One of the most difficult times anyone can face is when a loved one is dying or at risk of death. The demands of caring for a gravely ill or dying family member can jeopardize employment and the economic security of their families. The medical and palliative care community is only too aware of the stress that family members feel resulting from conflicting family and work responsibilities. The Government of Canada believes that, during such times, individuals should not have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for their families, so has set up a compassionate care benefit package.
The Employment Insurance (EI) Compassionate Care benefit is available to EI-eligible workers who must be absent from work to provide care or support to a child, parent, spouse or common-law partner who has a medical condition with a significant risk of death.
Up to six weeks of benefits are available for a family member, or, for family members to share when a parent, spouse, child or common-law partner falls gravely ill. The six weeks of benefits can be taken by one family member, or shared with other EI-eligible family members if they qualify for benefits. To be eligible for the new benefit, workers must have paid EI premiums and have worked 600 hours. Self employed fishers will also be eligible for the benefit.
A Medical Certificate for Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits from an attending doctor or, where applicable, medical practitioner will be required. The certificate must indicate that the ill family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks (6 months) and that the ill family member requires the care of support of one or more family members. For Employment Insurance Benefit purposes, care or support is defined as:
– providing or participating in the care of the patient, or
– arranging for the care of the patient by a third-party care provider, or
– providing psychological or emotional support to the patient
An employee who takes a period of compassionate care leave must be reinstated on his/her return to work, in his or her former position, or be given a comparable position in the same location and with the same wages and benefits. The benefit is also available to EI-eligible workers if the gravely ill family member (as described above) does not live in Canada. The same eligibility rules, will of course, apply.
Claimants can apply through the internet www.hrdc.gc.ca or through the local HRDC. For more information check the above website, or call 1 800 206-7218. Information booklets with more information also are available at your local HRDC office.
Note: If you feel you have been denied benefits unfairly, an appeal process is available. Write a letter to the local HRDC office and identify the decision you wish to appeal. Your letter must be written within 30 days of your receiving the decision.