Changes are coming to the Employment Insurance program, coming into effect on December 3. The changes are intended to provide parents and family caregivers with benefits that are more flexible, inclusive and easier to access.
Not that while the timelines are expanded, there’s no new money from EI. The bulk available funding available for leave remains the same, but it is stretched out for a longer period of time. Employers with leave programs will independently address any changes they may or may not implement. Job security for the duration of the leave is generally protected by provincial regulation (except for federal employees).
- Caregivers who provide care to a critically ill or injured adult family member will have access to a new benefit of up to 15 weeks. This will help more Canadians support loved ones when they need it most.
- Immediate and extended family members of children who are critically ill will, for the first time, have access to a new benefit that was previously available only to parents. It will replace the Parents of Critically Ill Children benefit and continue to provide up to 35 weeks of benefits.
- Both medical doctors and nurse practitioners will now be able to sign medical certificates for the existing and new family caregiving benefits, which will simplify the process.
Maternity and parental benefits
- Parents will be able to choose the option that best meets their family’s needs: standard parental benefits (taken over 12 months) or extended parental benefits (taken over 18 months).
- Eligible pregnant workers will be able to receive EI maternity benefits earlier, up to 12 weeks before their due date. This increased flexibility will allow pregnant workers to consider their personal, health, and workplace circumstances when choosing when to begin their maternity leave.
These changes will apply to EI-eligible workers, as well as self-employed Canadians who opt into the EI program for access to EI special benefits, and who meet minimum income and other requirements to qualify for EI special benefits.
Changes to EI caregiving benefits will apply to new claims across Canada, while the amendments to maternity and parental benefits offered under the EI program only apply to parents who reside outside of Quebec. The Québec Parental Insurance Plan provides maternity, paternity, parental and adoption benefits to Quebec residents.
The Canada Labour Code has been amended to ensure employees in federally regulated sectors have job protection while they receive maternity, parental and caregiving benefits under the EI program. Employees working under provincial or territorial jurisdiction should contact their ministry of labour to find out how their job is protected while on leave as employment standards vary by province and territory.
Employers are encouraged to review the terms of any collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts and benefit plans they hold or administer, to assess any implications the changes may have for their organization and members.
- To be eligible for EI special benefits including maternity, parental and caregiving benefits, individuals require 600 insurable hours of work in the 52 weeks preceding their claim. Self-employed workers may opt into the EI program and become eligible to collect special benefits. To be eligible, they must opt in at least one full year prior to claiming EI benefits and need to have earned a minimum of $6,888 in 2016 for claims in 2017.
- Parents will be allowed to choose between two options for receiving EI parental benefits at the time of applying:
- Standard parental benefit
Receiving up to 35 weeks of EI parental benefits over a period of up to 12 months, at the existing benefit rate of 55 percent of average weekly earnings, to a maximum of $543 per week;
- Extended parental benefit
Receiving up to 61 weeks of EI parental benefits over an extended period of up to 18 months, at a lower benefit rate of 33 percent of average weekly earnings, to a maximum of $326 per week.
- Standard parental benefit
- Family caregiver benefits for children and adults may be combined with the existing compassionate care benefits which provide up to 26 weeks of benefits for those who leave work to care for a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death in the next 26 weeks.