Canada extends EI sickness benefits to 26 weeks

Unpaid medical leave also hiked to 27 weeks

Canada extends EI sickness benefits to 26 weeks

The federal government has announced that it is extending the employment insurance (EI) sickness benefits to 26 weeks starting Dec. 18.

The EI sickness benefits, currently at 15 weeks, provide employees with financial assistance if they cannot report to work due to medical reasons. Qualified claimants can receive 55 per cent of their earnings up to a maximum of $638 a week.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough says the extension of the offer is part of the government's measures to make it "more flexible and inclusive."

"Extending EI sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks will provide workers in Canada with the time and flexibility they need to recover and return to work," she says.

Qualified individuals who establish a new claim on or after Dec. 18 will start getting up to 26 weeks of EI sickness benefits; those who apply before that may only get up to 15 weeks.

The EI sickness benefits granted $1.9 billion in support to about 421,000 claimants between 2019 and 2020, while a bigger $2 billion was provided to more than 450,000 claimants between 2020 and 2021.

"The extension of EI sickness benefits is an important milestone in our government's broader strategy to modernize the EI program to ensure that income support is there for Canadian workers and employers when they need it," said Irek Kusmierczyk, parliamentary secretary to the minister of employment, workforce development, and disability inclusion. 

Unpaid medical leave

Also starting Dec. 17, unpaid medical leave will also be hiked to 27 weeks for federally regulated private-sector employees, according to Ottawa.

The implementation will "ensure that employees have the right to take unpaid job-protected leave while receiving the extended EI sickness benefits."

The announcement came as the Canadian government is set to enforce its 10-day paid sick leave for federally regulated private sector employees on Dec. 1.

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