A new survey by Ipsos for the Canadian Cancer Society showed 88 per cent of Canadians support extending the employment insurance sickness benefit to at least 26 weeks from the current 15.

The cancer society has long advocated for this measure to ensure people living with cancer have more paid time off of work to heal and recover from their treatment, according to a press release. The extension of the length of the benefit would bring it into alignment with the amount of paid time off given to caregivers through the compassionate-care benefit. “When Canadians face cancer, too often the challenges they face are not just medical but also financial,” said Kelly Masotti, the CCS’ vice-president of advocacy, in the release.

Read: The workplace effects of cancer as a chronic illness

“The average length of treatment for people with breast and colon cancer — two of the most commonly diagnosed cancers for Canadians — ranges between 26 and 37 weeks. We must provide additional support for people living with cancer; no one should be forced to choose between a paycheque and cancer treatment.”

In addition, the polling results showed Canadians support either having employers pay for the cost of a lengthened benefit or paying out of their own pocket. A total of 87 per cent of respondents support a five-cent increase to employer-paid premiums in the first year, and a one-cent increase the following year, to fund the extended sickness-benefit period. Support for this approach is up two per cent since February 2020, when Canadians were last polled on this issue. Meanwhile, there’s strong and growing support for a salary-contribution approach: 82 per cent of Canadians support paying an extra five cents out of every $100 they earn to fund an increase to 26 weeks, also up five percentage points since last year.

Read: Close to half of EI sickness benefits recipients off work longer than help lasts

During the 2019 election, the Liberal Party of Canada committed to an extension of the EI sickness benefit, reaffirming the commitment later that year. “It is time to alleviate this burden on people who are living with a disease as serious as cancer,” said Masotti. “That’s why we are calling on the federal government to follow through on its commitment to extend the sickness benefit to at least 26 weeks. People living with cancer can’t afford to wait any longer.”