As reported by Yosie Saint-Cyr in the October 24, 2016 edition of HRinfodesk, the federal Employment Insurance Act was amended on June 22, 2016, in part to decrease the EI waiting period for benefits to commence from two weeks to one week. The new EI waiting period is to commence on January 1, 2017.
The change, in effect, reduces the total benefit entitlement period under EI, although it doesn’t change the maximum benefit period, or weeks of benefits payable. The EI waiting period will affect most employees who are to take an employment leave for which EI provides benefits, including pregnancy, parental, compassionate care leave, and critically ill child care leave. As a result of the change, the benefit periods for the above leaves are as follows:
- pregnancy—15 weeks + one week waiting period = 16 weeks total period
- parental—35 weeks + one week waiting period = 36 weeks total period
- compassionate care—26 weeks + one week waiting period = 27 weeks total period
- critically–ill child care—35 weeks + one week waiting period = 36 weeks total period
This change does not affect the leave entitlement periods legislated by the provinces and territories in their employment standards laws, which for the most part, were based on the EI benefit entitlement periods, including a two week EI waiting period, as follows:
- pregnancy/maternity—17 weeks
- parental—37 weeks
- compassionate care—Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut— 8 weeks
Saskatchewan (current), Quebec—12 weeks
Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan (proposed)—28 weeks
- critically-ill child care leave—37 weeks (all jurisdictions except Alberta and British Columbia which have no such provisions as yet)
It seems unlikely that provincial governments will amend employment standards legislation to reduce provincial leave entitlements to match the reduction in the total federal benefit periods and therefore the inconsistency between the leave and benefit entitlements is likely to remain. Although employers may have nothing to do with an employee`s EI benefit entitlement, employees may not understand that the benefit entitlement period during a leave is legislated by the federal government in the EI legislation, and the entitlement to take the leave from work is covered by provincial or territorial legislation. The new inconsistency between EI and provincial entitlements may increase employee confusion.
To add to it, current Supplementary Unemployment Benefit (SUB) Plans may result in an overpayment to employees in the second week of the waiting period (which, under the new regulations, will be a benefit week).
Employers should ensure that their leave policies are amended with respect to any reference to EI benefits, and any SUB Plans offered during leaves and be prepared to provide employees with additional information about their leave entitlements versus their benefit entitlements.
 Reducing the employment insurance (EI) waiting period, Yosie Saint-Cyr LLB., HRinfodesk