When it was introduced in Canada, Employment Insurance Benefits’ sole purpose was to provide financial support to workers in between jobs. As time ticked on and the social contract evolved, so too did the scope of EI Benefits.
Today, EI covers financial support for the following situations:
The birth of a child
Employee absence due to illness or injury
Employee absence due to a serious family illness.
Many Canadian employees and employers are aware of these expanded EI benefits. Yet some of these benefits are under utilized. Due to the recent changes to illness and caregiving leaves available under various Employment Standards legislation, it’s important for employers to understand how these EI benefits work in order to better support team members and their families.
Maternity and Parental Benefits
Parental benefits have undergone multiple changes over the last several years, while maternity benefits have largely remained the same. Maternity benefits are only available to those who’re pregnant or have recently given birth. The maximum benefit period is 15 weeks and provides financial assistance of up to 55% of recent earnings to a maximum of $562 per week. This limit is based on the yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE) set each year.
For 2019, the YMPE is $53,100. This results in a lower replacement percentage for anyone earning more than $53,100 unless their employer has a policy in place to top up their earnings.
Parental benefits are available in two formats:
Standard format for a maximum combined limit of 40 weeks. The maximum leave for any one parent is 35 weeks, with the ability of the other parent to receive an additional 5 weeks. The financial limit is the same as for maternity leave; 55% of recent earnings to a maximum of $562 per week.
Extended format for a combined limit of 69 weeks. The maximum leave for any one parent is 61 weeks, with up to an additional 8 weeks for the other partner. Financial benefits are 33% of recent earnings to a maximum of $337 per week.
Read more about Maternity and Paternity benefits here.
EI benefits are available when a worker suffers from illness or injury or is required to be quarantined. There’s a mistaken belief that the employee’s absence must be full-time, when in fact EI will provide a sickness benefit when normal weekly earnings fall by 40% or more.
While most small and medium-sized businesses provide long-term disability insurance as part of their employee benefits offering, many still rely on EI to take care of their people for illness or injury lasting between one and fifteen weeks.
EI claims for short-term disabilities can take a while to process. At a time when employees are already feeling stressed due to an illness or injury, being without a pay cheque for several weeks can increase stress and impede recovery.
For companies with a history of few short-term disability claims, it may be worthwhile to implement a Supplementary Unemployment Benefit (SUB) program. The SUB program allows employers to top up an employee’s wage while they’re off work and collect EI parental, sickness, or caregiving benefits.
There are three types of Caregiving benefits available:
Family caregiver benefits for children
Family caregiver benefits for adults
Compassionate care benefits
These benefits are available in the 52 weeks following the diagnosis of a critical illness or injury or during end-of-life care. The benefits can be shared by family members either consecutively or at the same time.
The benefits are eligible for:
The care of a family member residing outside of Canada.
Children under 18, the maximum benefit is 35 weeks.
Adults 18 or over, the maximum benefit is 15 weeks.
Compassionate care leave is available to a family member of any age for a maximum of 26 weeks.
As with maternity and sickness leave, the maximum benefit is 55% of normal weekly earnings to a maximum of $562 per week, and employers wishing to top up employee earnings above 55% must register with Service Canada under the SUB program.
Awareness of the full scope of government programs, such as the other EI benefits and the EI SUB program, can help you to support your people at critical points in their lives and help your organization to design and administer your benefits programs in a more efficient manner.
To learn more about how you can support your people when they're disabled, download CB 301 Smarter
Canadian Benefits 301: Smarter Disability Programs
Join us for our one hour webinar to learn about disability benefits, their pitfalls and how to create better policies for your employees.