receive regular EI benefits for unemployment as well as other EI benefits cannot exceed 50 weeks in the same benefit period of 52 weeks. An exception to this is when regular benefits are combined with parental benefits to allow parents of newborns to have extended time off with their infants.
To work while receiving benefits, simply declare the income you’re making when you report to the government as required under the program.
Extra help for EI applicants with coronavirus
The government is prioritizing processing EI applications for people with coronavirus. If you become infected with coronavirus and get quarantined, the usual 1-week waiting period on receiving your first EI payment will be waived. Essentially, this means you don’t have to pay a deductible and will receive an extra week’s worth of EI benefits. If you’re in quarantine, call the government’s toll-free number to learn more.
What other financial support is available during coronavirus?
Thanks to the efforts of the Canadian government, people who have been negatively impacted by coronavirus have a number of new and existing sources of financial support. Here’s the breakdown:
The new Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months to:
Workers who must stop working due to COVID19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
Workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19.
Working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures.
Workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work.
Wage earners and self-employed individuals, including part-time workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will be accessible through a secure web portal starting in early April. Applicants will also be able to apply via an automated telephone line or via a toll-free number.
Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Benefits (long term support for people with disabilities)
You can get monthly payments out of your CPP prior to turning 65 as long as you’ve contributed to the plan for a certain number of years and have a severe and prolonged mental or physical disability that prevents your from working regularly. Payments can also be made to child of someone with a disability. Learn more about disability benefit options in our detailed guide.
Extended deadlines for income tax filing and tax payments
To help ease some financial stress, the deadline for filing individual taxes has been moved to June 1, 2020. The deadline for paying any amounts that become owing between March 18, 2020 and September 1, 2020 has been moved to September 1, 2020 – during this time period, no interest or penalty fees will be applied to taxes (including installments) that you owe the CRA.
Where there is difficulty in making payments, the CRA is very flexible in arranging payment plans. Affected taxpayers may also be eligible to receive relief by submitting Form RC4288 Request for Taxpayer Relief – Cancel or Waive Penalties or Interest; requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Other government financial support The government is planning to offer a Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC) that will be payed out to low- and middle-income Canadians in early May 2020. This one-time payment will provide approximately $400 for single individuals and $600 for couples. Also in May 2020, families eligible for the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) will get $300 more per child.The rest of the government’s relief plan includes:
A 6-month, interest-free reprieve on federal student loan payments.
Doubling the homeless care program.
$305 million for a new Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation communities.
In March 2019 alone, Canadians paid around 1.1 million visits to over 500 food banks located around the country. Roughly 1 in 8 visitors to the food bank are employed, and nearly half are from single-person households.
The Food Bank network in Canada offers nutritious food thanks to corporate support, individual donors and food producers that produce fresh and frozen products. Additionally, fresh fruits and vegetables are provided by community garden programs that also teach recipients how to grow their own food. Visit foodbankscanada.ca to find a location near you.
Can casual workers be terminated without cause?
Yes. An employer may terminate a casual worker’s employment because of a lack of work, unsatisfactory work performance or for other causes requiring disciplinary measures. This means that casual workers can potentially lose their jobs due to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
An employer may terminate a casual worker without notice if the worker is provided with 2 weeks’ pay and if the worker is being let go without fault because of a lack of work or because of a discontinued work function.
Are casual workers eligible for EI support as students?
It’s possible for casual, part-time or occasional students, but you won’t likely qualify for EI if you’re a full-time student. You can get EI while studying as long as you can show that you don’t have a job and are both willing and able to work. You must also be actively looking for work. So, you won’t get benefits if you want to use them strictly to support yourself while studying (that’s what student loans are for).
Additionally, you must be able to show that your studies are not getting in the way of actively looking for a job or accepting suitable employment, should you be offered it. Its highly unlikely you’ll be able to qualify for EI while studying full time as this would take a huge amount of time away from looking for a job and working once you’ve found one. But if, say, you’re taking 1-2 courses during non-business hours, you may not have as hard a time qualifying.
Are casual workers entitled to paid sick leave or paid vacation?
Casual workers are not entitled to receive sick leave, annual leave or paid vacation time, however, an employer may choose to grant unpaid leave if he or she chooses. Casual workers instead receive a percentage of vacation pay as a payout on top of their usual earnings.
The only type of leave to which casual workers are entitled is up to 3 consecutive calendar days of bereavement leave (this includes the day of the funeral). This leave can be paid once the worker has completed 3 months of continuous employment.
What’s the difference between casual work and part-time work?
Casual workers are hired to work over specific time periods that, collectively, don’t exceeding 90 working days in 1 calendar year. They are employed in a department or agency to which the Public Service Commission (PSC) has the exclusive authority to make appointments.
Part-time workers have an expectation of ongoing employment and work less than 30 hours per week. It’s possible for casual workers to be hired on a part-time basis in the sense that they’re working the same number of hours in a work week as a part-time employee.
What other steps can you take to protect yourself?
If you are anticipating that your income is going to be severely reduced you should plan ahead. Here are some helpful tips:
Cut down on excess spending. Eating out, buying things you don’t absolutely need. It’s a good idea to put money into an emergency fund.
Consider debt consolidation to pay off debt faster. Banks, credit unions and online lenders offer financing designed to eat up your existing debt with a new loan that has a lower interest rate and/or more favourable terms. This can help you save and pay down debt faster.
Negotiate with your utility companies and providers. Ask them about financial hardship plans and bill freezing or pausing. You may be able to negotiate some leeway with your regular payments.
See which expenses you can reduce quickly. Is there anything you don’t need? Something you could sell? If so, it might be worth doing.
Look for alternative work. If you have lost your job or have had shifts cut you might consider finding work in a new industry that has been less impacted by the pandemic. Check out this online job bank managed by the government to see if there any opportunities for you.
If you’re worried about your ability to pay your monthly credit card payments, it might be worth looking into a balance transfer credit card. This type of card charges low interest for a certain period of time (usually between 6 and 10 months depending on the card). Saving on interest could help even a little while you get back on your feet.
Avoid payday loans
Try to steer clear of taking out payday loans or cash advances. While easy to get, these loans are incredibly expensive and will end up costing you far more than the original sum you borrowed. If you’re stretched financially, you might want to consider these alternatives to payday loans including installment loans, cash advances and credit counseling.
Take care of your mental health
There’s a lot of stress and anxiety in the world right now, and that can be made worse if you’re struggling financially. It’s important to know where to get help if you’re finding it hard to cope.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, check out the list of helpful resources (including how to find a therapist in your area) on mindyourmind.ca. You can also look for chat and text services available in your area on crisisservicescanada.ca.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566, which is available 24/7 every day of the year. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 911 to get help from emergency services as soon as possible.
Stacie Hurst is an associate editor at Finder. She earned a degree in psychology and writing but studied a number of other subjects in university including business and political science. Stacie loves giving people the tools they need to make knowledgeable and successful decisions. Her personal interests include writing, personal finance, web technology, photography and anything creative!
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