Consulting with Canadians to introduce more flexible and inclusive support for parents and family caregivers

October 6, 2016                  Gatineau, Quebec                   Employment and Social Development Canada

The Employment Insurance (EI) program stands among the pillars of Canada’s social safety net, helping Canadians during major milestones throughout their working life. The Government is committed to improving the EI program so that it is better aligned with today’s labour market realities and is responsive to the needs of Canadian workers and employers.

The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, reinforces this commitment today by launching an online consultation to seek the views of Canadians on providing more flexible EI maternity and parental benefits as well as more inclusive caregiving benefits for Canadians who provide care to a family member.

Through the ESDC Consultations portal, the Government of Canada is consulting with Canadians between October 6 and November 4, 2016, to gather their thoughts on what is important to them and how they could benefit from additional support.

The Government is looking to all Canadians, particularly parents and caregivers, to join the conversation and share their views and experiences. This is an opportunity for Canadians to share their thoughts on the sort of adjustments that are required to improve Canada’s EI maternity, parental and caregiving benefits programs.

We are also seeking input from employers, advocacy groups, unions, academics, experts, the medical community and provinces and territories on this important issue.

These consultations, as well as the EI measures that came into effect this past summer, are part of the Government’s plan to help Canada’s middle class and those working hard to join it.


Caring for a child or seriously ill family member puts tremendous pressure on many Canadians to balance their family and work responsibilities. Employment Insurance parental and caregiving benefits and leaves should be flexible and inclusive to meet the needs of today’s families. This is why I want to hear Canadians’ views on how we can better support parents and caregivers”.

– The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Quick Facts

  • The Budget 2016 will provide $2.7 billion over the next two years for improvements to EI to help Canadians across the country.
  • The Government of Canada is considering options to help parents and their families by providing for greater flexibility in EI parental benefits and unpaid leave under the Canada Labour Code.
  • The Government of Canada is considering options to provide more flexible and inclusive EI caregiving benefits and unpaid leave under the Canada Labour Code to more Canadians who provide care to a family member.

Associated Link

Budget 2016


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Media Contacts

Mathieu Filion
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
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Improving Employment Insurance by introducing more flexible parental benefits, and more inclusive caregiving benefits for Canadian families


The Government of Canada has a number of policies in place to help Canadians who are in need, and is always looking at ways to improve programs and services to help support Canadians.

In addition to assisting Canadians during unemployment, the Employment Insurance (EI) program provides temporary financial assistance to employees and insured self-employed persons who are pregnant; caring for a newborn; newly adopted, or critically ill child; sick, or caring for a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death. These benefits, as well as job-protected leaves under the Canada Labour Code (CLC), play an important role in supporting working Canadians to balance work and family responsibilities.

Employment Insurance Maternity and Parental Benefits and CLC Leaves

The maternity benefit provides up to 15 weeks of benefits to EI eligible birth mothers, including surrogates, related to childbearing and to support physical and/or emotional recovery during the weeks surrounding the birth. These benefits are payable as early as 8 weeks prior to the expected date of birth, and as late as 17 weeks after the birth of the child.

The parental benefit provides up to 35 weeks of support to EI eligible parents (biological and adoptive parents) who leave the workforce to care for a newborn or newly-adopted child or children. The parental benefit is offered per family and may be shared—it can be taken at the same time by eligible parents, or separately. Benefits may be taken in the 52 weeks following the birth or placement of a child for adoption. The benefit and leave are available to eligible opposite-sex and same-sex parents.

It should be noted that the maternity and parental benefits offered under the EI program only apply to parents who reside outside of Quebec. The Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) provides benefits to workers and self-employed Quebec residents who are eligible to take a maternity, paternity, parental or adoption leave.

The CLC currently provides corresponding unpaid job-protected maternity and parental leaves for employees under federal jurisdiction. Under the CLC, an employee working in a federally regulated enterprise who has completed six consecutive months of continuous employment with the same employer is entitled to:

  • Up to 17 weeks of unpaid maternity leave (which can be taken up to 11 weeks prior to expected birth date and up to 17 weeks following childbirth).
  • Up to 37 weeks of unpaid parental leave. The leave can be taken during the 52 week (one year) period beginning on the day the child is born or is placed for the purposes of adoption in the employee’s home. The total amount of leave that may be taken by two employed parents in respect of the same birth or adoption cannot exceed 37 weeks.

Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits and CLC Leave

Since January 3, 2016, the EI compassionate care benefit allows claimants to collect up to 26 weeks of benefits. Further, the period during which benefits can be taken was expanded to 52 weeks (up from 26 weeks). Compassionate care benefits can be shared between family members. In order to be eligible for benefits, claimants must be providing care to a seriously ill or injured family member or friend with a significant risk of death in the next 26 weeks. Claimants also need to have accumulated at least 600 insurable hours in the 52 weeks prior to their claim in order to be eligible for compassionate care benefits. The CLC provides a corresponding unpaid leave to employees of federally regulated enterprises of up to 28 weeks to ensure that their jobs are protected while they are providing care.

Parents of Critically Ill Children Benefits and CLC Leave

EI special benefits for Parents of Critically Ill Children (PCIC) first became available to eligible insured workers, and to self-employed individuals who have opted into EI, on June 9, 2013. PCIC benefits are available to EI-eligible parents caring for a child under 18 years of age with a critical illness or injury. The child’s condition must have changed significantly from their baseline state of health and be considered life-threatening. Under PCIC benefits, claimants are provided with up to 35 weeks of benefits and benefits can also be shared among eligible parents. The CLC provides a corresponding unpaid leave to employees of federally regulated enterprises of up to 37 weeks to ensure that their jobs are protected while they are providing care.

Employment Insurance Special Benefits for Self-employed Persons

Self-employed workers have been able to opt into the EI program on a voluntary basis since January 31, 2010, by entering into an agreement with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC) to pay EI premiums in order to obtain access to EI special benefits including maternity, parental, compassionate care, and PCIC benefits, and meet other eligibility criteria.


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