The federal government confirmed yesterday that changes to the Employment Insurance program announced as part of the 2017 budget will come into effect on December 3, 2017. Some of the changes include the following:
- Currently, women can claim maternity EI benefits for a total of 15 weeks starting a maximum of 8 weeks prior to their due date. Starting December 3, women can start claiming these benefits 12 weeks prior to their due date if they choose.
- Adoptive or biological parents can currently claim 35 weeks of parental EI benefits over a period of 12 months ending a year after the baby is born or placed with the family. The maximum weekly benefit received is $543. Parents will now have the option of taking the equivalent of 35 weeks of benefits for 61 weeks over a period of 18 months. The benefits must be received within 78 weeks after the baby is born or placed with the family. If that option is taken, the benefit the individual receives each week will decrease to a maximum of $326/week.
- Family caregiver benefits will be available for individuals who are providing care to critically ill family members – 15 weeks of benefits when providing care to a critically ill adult and 35 weeks of benefits when providing care to a critically ill child.
The fact that EI benefits are available does not automatically mean that employers are required to grant the equivalent time off. For example, in Alberta, the Employment Standards Code governs the amount of time off that must be granted for maternity/parental leave. The legislation currently provides for 52 weeks of leave. The Alberta Government has said that it will amend the legislation to align with the changes to the EI legislation but those changes have not yet been announced, nor do we know when they will come into effect.
With respect to family caregiver benefits, the granting of job protected leave for critical illness of a child is not yet required under the Alberta Employment Standards Code but will come into effect on January 1, 2018. The changes to the Code which are scheduled to come into effect do not require employers to grant job protected leave for employees who are taking care of a critically ill adult (other than the 5 days of personal and family responsibility leave in the coming Code changes) despite the fact that EI benefits will be available to employees.
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