Reducing the two-week waiting period to one week

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The employment insurance (EI) waiting period: what it means for EI claimants

The Employment Insurance (EI) waiting period is a period of time that must be served before a claimant can begin to receive EI benefits.  It has been set at two weeks since 1971. Shortening the waiting period is expected to ease the financial strain for EI claimants and will put an estimated additional $650 million in the pockets of Canadians annually beginning next year, that is for those who do not exhaust their maximum entitlement to benefits

Budget 2016 announced the EI waiting period would be reduced from two weeks to one week, effective January 1, 2017. The waiting period acts as a deductible similar to other kinds of insurance. As a result of legislative changes which came into effect on January 1, 2017, the waiting period is one week for claims starting on that date or later. For claims starting prior to January 1, 2017, the waiting period stays at two weeks. The reduction of the waiting period applies to regular, sickness, maternity, parental, compassionate care, parents of critically ill children, and fishing benefits.

This change does not affect the maximum number of weeks of benefits you may receive. Furthermore, the measure does not change the timelines to process your claim or receive your first payment.

The waiting period change may have indirect implications for workers and employers who have top-up arrangements that supplement EI. Depending on the text of collective agreements, some workers may receive one week fewer of top-up payments or have a week of unpaid leave. This is a particular concern for maternity and parental benefits as many workers take 50 weeks of available EI benefits with some employers supporting an additional two-week period within the overall 52-weeks. Employers and workers are advised to review their plans to assess whether they wish to adjust their agreements to align to the reduced waiting period.

The waiting period change may also have indirect implications for employers who offer short-term disability plans and are granted an EI premium reduction. To align with the one-week waiting period, the elimination period standard for qualifying short-term disability plans is reduced to a maximum of seven consecutive days (from 14 days). The Government of Canada has taken steps to mitigate the potential impact on employers by providing time for them to adjust their short-term disability plans, should they wish to do so. In some cases, EI eligible claimants may be entitled to one-week of EI benefits before benefits under their employer plan become payable.

Example 1 – EI Regular benefits

Marianna, a single mother with two young children, recently lost her job in London, Ontario, at a local manufacturing facility. Fortunately, she qualifies for up to 38 weeks of Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, which will help with her living expenses while she looks for a new job.

After 12 weeks of searching, she found a new job.

With a reduced waiting period, Marianna will receive EI benefits for 11 of those 12 weeks instead of only 10 of those 12 weeks. As a result, she will receive more income support to keep up with important payments including food, rent and care for her children.

Example 2 – EI Maternity and Parental benefits

Neil and Sarah are expecting their first child in Kelowna, British Columbia. Both of them qualify for EI benefits and are applying for EI maternity and parental benefits. Sarah may access up to 15 weeks of maternity benefits, and they are eligible to share up to 35 weeks of parental benefits.

Sarah is planning to take all 15 weeks of maternity benefits and 30 weeks of parental benefits. Neil is planning to take 5 weeks of parental benefits after Sarah returns to work.

Sarah and Neil will receive the same number of weeks of benefits as they would have prior to the change to the waiting period. There are no changes to the Canada Labour Code.

Example 3 – EI Sickness benefits

Sandeep has slipped and broken his ankle while shoveling his driveway in Gatineau, Quebec. He has a medical certificate indicating that he cannot work while he is recovering. Sandeep is eligible for EI sickness benefits and is off work for six weeks.

With a reduced waiting period, Sandeep will receive EI benefits for five of those six weeks instead of only four of those six weeks, which will help him keep up with his expenses.

The employment insurance (EI) waiting period: what it means for employers

Budget 2016 announced the EI waiting period would be reduced from two weeks to one week, effective January 1, 2017. As a result of this change, consequential amendments to the Employment Insurance Regulations as they relate to employer supplementary benefit plans and the EI Premium Reduction Program (PRP) are also being made. Note, there are no changes to the timeframes in which employers are required to issue records of employment.

The waiting period change may have indirect implications for workers and employers who have top-up arrangements that supplement EI. Depending on the text of collective agreements, some workers may receive one week fewer of top-up payments or have a week of unpaid leave. This is a particular concern for maternity and parental benefits as many workers take 50 weeks of available EI benefits with some employers supporting an additional two-week period within the overall 52-weeks. Employers and workers are advised to review their plans to assess whether they wish to adjust their agreements to align to the reduced waiting period.

The waiting period change may also have indirect implications for employers who offer short-term disability plans and are granted an EI premium reduction. To align with the one-week waiting period, the elimination period standard for qualifying short-term disability plans is reduced to a maximum of seven consecutive days (from 14 days). The Government of Canada has taken steps to mitigate the potential impact on employers by providing time for employers to adjust their short-term disability plans if they wish to do so.

If you are an employer participating in the EI Premium Reduction Program and/or providing supplemental payments to your employees, the changes may have an impact on you. To find out if you may be impacted, please visit:

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