6 February 2023
Extension of EI “Sickness Benefits” in 2023
Employees and self-employed persons who contribute to Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) plan will now have access to expanded EI sickness benefits. Those who made their claim on or after December 18, 2022, may receive up to 26 weeks of EI sickness benefits, extended from the previous limit of 15 weeks.
EI Sickness Benefits are a short-term income replacement measure. Qualified individuals can receive 55% of their insurable earnings, up to a maximum of $650 a week.
To qualify for EI sickness benefits, claimants must show that:
- they are unable to work for medical reasons;
- their regular weekly earnings from work have decreased by more than 40% for at least one week;
- they accumulated at least 600 insured hours of work in the last 52 weeks before the start of their claim or since the start of their last claim, whichever is shorter; and
- if it weren’t for their medical condition, they would be able to work.
Employers that offer private additional income replacement benefits such as long-term disability benefits, should reach out to their brokers to find out what, if any impact this change may have on those plans.
While there are increased income protection benefits available for employees who must take time off due to illness or injury this does not mean that employees have statutory rights provincially which protect them from losing their job should they need to take such a leave. Although the federal government has increased the 17 weeks of protected unpaid leave in the Canada Labour Code to 26 weeks to track with the new EI extension this only applies to federally regulated employees (employees who work for railroads, fisheries etc.) Meanwhile, provincially regulated non-unionized, non-government employees do not have such protections built into any legislation. Currently, the Employment Standards Act of British Columbia provides for 5 days of paid sick leave and 3 unpaid days of sick leave. So, while a private sector employee in B.C. may now be eligible for EI benefits up to 26 weeks there is no concurrent protection for their job should they need to take time off beyond 8 days.
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Contact Watson Goepel’s experienced Employment Law Associate Sarah Hentschel today to receive strategic and practical legal guidance.