December 4, 2017

Changes to the Employment Insurance Act – Impacts on Maternity and Parental Benefits

 

This bulletin provides information on the recently-announced changes to maternity and parental Employment Insurance benefits contained in Budget 2017, and how they will affect related benefits included in collective agreements.

As of December 3, 2017, the following changes to the Employment Insurance Act will take effect:

  • Employment Insurance (EI) maternity benefits can be received sooner; and
  • EI parental benefits can be received over an extended period of time.

 

Employment Insurance (EI) maternity benefits can be received sooner

Under the new provisions of the Employment Insurance Act, individuals will be able to receive EI maternity benefits as early as 12 weeks (previously 8) before the expected date of birth. However, the maximum duration of the EI maternity benefits remains at 15 weeks.

Maternity benefits will continue to be paid at the existing benefit rate of 55% of average weekly earnings, up to the maximum insurable earnings.

There will be no impact to the maternity allowance top-up contained within the collective agreements. Employees will still receive a top-up based on the difference between the EI maternity benefits and 93% of the employee’s weekly rate of pay, less any other monies earned during this period that decreases the maternity benefits.

EI parental benefits can be received over an extended period of time

Under new provisions of the Employment Insurance Act, individuals will have two options when applying for EI parental benefits:

  • To receive benefits over the current 35 week period at the existing rate of 55% of the average weekly earnings, up to the maximum insurable earnings; or
  • To receive benefits over a 61 week period at 33% of the average weekly earnings, up to the maximum insurable earnings.

The proposed changes provide greater flexibility in leave, without increasing overall EI parental benefits. For individuals choosing the extended period option, the rate of the EI parental benefit will be lower, but the benefit will be received over a longer period of time.

Individuals should review their options carefully and choose the option that best suits their need.

Individuals need to select an option for EI parental benefits (standard or extended) at the time of applying for EI benefits. Once parental benefit payments start, the choice of option may not be changed.

The parental top-up provision language in the collective agreements will continue to apply. If employees elect to receive benefits over a 61 week period at a 33% benefit replacement rate:

  • They will remain entitled to the difference between their EI parental benefits and 93% of their weekly rate of pay, less any other monies earned during this period that decreases the parental benefits.
  • The maximum combined shared maternity and parental allowances payable will remain at 52 weeks, which includes 35 weeks of parental allowance.
  • At the end of the 52 week period, the top-up allowance will cease and employees will only be entitled to receive the 33% EI parental benefit for the remainder of the extended parental leave without pay (LWOP) period.

As some collective agreements and terms and conditions of employment do not allow for parental LWOP in excess of 37 weeks in the 52 week period beginning on the day on which the child is born (or the day on which the child comes into the employee’s care), employees will need to request LWOP for the Care of Family. Organizations are encouraged to grant LWOP based on the same considerations used for allowing parental LWOP.

Employees who choose to use extended EI parental benefits, and who are consequently absent for more than one year, will maintain their incumbents’ rights to their position.

Please note that these changes do not impact residents of Quebec. Quebec residents are ineligible for maternity or parental benefits offered through the Employment Insurance Program as the province of Quebec administers its own program, the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan.

All questions should be directed to your Departmental Corporate Labour Relations or Corporate Compensation Official who, if required will direct their questions to the Compensation and Labour Relations group at the following email address: Interpretations@tbs-sct.gc.ca.