VANCOUVER, BC, Nov. 25, 2022 /CNW/ – Canadians who are facing illness or injury need to feel confident that they are supported and that their jobs are protected as they recover. That is why the Government of Canada is taking action to improve Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits.
Today, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, visited the Canadian Cancer Society’s (CCS) regional care centre in Vancouver, British Columbia to announce the permanent extension of EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks beginning on December 18, 2022.
Together with Andrea Seale, Chief Executive Officer of the CCS, Minister Qualtrough listened to the stories of those in attendance and discussed how the extension of sickness benefits will help support Canadians facing illness, injury, or quarantine.
The change to EI sickness benefits will provide approximately 169,000 Canadians per year with additional time and flexibility to recover so they can return to work after an illness, injury or quarantine.
Individuals who qualify and establish a new claim on or after December 18, 2022, will be able to receive up to 26 weeks of EI sickness benefits if they are sick and require this time to recover. EI sickness benefits are paid at 55% of the applicant’s average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum entitlement of $638 for 2022.
To align with this change, the maximum length of unpaid medical leave available to federally regulated private-sector employees will also be increased from 17 to 27 weeks under the Canada Labour Code. This change will come into effect on the same date as the extension of EI sickness benefits and will ensure that employees have the right to take unpaid job-protected leave while receiving the extended EI sickness benefits.
EI sickness benefits are designed as a short-term income replacement measure and will continue to complement a range of other supports available to Canadian workers for longer-term illnesses and disabilities including the Canada Pension Plan Disability benefit, benefits offered through private and employer insurance, as well as supports provided by provinces and territories.
The extension of EI sickness benefits is part of the Government’s broader commitment to reform the EI program. In August 2021, the Government began a two-year consultation on EI reform to build an EI program that is more flexible, fairer and better suited to the needs of today’s workers. The Government is currently analyzing the input received from stakeholders during the consultations. Their insights are helping to inform the design and path forward for modernizing the EI program.
“Our government has been clear: Canadians should have the supports they need to look after themselves and their families while recovering from an illness or injury. That’s why we’re working hard to build a more flexible and inclusive EI program for the 21st century. Extending EI sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks will provide workers in Canada with the time and flexibility they need to recover and return to work. With these measures, we’re making sure that workers across Canada are supported in the best way possible.”
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough
“The extension of EI sickness benefits is an important milestone in our Government’s broader strategy to modernize the EI program to ensure that income support is there for Canadian workers and employers when they need it. Those who are facing illness, injury or quarantine can now be sure that their jobs are protected while they focus on recovery.”
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Irek Kusmierczyk
“Canadians should not have to choose between their health and their paycheque. Today, we are fulfilling an important commitment that will allow those who are dealing with a health issue to take the time to recover.”
Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos
“When someone faces cancer, their struggle is not just medical but also financial. Extending the EI sickness benefit from 15 to 26 weeks gives Canadians with a disease like cancer more time to focus on their treatment and recovery. We commend the Government of Canada and Minister Qualtrough for this historic investment and commitment to ensuring more people can access the financial supports they need to thrive through their diagnosis and treatment.”
CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society, Andrea Seale
“We are excited to see the permanent extension of Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits to 26 weeks, a crucial change for Canadians living with episodic disabilities including multiple sclerosis (MS). With more than 60 per cent of people living with MS eventually reaching unemployment, this is a step towards improving critical income and disability supports. This benefit will give people the flexibility required to stay connected to their workplace as they manage the unpredictability of MS. This is the result of collective voices working together towards change. We thank Minister Qualtrough for listening to those voices and taking action as we work together to improve the lives of all Canadians affected by MS.”
Dr. Pamela Valentine, President and Chief Executive Officer, MS Society of Canada
- In 2019-2020, the EI sickness benefit provided $1.9 billion in support to approximately 421,140 claimants. In the same year, 34% of recipients used the full 15 weeks of benefits to which they were entitled.
- In 2020-2021, the first year of the pandemic, almost $2 billion in EI sickness benefits were provided to more than 450,000 claimants, despite new claims only being established starting in the second half of the fiscal year following the end of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
- Results from the Evaluation Report on EI sickness benefits indicate that most claimants (87%) reported returning to work within the first year following an illness, injury or quarantine. The majority of claimants who do return to work after using all 15 weeks of EI sickness benefits do so within the first 10 weeks after the end of their EI sickness benefit claim.
- As of December 1, 2022, federally regulated private-sector employees will also begin accumulating up to 10 days of paid sick leave per year.
- Budget 2022 reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to building an EI program that includes simpler and fairer rules for workers and employers, new ways to support experienced workers transitioning to new careers and coverage for self-employed and gig workers. It also reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to extend EI sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks.
Employment Insurance sickness benefits
Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits are an important measure for supporting workers who are in the difficult circumstance of having to temporarily leave their job due to illness, injury or quarantine. These benefits are available to qualifying claimants who are unable to work, and allow them time needed to restore their health before they can return to work. EI sickness benefits are paid at 55% of the applicant’s average weekly insurable earnings up to the maximum entitlement amount. The amount for 2022 is $638 per week.
As committed in Budget 2021, the Government is permanently extending the number of weeks available under EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks to provide workers with additional time and flexibility to recover before their return to work. These extra weeks will be available for new EI claims established on or after December 18, 2022.
The extension to EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks will only apply to EI sickness benefits and will not have any immediate impact on the requirements that wage loss replacement plans must meet to qualify for a premium reduction under the Premium Reduction Program (PRP). These requirements will remain unchanged for the time being.
To be eligible, claimants of EI sickness benefits need to demonstrate that:
- they are unable to work for medical reasons;
- their regular weekly earnings from work have decreased by more than 40% for at least one week;
- they accumulated at least 600 insured hours of work in the 52 weeks before the start of their claim or since the start of their last claim, whichever is shorter; and
- if it weren’t for their medical condition, they would otherwise be available for work.
Claimants also need to get a medical certificate signed by a medical practitioner when they apply for sickness benefits. The medical practitioner must practise in Canada or the United States and the illness they’re treating must be in their field. The following medical practitioners can complete and sign the claimant’s medical certificate:
- medical doctor;
- midwife (except Prince Edward Island);
- nurse practitioner; and,
- registered nurse (in isolated areas when a doctor is unavailable).
Earlier this year, the Government concluded a two-year consultation on modernizing the EI program which covered the Premium Reduction Program. Input from these consultations, and lessons learned from the pandemic will inform the development of the Government’s plan on EI modernization.
As of August 12, 2018, the EI Working While on Claim (WWC) rules were extended to EI sickness and EI maternity benefits, including for eligible self-employed persons in order to improve the sickness benefit. This enables greater flexibility for EI sickness and maternity benefits claimants so they can keep more of the EI benefits if they choose to gradually return to work.
Also, EI claimants in receipt of parental benefits, compassionate care benefits and their EI Family Caregiver benefit can switch to the sickness benefit if they become ill, injured or quarantined while on claim. They may be able resume collecting the balance of the other benefits thereafter, if they meet the requirements.
SOURCE Employment and Social Development Canada