On December 3, 2017, the following changes to the Employment Insurance Act took effect:
- Employment Insurance (EI) maternity benefits can be received sooner; and
- EI parental benefits can be received over an extended period of time.
When the effective date of these changes was announced, it left very little time for the parties to make the necessary changes to collective agreements for federal government employees to take advantage of these new benefits.
Until the parties have the opportunity to negotiate amendments to collective agreements, you will be entitled to maternity and parental leave and benefits as follows:
- EI maternity benefits can commence as early as 12 weeks (previously 8) before the expected date of birth.
- The duration of EI maternity benefits remain at 15 weeks.
- EI 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 is no impact to the maternity allowance top-up contained within the collective agreements; employees still receive a top-up based on the difference between the EI maternity benefits and 93% of their weekly rate of pay, less any other monies earned during this period that decreases the maternity benefits.
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.
Employees who choose the second option can request leave without pay for the care of family to cover the extended period they are in receipt of parental benefits and they will be able to return to their position when then return from leave.
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 for 35 weeks, 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.
It is our position that approval of this leave is not discretionary, as it is considered an extension of parental leave to allow for new parents to receive parental benefits under the Employment Insurance Act.
Québec residents receive benefits under the Québec Parental Insurance Plan and are not affected by the changes to the federal benefits.