Let 2016 Be a Year of a Compassion for Employees in Canada

Compassionate care benefits are available to employees who have to take time away from work to care for a sick family member who has a significant risk of death. Changes to the availability of compassionate care benefits under the Employment Insurance Act are set to come into force in the New Year. The changes, which were introduced as part of the 2015 Budget, will increase the maximum amount of compassionate care benefits from six weeks to twenty-six weeks. The changes come into force on January 3, 2016.

Compassionate care benefits complement compassionate care leave, which is provided for in provincial and federal employment standards legislation. For example, in Ontario, eligible provincially regulated employees are entitled to eight weeks of job-protected “Family Medical Leave” under the Employment Standards Act, 2000. Compassionate care leave for federally regulated employees is governed by the Canada Labour Code, which is also set to change in 2016. As of January 3, 2016, the amount of job-protected compassionate care leave available to eligible federally regulated employees will increase from eight weeks to twenty-eight weeks.

While these changes were implemented by the Harper government, now-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also addressed compassionate care benefits during his campaign. Accordingly, it remains to be seen whether further changes to the legislative scheme are on the horizon.

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