In the first year since the federal government made changes to employment insurance benefits aimed at helping caregivers and new parents, it has received more than 8,300 caregiving benefits claims.
The government expects that number to grow, estimating about 22,000 claims for caregiving benefits by fall 2019. It also found that, as of September 2018, more than 22,000 parents chose the extended parental benefits option, which was introduced in December 2017.
Read: Budget boosts parental leave to 18 months, introduces caregiving benefit
“Every Canadian’s situation is unique,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of families, children and social development, in a press release. “By making EI caregiving, maternity and parental benefits and leaves more flexible, inclusive and easier to access, we are providing hard-working, middle-class Canadian families with more options to better balance their work and life responsibilities.”
In 2016-17, the government paid about 170,000 maternity benefit claims, totalling $1.1 billion, and about 196,000 parental benefits claims, totalling $2.7 billion. Women were responsible for the vast majority of parental benefit claims, at 85 per cent.
The changes to maternity and parental benefits mean eligible pregnant workers are able to receive maternity benefits earlier, up to 12 weeks before their due date. Also, parents are able to choose standard parental benefits taken over 12 months or extended benefits taken over 18 months.
Read: Will 18-month parental leave reduce pressures on working families?
The new family caregiver benefit allows up to 15 weeks of benefits for caregivers who are looking after a critically ill or injured adult family member. The benefit for parents of critically ill children also changed, as it was replaced by the family caregiver benefit for children. Previously only available to parents, it’s now available to immediate and extended family members of critically ill children. While it still provides the same 35 weeks of benefits, both medical doctors and nurse practitioners can sign for it.
The compassionate care benefit remains available, providing caregivers up to 26 weeks of EI benefits to tend to or support a family member at the end of their life.