On January 3, 2016, significant changes were made to compassionate care benefits. Eligible employees now have access to up to 26 weeks of Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, instead of 6 weeks, to care for a gravely ill family member. Weeks of benefits may be taken within an expanded period of 52 weeks, up from 26 weeks. No other changes were made regarding eligibility, benefit calculations or maximums.
Benefits can still be distributed among family members who are sharing the caregiving responsibilities, though each family member must meet the eligibility requirements.
Compassionate care benefits were introduced in 2004 through the EI program in order to support families in their caregiving responsibilities. The benefits are available to eligible employed caregivers who are providing care or support to a gravely ill family member, including extended family and those considered to be like family. Providing care or support includes providing psychological or emotional support, arranging for care by a third party, or directly providing or participating in the care.
To be eligible for such benefits, applicants must provide a Medical Certificate for Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits signed by the medical doctor of the gravely ill person to confirm their significant risk of death within 26 weeks and an Authorization to Release a Medical Certificate form.
Family relationships across the life course are diverse and complex. For family members providing care or support to a loved one who may be experiencing a terminal illness, progressive condition, life-threatening injury or approaching end of life, having the proper supports in place can make a tremendous difference.
Implications of the recent changes
For families who are providing care, the recent changes to compassionate care benefits can provide relief and comfort for a longer period of time. Federal EI benefits are separate from the labour standards that provide job protection and seniority protection. Employers that offer EI top-ups will need to decide if they will extend the top-up for the full leave period. Caregivers in the paid labour force and their managers/team leaders may need information about the changes.
Source: Service Canada, 2016.
For more information about work–family, diversity and inclusion, and workplace wellness, contact the Vanier Institute of the Family at [email protected].