Changes to Parental Leave Benefits for workers in federally‑regulated companies

January 2nd, 2018 by Elliot Fonarev

On December 5, 2017, changes to the Employment Insurance Act that were introduced in Bill C-44, the Budget Bill Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, came into place. Employers may find the new changes will require amending existing leave policies and collective agreements to reflect the impact on top‑ups, or supplementary benefits to benefits claimants.

The changes apply to new claims for maternity, parental, and caregiver leave.

Maternity Benefits

Employment Insurance (EI) maternity benefits provide up to 15 weeks of benefits for birth mothers and surrogates. The new changes will allow the benefits to be claimed back 12 weeks prior to the expected due date, up from eight weeks.

Parental Benefits

Eligible parental leave applicants will now have two options to choose from –

  • 35 weeks of EI benefits over a 12 month period at 55 percent average weekly earnings (to a maximum of $543 per week), ending a year after the child is born or placed with the family;


  • up to 61 weeks over a period of up to 18 months at 33 percent average weekly earnings (to a maximum of $346 per week), ending 78 weeks after the child is born or placed with the family.

To be eligible for parental benefits, employees must have accumulated 600 hours of insurable employment in the previous year – this remains unchanged.

The Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Regulations have been amended to reflect the extended leave period. This means workers in federally‑regulated companies will be automatically eligible to elect either option. Ontario has also committed to amending its Employment Standards Act to extend job protections to those who elect 18‑month leaves, so provincially‑regulated workplaces will soon follow suit.

The EI Family Supplement has also been enhanced in the 2017 Budget to reflect the extended benefit period. The Family Supplement provides additional income support to eligible claimants while they are receiving EI benefits. To be eligible, a claimant must have an annual family net income of less than or equal to $25,921, have one or more children under the age of 18, and receive the Canada Child Benefit.

Caregiver Benefits

Benefits for individuals who leave work to care for a family member have also changed. Family Caregiver benefits allow for 15 weeks within one year of benefits to care for a family member who is 18 years of age or older and critically ill, and 35 weeks within a year of benefits to care for a child (under 18 years of age) who is critically ill.  The caregiver provision for children has been amended to extend benefits to caregivers who are extended family or individuals considered to be “like family”. Compassionate Care benefits allow for 26 weeks of benefits for Canadians who are off work to care for a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death. Amendments extend eligibility to nurse practitioners and doctors.

Implications for Employers

Employers should review the terms of their employment contracts, benefit plans, internal policies, and collective agreements to assess the implications . If your agreements and policies top‑up EI benefits for the duration of parental leave, ensure you’re meeting new obligations for extended leave. Consider too that planning for maternity leave with your employees may start earlier and have different budget implications. Provincially‑regulated companies should continue to watch this space for amendments in Ontario as they are announced.

This summarizes the main changes – employers should review the legislation itself before changing policies.  The legislation is found here.

Filed in: Employment Law

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