Government of Canada Introduces the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act  
December 03, 2021

Ottawa Journal (December 07 – December 11, 2021)
David Tilson, M.P. (Dufferin-Caledon)

Owning your own business can be very rewarding and satisfying. However, it can often present challenges to families when major life events come along, such as giving birth, caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, being sick or injured, or caring for a gravely ill family member. During these life events, self-employed Canadians can often feel like they must choose between their family and their business responsibilities. Our Government has recognized this challenge and has responded by introducing the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act.

On November 03, 2009, the Honourable Diane Finley introduced the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act in the House of Commons. Through the new legislation, self-employed Canadians, who opt into the EI program, would be eligible to receive the same benefits currently available to salaried employees including:

  • maternity benefits (15 weeks maximum) are available to birth mothers and cover the period surrounding birth (a claim can start up to 8 weeks before the expected birth date);
  • parental/adoptive benefits (35 weeks maximum) are available to biological or adoptive parents while they are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, and may be taken by either parent or shared between them (if parents opt to share these benefits, only one waiting period must be served);
  • sickness benefits (15 weeks maximum), which may be paid to a person who is unable to work because of sickness, injury or quarantine; and
  • compassionate care benefits (6 weeks maximum), which may be paid to persons who have to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is gravely ill with a significant risk of death.

The proposed legislation would require self-employed Canadians to opt into the program at least one year prior to claiming benefits. They would also be responsible for making premium payments starting with the tax year in which they apply to the program. A program start date of January 2010 would mean that claims could be made as early as January 01, 2011.

In order to access these benefits, self-employed individuals would need to have earned a minimum of $6,000 in self-employed earnings over the preceding calendar year. Under this program, the self-employed could opt out of it at the end of any tax year, as long as they have never claimed benefits. If they have claimed benefits, they would have to contribute on self-employed earnings for as long as they are self-employed.

Self-employed Canadians who opt into the program would pay the same EI premium rate as salaried employees. They would not be required to pay the employer portion of premiums, in recognition of the fact that they would not have access to EI regular benefits.

These new measures build on our Government’s 2008 commitment to self-employed Canadians to support and provide greater economic security. We believe that extending EI benefits to the self-employed is the fair and right thing to do, together with the actions we’ve already taken to improve the Employment Insurance system.