CERB and EI Information & Resources


During this time of increasing uncertainty, many of you will be looking toward government income support – most notably, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Employment Insurance (EI). The CERB is a newly announced program and it seems to be evolving in real time. We’ve received many inquires about accessing these programs and are trying to provide some insight as best as we can. Unfortunately, due to the dynamic nature of these programs and further amendments that are likely to occur, we do not have as many definitive answers as we’d like; however, our National Union has created this helpful CERB Q&A that may answer some common questions.

In short, we would encourage all members to apply to the CERB/EI as soon as your income ends, whether by virtue of the semester coming to an end or by layoff. If in doubt, apply! The worst thing that will happen is that you will be informed you did not meet the eligibility criteria.

At first glance, unfortunately, it appears that most TAs/RAs/Tutors and Sessional Faculty will not be eligible for the CERB as it requires COVID-related job loss. General end-of-semester contract endings are not COVID related. Unfortunately, the CERB does not at this point extend to a lack of jobs for folks over the summer, even if the job scarcity is COVID-related. In short, it seems that many students will be left out of any sort of economic relief (for the time being at least), though we are hopeful that will change. We would encourage you to take a few moments to contact the Prime Minister at justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca and tell him to do the right thing by students who are being hammered by the COVID-19 crisis.

The CERB does, however, cover those who are sick or quarantined, looking after kids or other family members, or looking after someone that is sick or quarantined. The CERB does not require a medical certificate for this type of access.

The CERB will apply to postdocs who are laid off due to COVID-19. If this is the case for you personally, please contact us ASAP and apply for the CERB.

If you have lost employment due to COVID elsewhere, but are still employed at McMaster, you are likely not currently eligible for the CERB, but you should be as soon as your income at McMaster ends. The final pay of the semester is April 17th.

April 17th represents what Service Canada refers to as an ‘interruption of earnings’  and should be the date you list on your EI application as the last pay date (not the date for which you were last paid). The ‘day for which you were last paid’  and your ‘last day worked’  should be listed as April 18th.  We would encourage all members who may utilize Employment Insurance at any point over the spring/summer semesters to apply, even if you are employed during the Winter term.

The first pay in the Spring term, for those of you who are employed, will be on May 22nd and the first day of work will be May 3rd. This means you should be able to collect EI from April 19th to May 2nd, if you have enough insurable hours. For information on EI, click here. If you have already served a withholding period in the past 52 weeks, you will be able to collect EI as of April 19th. If you have not served a withholding period, you can serve one week over the holidays and should be able to collect EI as of April 26th.

In certain instances, it is possible to both work and collect EI (with some clawbacks) if the amount of work have in the winter has dropped substantially from the work you had during the fall term. More information is available here.

The employer will upload your ROE automatically to Service Canada over the week of April 20th. You can apply for EI as of April 19th.

If you have any additional questions regarding CERB/EI, please let us know. We will do all that we can to help you navigate through the process.