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Recent changes to Employment Insurance benefits

By , December 11, 2017 10:00 am

In November of this year, Employment and Social Development Canada confirmed that new Employment Insurance (“EI”) parental, maternity and caregiving benefits will come into force effective December 3, 2017. We previously blogged about these proposed changes when the new EI benefits were being proposed in the federal budget. The changes that have been announced are detailed below.

Parental Benefits

Parents, including adoptive parents, will have the following options at the time of their application:

  • Standard benefit: 35 weeks of EI parental benefits over a period up to 12 months at 55% of average weekly earnings, up to $543 per week;
  • Extended benefit: 61 weeks of EI parental benefits over a period up to 18 months at 33% of average weekly earnings, up to $326 per week.

Parents receiving EI parental benefits before December 3, 2017 will not be eligible to make the above choice.

Maternity Benefits

Women will be able to claim EI maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before their due date. Currently, women can claim these benefits up to 8 weeks before their due date. This change affords expectant mothers more flexibility when it comes to planning their maternity leave.

Caregiving Benefits

Caregivers providing care to a critically ill or injured adult family member will now have access to up to 15 weeks of benefits. These benefits are entirely new, and can be combined with the existing compassionate care benefit which is available for caregivers who are providing care for family members who are facing significant risk of death.

Additionally, immediate and extended family members of a critically ill child will have access to up to 35 weeks of benefits. This benefit was previously only available to parents of the ill child. Parents still have access to these benefits but may now share them with other family members.

Interplay between EI amendments and changes to the ESA

Although EI amendments apply to all contributors to the EI program, provincially regulated employees could not be entitled to leave periods that correspond to the new EI benefit period unless the provincial employment standards was amended to reflect those same periods.

On November 22, 2017, the Ontario government passed the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (also known as “Bill 148”), which, among other things, amends the leave provisions in the Employment Standards Act.

Effective December 3, 2017, entitlement to parental leave will increase from 35 weeks to 61 weeks for employees who take pregnancy leave, and from 7 weeks to 63 weeks otherwise. Employees will not be eligible for this increased leave entitlement with respect to children who were born or came into their care before December 3, 2017.

Furthermore, employees with six consecutive months of service will be entitled to a critical illness leave of absence of up to 17 weeks to provide care and support to a critically ill adult family member.

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