What Plan Sponsors should know about Employment Insurance (EI) Changes: Extending the Sickness Benefit from 15 to 26 weeks

July 12, 2022

 

In the 2021 budget, the Canadian federal government committed to improving the current EI program. Opportunities to modernize EI have been discussed for many years. The COVID-19 pandemic further emphasized the need to reform the program.

What exactly is happening?

As detailed in the 2022 budget, the government confirmed that they will be extending the EI Sickness Benefit from 15 to 26 weeks. This means an approved absence could be extended up to a full 26 weeks under the revised program. 

This is anticipated to happen later in 2022.

Does this affect the Premium Reduction Program (PRP)?

For Plan Sponsors that offer private short term benefits to their employees, EI offers a Premium Reduction Program (PRP). The PRP offers a reduction in the required EI contribution paid by sponsors and employees as an incentive to managing absences outside of EI.

Currently, there are consultations to improve the PRP for Plan Sponsors.  These consultations are ongoing for the foreseeable future. If you are currently receiving the PRP, you will continue to do so when the EI changes go into effect later this year.

EI has seen a reduction in Plan Sponsors pursuing the PRP over a 15-year period. As a part of reviewing the current EI program and making changes to make it better, sponsors are being encouraged to pursue PRP for eligible plans. Opportunities that we are monitoring for positive changes include:

  • Improving the incentives for Plan Sponsors.
  • Expanding the criteria to receive the PRP.
  • Making the application process easier (including accessing and understanding the program and the appeal process).
  • Improving awareness and education about the PRP for Plan Sponsors.

We will provide further updates as we get more information.

How Manulife’s robust Disability Benefits can help your organization

A short term benefit plan offered through Manulife can help your organization manage absences effectively. There are many reasons to consider a short term plan if you don’t have one - or to keep your current program if you do:

  • Plan Members receive regular and direct contact with a Case Manager as early as three days after their absence begins. Case Managers provide helpful guidance throughout this difficult time.
  • Case Managers stay in contact with Plan Sponsors to provide updates on claim status and potential recovery opportunities.
  • Short Term Absence benefits help manage both medical and non-medical factors that affect  workplace absences and pursue return to work accommodations at the earliest opportunity. This helps to decrease the length of time someone is absent from the workplace.
  • Plan Members have access to  early intervention tools and our internal rehabilitation specialist team to encourage the earliest and best possible outcome.
  • Case Managers have access to consulting medical professionals and Mental Health Specialists throughout the claim to ensure accurate understanding and appropriate treatment outcomes.
  • For longer absences, support is provided to transition from Short Term to Long Term Disability (LTD). Claims are two times less likely to be declined for LTD when Short Term benefits are provided by Manulife.
  • Plan Members on LTD have a greater likelihood of returning to work, with a 20% reduction in claim duration, when Manulife Short Term benefit programs manage the absence during the LTD qualifying period.*

What’s next as a Plan Sponsor?

  • Speak with your Manulife representative to discuss how Manulife disability benefits can help you support your members.
  • More information will be provided later in 2022 regarding the changes to the EI benefits.
  • You may want your short-term benefit period to align with EI changes when they go into effect. To talk about plan design options, contact your Manulife representative.
  • Details about improvements to the PRP will be provided when more details become available.

If you have any questions about EI changes or Disability Benefits, please contact your Manulife representative.

 

*Manulife Claims Data, 2019-2021 – Analyzed in 2022

 

The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company (Manulife)

 

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