On November 9, 2017 the Federal Government announced changes to Canada’s Employment Insurance (“EI”) regime concerning maternity, parental, and caregiving benefits under the Employment Insurance Act. These changes come into force on December 3, 2017.
Currently, new parents are able to claim EI benefits for a period of up to 35 weeks at 55% of average weekly earnings, subject to a maximum of $543.00 per week.
As of December 3, 2017 new parents will have the option of receiving these benefits over an extended period of time. New parents will be permitted to choose to receive combined EI maternity and parental benefits over a 61 week period at 33% of average weekly earnings, to a maximum of $326.00 per week. This does not change the total dollar value of EI parental benefits, but rather spreads the payments over a longer period of time.
Mothers will also be able to claim EI maternity benefits earlier, up to 12 weeks prior to their due date, which is an expansion from the current window of 8 weeks.
Employees who take leaves from work for the purpose of providing care to critically ill or injured adult family members will also be eligible to receive EI payments for up to a 15 week period (which may be shared amongst eligible family members). Previously, this benefit only existed to parents of a critically ill child.
Impact on Employers
The Canada Labour Code has also been amended such that workers in federally regulated sectors will have job protection leave periods that match the periods of time over which they would receive the new EI benefits.
Federally regulated employers in British Columbia should review their existing leave policies to ensure they comply with the new rules. Additionally, if an employer is currently offering a maternity leave top-up program, these changes may result in some unexpected new costs where an employee opts to receive lesser EI payments over a longer period of time, depending on the language of the top-up program.
For provincially regulated employers in British Columbia, the statutorily protected leave periods concerning pregnancy, parental, and compassionate care leave have not changed. Unless and until the provincial legislation is amended to match the extended benefit periods (and in the absence of a contractual agreement stating otherwise), provincially regulated employers remain entitled to grant or deny requests by employees for extended leave periods beyond those set out in the Employment Standards Act.
This article was provided by Ryan Anderson, an employment lawyer with Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP. The information provided in this article is necessarily of a general nature and must not be regarded as legal advice. For more information about Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP, please visit mathewsdinsdale.com.