Employment Insurance sickness benefits

Backgrounder

Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits are an important measure for supporting workers who are in the difficult circumstance of having to temporarily leave their job due to illness, injury or quarantine. These benefits are available to qualifying claimants who are unable to work, and allow them time needed to restore their health before they can return to work. EI sickness benefits are paid at 55% of the applicant’s average weekly insurable earnings up to the maximum entitlement amount. The amount for 2022 is $638 per week.

As committed in Budget 2021, the Government is permanently extending the number of weeks available under EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks to provide workers with additional time and flexibility to recover before their return to work. These extra weeks will be available for new EI claims established on or after December 18, 2022.

The extension to EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks will only apply to EI sickness benefits and will not have any immediate impact on the requirements that wage loss replacement plans must meet to qualify for a premium reduction under the Premium Reduction Program (PRP). These requirements will remain unchanged for the time being.

To be eligible, claimants of EI sickness benefits need to demonstrate 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 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.

Claimants also need to get a medical certificate signed by a medical practitioner when they apply for sickness benefits. The medical practitioner must practise in Canada or the United States and the illness they’re treating must be in their field. The following medical practitioners can complete and sign the claimant’s medical certificate:

  • medical doctor;
  • chiropractor;
  • optometrist;
  • psychologist;
  • dentist;
  • midwife (except Prince Edward Island);
  • nurse practitioner; and,  
  • registered nurse (in isolated areas when a doctor is unavailable).

Earlier this year, the Government concluded a two-year consultation on modernizing the EI program which covered the Premium Reduction Program. Input from these consultations, and lessons learned from the pandemic will inform the development of the Government’s plan on EI modernization.

As of August 12, 2018, the EI Working While on Claim (WWC) rules were extended to EI sickness and EI maternity benefits, including for eligible self-employed persons in order to improve the sickness benefit. This enables greater flexibility for EI sickness and maternity benefits claimants so they can keep more of the EI benefits if they choose to gradually return to work. 

Also, EI claimants in receipt of parental benefits, compassionate care benefits and their EI Family Caregiver benefit can switch to the sickness benefit if they become ill, injured or quarantined while on claim. They may be able resume collecting the balance of the other benefits thereafter, if they meet the requirements.

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