On November 25, 2022, the Government of Canada announced  a permanent extension of EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks. The new duration will be paid to eligible ensured and self-employed workers who are unable to work because of illness, injury, or quarantine, and who establish a new claim on or after December 18, 2022.
To align with this extension, also starting on December 18, 2022, the maximum length of unpaid medical leave available to federally regulated private-sector employees will also increase from 17 to 27 weeks under the Canada Labour Code . This change in unpaid medical leave does not apply to provincially regulated employers.
No Immediate Impact on EI PRP
In a separate but related announcement , the Government of Canada stated that the extension of EI sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks would not have any immediate impact on the requirements that wage loss replacement plans must meet in order to qualify for a premium reduction under the EI Premium Reduction Program (PRP) . Under the PRP, employers who provide qualifying short-term disability, sick leave or similar plans to their employees pay a reduced EI premium rate.
Our Advice for Employers on EI Sickness Benefits
There are three key areas that employers should focus on immediately per this change to the number of weeks that employees can receive EI sickness benefits,
- Employers need to determine whether they will change their LTD policy to start at 26 weeks. If not, they will need to do the paperwork to avoid a “double dip” in EI and LTD.
- Employers should analyze the impact that longer EI sickness benefits might have on the design of their existing paid sick leave plans or short-term disability plans. In addition, long-term disability plans may also be impacted if elimination ties are tied to EI sickness benefits.
- If applicable, collective agreements need to be reviewed to ensure alignment with the longer EI sickness benefit duration.
 EI Premium Reduction Program: For employers Dec 23, 2022. Government of Canada.
 Canada Labour Code Feb 17, 2023. Government of Canada.
 Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits Nov 25, 2022. Government of Canada.
 Government of Canada improves sickness benefits under the Employment Insurance system Nov 28, 2022. Government of Canada.