Canada Makes Caregiving, Parental Benefits More Flexible

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, and 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.

The Government of Canada will make several improvements to the Employment Insurance (EI) program, effective Dec. 3, to better support workers who take time off work because of a family member's illness or to care for a newborn, with government officials announcing the changes Nov. 9-10.

The changes announced in the government's Budget 2017 are meant to make the program's benefits more flexible, inclusive, and easier to access, they said.

"Every Canadian's situation is unique, with different family and work needs. By making EI caregiving, maternity, and parental benefits and leaves more flexible, inclusive, and easier to access, we are providing Canadians with more options to better balance their work and life responsibilities," said Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

Specific changes include:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Parents will be able to choose the option that best meets their 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.

The changes will apply to EI-eligible workers and to 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.

The officials said 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, but for employees under provincial or territorial jurisdiction, employment standards vary by province and territory.

The 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 apply only to parents who reside outside of Quebec because the Québec Parental Insurance Plan provides maternity, paternity, parental, and adoption benefits to Quebec residents.

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.

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