Under the Employment Insurance Act, both employers and employees are required to contribute to Employment Insurance (“EI”) premiums. The objective of EI benefits is to provide temporary income support to unemployed workers while they search for new employment. It is well recognized that terminated employees are entitled to receive EI benefits. But what if an employee resigns?Are they still the entitled to receive EI?
In general the answer is no. If an employee voluntarily leaves their employment this would disqualify them from receiving EI. “Voluntarily leaving” means that the employee (not the employer) took the initiative to end the employment. However, this general rule is subject to a caveat. If an employee resigns, they may still be entitled to receive EI benefits if they had ‘just cause” to quit. In other words, they could still be entitled to receive EI if they can prove that quitting their job was the only reasonable alternative. An employee is expected to have tried other ways to resolve the workplace issue before quitting.
However, there are some circumstances outlined by Service Canada that constitute a situation where resigning may be the only reasonable alternative. This includes situations of sexual harassment, work that endangers health or safety, the need to provide care to an immediate family member or negative changes to your salary/wages. A few months ago I represented a client who resigned from his employment after his employer threw a saw at his workstation. Despite the fact that the employee resigned following the incident, we maintained that he was still owed EI benefits. The Social Security Tribunal agreed and determined that the employee had no reasonable alternative than to resign due to the threat to his health and safety.
Lessons to Employees
- If you quit you may not be entitled to receive regular EI benefits however , depending on your circumstances, you could still qualify to receive maternity, parental, sickness or compassionate care benefits.
- Before quitting your employment, you should consult a lawyer to determine your legal rights and entitlements.
If you have questions about your rights at works regarding harassment and violence protections and would like more information, you can contact an employment lawyer at MacLeod Law Firm. You can reach us at [email protected] or 647-204-8107.
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