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Letter to HRSDC Re: Questions concerning amendments to the Employment Insurance Act (EI ACT) regarding parental benefits


Release Date: 03/26/2013
Staff Reference: Laurie Down

March 26, 2013

Mr. Jean-Francois Roussy
Director - Self Employed, Special Benefits and Horizontal Policy
Employment Insurance Policy, Skills and Employment Branch
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
140 Promenade du Portage
Gatineau, QC K1A 0J9

Re: Amendments to the Employment Insurance Act (EI ACT) - to enhance access to employment insurance (EI) sickness benefits for claimants who fall ill or are injured while receiving EI parental benefits

Dear Sir:

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc. (CLHIA), established in 1894, is a voluntary association with member companies which account for 99 per cent of Canada's life and health insurance business. Our member companies operate and/or conduct business in all provinces and territories across Canada, and in other countries.

The Canadian life and health insurance industry:

    • provides products which include life insurance, disability insurance, supplementary health insurance, annuities, RRSPs, and pensions;
    • protects about 26 million Canadians,
    • including such benefits as $5.9 billion in replacement income benefits in 2011.
The CLHIA wishes to obtain confirmation regarding our understanding of a few matters arising from the Regulations Amending the Employment Insurance Regulations. (P.C. 2013 - 172 February 28 2013). Therefore, we would appreciate it if you would review the questions set out below and provide us with such confirmation.

1) The EI Premium Reduction Program is an important incentive available to employers who offer private disability insurance plans to their employees. Employers who qualify for this program are extended a reduction in EI premiums as the employer's private disability plan will be first payer of disability benefits.

As you know, the recent enhancements to the EI program will provide greater access to EI sickness benefits to individuals who become ill or are injured while in receipt of EI parental benefits. This change will bring some new claimants to the EI sickness program who were previously ineligible.

We refer to Section 63 (g)(vi) of the amended Regulation which states the requirements of a Weekly Indemnity Plan for qualification for the Premium Reduction Program, with the following exception:

"(g) the only conditions precluding the payment of benefits under the plan to an insured person to whom they would be otherwise payable are conditions that preclude payment to an insured person…

vi) who becomes ill or is injured during a leave of absence or a period of paid vacation"

While we are supportive of measures that will provide enhanced access to EI sickness benefits to those previously ineligible, we would like to be able to assure employers that such measures will not impact their ability to qualify for the EI Premium Reduction Program.

Would you please confirm our understanding that an employer's current qualification for the EI Premium Reduction Program will not be affected by the new regulatory changes.

2) In addition to this, employers have sought confirmation from insurers that waiving the eligibility requirement of 'otherwise available for work' applies only to the public sector plan. We have advised that the amended Regulations apply only to the EI Act and EI sickness benefits and in no way extend to the provisions or exclusions contained in private disability benefit plans.

We would appreciate your confirmation of this element as well.

3) It is our understanding that with this amendment, an individual who becomes disabled while collecting EI parental benefits can suspend receipt of parental benefits and collect up to 15 weeks of EI sickness benefits and then resume collecting parental benefits. In other words, an individual could collect up to 52 weeks of EI maternity and parental benefits plus up to 15 weeks of EI sickness benefits for a total of 67 weeks of combined benefits from EI.

Would you please confirm that this is an illustration of what Minister Finley referred to as 'stacking' and that our example is correct.

We would very much appreciate your response to our questions outlined above. Should you wish to discuss these points further, I am happy to speak with you at your convenience. I can be reached directly at 416-359-2038.

Thank you for your assistance with our understanding of these important matters.

Sincerely,

(Original Signed By)

Laurie A. Down
Director, Disability
Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association