Changes to Parental, Maternity, and Caregiving Benefits Under EI

Recent changes have been made to Canada’s Employment Insurance (“EI”) regime concerning maternity, parental, and caregiving benefits under the Employment Insurance Act.

Parental Benefits

Since December 3, 2017, new parents have had the option of receiving EI benefits over an extended period of time. Previously, new parents were 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. This “standard” option is still available; however, a new “extended” option permits new parents 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.  The extended option does not change the total dollar value of EI parental benefits, but rather spreads the payments over a longer period of time.

Mothers are also 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.

A new Parental Sharing Benefit, announced February 27, 2018, will give new parents between five and eight additional weeks of parental leave, when both parents agree to share the parental leave. Under the standard option, parents can extend the benefit to 40 weeks when the second parent takes five weeks of leave. Under the extended option, parents can extend the benefit to 69 weeks when the second parent takes eight weeks of leave. The Parental Sharing Benefit is expected to be made available starting in June 2019.

Caregiving Benefits

Employees who take leaves from work for the purpose of providing care to critically ill or injured adult family members are now 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 been amended such that workers in federally regulated sectors have job protection leave periods that match the periods of time over which they can now receive 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 recently changed.  For more information on these changes, please refer to the accompanying articles on Compassionate Care Leave and Pregnancy & Parental Leaves.

This Article was provided by Ryan Anderson and Natasha Jategaonkar, employment lawyers 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.