As owner-managers of your corporations or self-employed individuals, you recognize your exempt status for employment insurance. If you control more than 40% of the voting shares of your company, then you are automatically exempt and do not pay employment insurance premiums. Recent changes in the Employment Insurance Act now allow you to voluntarily opt into the Employment Insurance program to receive special benefits for certain prescribed reasons. These benefits include:
- Maternity Leave – up to 15 weeks
- Parental Leave – up to 35 weeks
- Sickness Leave – up to 15 weeks
- Compassionate Care – up to 6 weeks
In order to qualify, you would need to opt into the program for a period of at least one year prior to claiming any benefits. It should be noted that you will only need to pay the employee portion of the Employment Insurance premiums and not the employer portion. For 2011, this is $787. Under the new rules, you will be able to opt out of the program at the end of any tax year as long as you have never claimed benefits. If you have claimed benefits, then you will need to continue to contribute as long as you are self-employed.
So is it a good idea to voluntarily opt into the Employment Insurance program? For most of you, I would have to say no. The potential benefits to be received are small compared to the premium cost to be paid. As with everything though, there is always an exception to the rule and this new benefit may be very attractive to some self-employed individuals based on their particular circumstances.