Volunteer work is commonplace in our society and as long as the hours involved are minimal, and there is no actual or eventual remuneration in exchange for the volunteer work, this is generally not an activity that would cast doubt on a claimant’s availability for work. However, a presumption of non-availability would arise if one is spending a significant number of hours completing volunteer work, especially if little or no time is left to seek employment. In these situations, it would be up to the individual to provide adequate evidence to rebut such a presumption. In addition, the immediate or eventual remuneration for the services rendered would tend to cast doubt on the availability of the claimant, as well as on their unemployed status (Digest 4.5.0 “Work without remuneration” and 4.6.9 “Volunteering assistance to a business enterprise”).

It is also possible for a person to be taken on by an employer on an internship or trial basis, and receive no remuneration for the work performed during this period. The issue might arise as to whether such a practice is legal but, in any event, Employment Insurance benefits are not intended to provide compensation for the wages not paid in this type of arrangement. In order to prove availability for work, such a claimant must be willing to continue to seek and accept suitable employment elsewhere, and must continue to make reasonable and customary efforts to obtain such employment. In addition to a claimant’s availability, the question as to whether or not the claimant is actually unemployed, must also be examined in these types of cases (Digest 4.5.2 “Training period”).

Source: Canada.ca / https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/ei/ei-list/reports/digest/chapter-10/personal-business.html#a10_15_1