The Federal Government’s newly released Budget 2017: Building a Strong Middle Class proposes changes to leave entitlements and Employment Insurance (“EI”) benefits that are relevant to employers and employees alike.
While the new Budget will not alter existing leave provisions under provincial employment and labour legislation, it is likely that provinces will bring their legislation in line with the projected amendments to the Canada Labour Code (“CLC”).
Changes to Leave Entitlements
The Budget proposes amendments to the CLC which would result in increased job protection for employees receiving parental, maternity or caregiving benefits. These changes would only apply to federally regulated employers.
Changes to EI Benefits
While women can currently claim EI maternity benefits up to 8 weeks before their due date, changes to EI entitlements proposed by the new Budget would increase this to 12 weeks. The new Budget also proposes a more flexible EI scheme which would allow parents to choose between receiving EI parental benefits for up to 18 months at a rate of 33% of average weekly earnings, or up to 12 months at the existing benefit rate of 55%.
Among the Budget’s proposed changes is a new EI benefit to support caregivers. This new benefit would cover a broader range of situations where individuals are providing care to an adult family member who requires significant support in order to recover from a critical illness or injury, and would provide up to 15 weeks of EI benefits to these eligible caregivers. In addition, parents providing care to critically ill children will have greater flexibility to share their existing benefits with other family members.
Should the changes proposed by the new Budget be implemented, certain employees will benefit from increased job protection and flexible EI entitlements. Employers should take note of these changes and their impact on workforce planning and budgeting. Employers who offer EI “top-up” benefits may also consider updating their workplace policies, and employment agreements.
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