Employment Insurance

The Extension of Sickness Benefits from 15 to 26 Weeks

As provided for in Bill C-30, which came into effect on June 29, 2021, the Government of Canada has extended the maximum sickness benefit allowance. The 15-week period has now permanently changed to 26 weeks, which was implemented as December 18, 2022. The extension of the program provides employees with a wider-variety of criteria to accommodate reasonable circumstances. It will also provide access to seasonal workers in specific areas of the country.

Section 9 (s.s. 13) of the Employment Insurance Act has been amended accordingly to ensure that the sickness benefits cover new circumstances that have arisen from the pandemic. An example of this is the quarantine period, which has had a major effect on employers.

Sickness Benefits

To obtain sickness benefits through the Employment Insurance program, employees must prove their eligibility meets with EI standards. In order to be eligible, an employee must establish, through a signed certificate by the claimant’s medical practitioner:

  • 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 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 otherwise be available for work.

The Government of Canada has mentioned that their updated benefit program is intended to reflect the changes resulting from the pandemic. An example of this is considering quarantine, a “special” benefit, equivalent to regular sickness benefits, qualifying applicants with for 26-week maximum period. The efforts of considering societal changes are expected to continue to ensure that the EI program reflects the various circumstances of employees.

Following this amendment, employers may want to review their employment agreements and collective agreement provisions related to short-term and long-term sick leave policies. The extension of EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks may also have an impact on eligibility for long-term disability benefits and applicable waiting periods.