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Access to sickness benefits while receiving compassionate care and critically ill children Employment Insurance benefits

Sections 242 to 248 and 250 of the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 (formerly Bill C-31) came into force October 12, 2014. These sections allow employees who are on leave and receiving compassionate care leave (CCB) or parents of critically ill children (PCIC) employment insurance benefits to be able to switch to EI sickness benefits if he or she falls ill or is injured. If applicable, claimants could also potentially resume collecting their CCB or PCIC benefits.

This change is to recognize that, when a person is sick or injured, he or she may not be able to provide care or support to their gravely ill family member or critically ill child. The change applies to all EI eligible claimants, including self-employed persons who have opted into the EI program.

Claimants requesting to switch from their claim for CCB or PCIC benefits to sickness will be required to provide Service Canada with a medical certificate attesting to their illness or injury.

CCB and PCIC benefits are of a similar nature to parental benefits in that the claimant receives temporary income support to take care of a vulnerable family member. More specifically, CCB are payable to eligible persons who have to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is gravely ill and at significant risk of death within 26 weeks. PCIC benefits are payable to eligible parents who have to be away from work to provide care or support to their critically ill or injured child under the age of 18.

Part III of the Canada Labour Code (CLC) is also amended to allow employees in federally regulated workplace to interrupt their compassionate care leave and leave related to critical illness of a child and gain access to sick leave or work-related illness and injury leave if they fall ill or are injured. This amendment ensures that federally regulated employees’ jobs are protected.

These amendments also align the provisions of leave related to death or disappearance of a child under the CLC with the terms and conditions of payments for the federal income support for parents of murdered or missing children grant.

Consequential technical amendments to the Employment Insurance Regulations and Employment Insurance (Fishing) Regulations are required to align the Regulations with the specific amendments made to the Employment Insurance Act to ensure that all claimants in receipt of CCB or PCIC benefits can benefit from this flexibility. To ensure smooth implementation of the change, the coming into force of the consequential regulatory amendments would be aligned with the Act amendments on October 12, 2014.

Since March 24, 2013, employees who fall ill while receiving on parental leave and receiving EI parental benefits have been able to access EI sickness benefits. This change came about in the Helping Families in Need Act (formerly Bill C-44). Employees can either pause their parental leave to take the sickness leave, or take the sickness leave once the parental leave is up.

Overview of sickness EI benefits

Employment Insurance provides sickness EI benefits to employees who need to take a leave of absence from work because of an illness or injury. Moreover, it is a temporary financial assistance for unemployed workers unable to work because of sickness, injury, or quarantine, up to a maximum of 15 weeks. Self-employed Canadians can apply for EI sickness benefits if they are registered for access to the EI special benefits program.

To receive sickness benefits, eligible employees are required to have worked for 600 hours in the last 52 weeks or since their last claim. A medical certificate must be obtained to confirm the duration of their incapacity. The fees requested by their doctor or dentist are entirely at their own expense. They also need to prove that they are unable to work but that they would be otherwise available for work. In addition, employees must also show that their regular weekly earnings have been decreased by more than 40 percent.

The basic benefit rate is 55 percent of the employee’s average insured earnings up to a yearly maximum insurable amount which changes each year.

The date the employee files a claim is very important in order for the employee to receive the maximum sickness benefits he or she is entitled to.

The employer must first issue a Record(s) of Employment (ROE). The ROE must come from the current employer as well as from any employer(s) the employee worked for in the last 52 weeks.

The employee must apply as soon as possible (as soon as they stop work) whether or not they have the ROE(s).

Employees must serve a two-week unpaid waiting period before their EI benefits begin to be paid. Generally, this period is the first two weeks of their claim. This is like a deductible for any kind of insurance. On the other hand, if they reopen a claim for benefits in which they have already served a two-week waiting period, they do not serve another two-week waiting period.

In some instances, the two-week waiting period may be waived or deferred, but only under certain circumstances, for example:

  • If the employee gets paid sick leave pay from their employer following their last day worked, the waiting period may be waived;
  • If the employee receives group insurance payments, they can serve the two-week waiting period during the last two weeks that these insurance payments are being paid.
  • If they qualify for EI sickness benefits, payments will usually be issued within 28 days from the date of filing their claim. If they do not qualify, they will be notified of the decision.

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Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B. Managing Editor

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 18 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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