Feds extend parental benefits period, add new family caregiver benefit

New parents starting parental leave on or after December 3 will have the option of spreading EI benefits over a longer period | Shutterstock

Canadian workers who are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) will soon have the option of spreading their federal parental benefits over a longer period.

Those planning to begin parental leave on December 3 or later will be able to expand their benefit period from the current limit of 12 months to 18 months. The total amount of money received will remain the same but will be paid in smaller amounts. For example, a new parent taking a year off will receive 35 weeks of EI benefits at 55% of their average weekly earnings to a maximum benefit of $543 per week. A new parent taking 18 months off can receive up to 61 weeks of benefits spread over a year and a half, calculated at 33% of average weekly earnings to a maximum of $326 per week.

In addition to extending the parental benefit period, the government is implementing a new caregiver benefit to give EI-eligible employees up to 15 weeks of benefits to care for critically ill adult family members. This benefit was previously only available to those caring for critically ill children. The period for the benefits available to family members caring for children will remain at 35 weeks. For family members of critically ill children or adults, the caregiver benefit may be combined with existing compassionate care benefits, which provide up to 26 weeks of benefits for those who take time off to care for family members with a significant risk of death in the next 26 weeks.

The new benefits will be available to all EI-eligible workers outside of Quebec, including self-employed individuals who have opted into the EI program for access to EI special benefits and who meet income and other requirements.