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Beginning January 4, 2004, there is a new type of special benefit through Employment Insurance (EI) administered by Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), called compassionate care benefits. Compassionate care benefits are part of Bill C-28, which will receive Royal Assent soon.

Workers will be able to receive up to six weeks of compassionate care benefits in order to look after a member of their family who is very ill. To be eligible you will need:

  1. 600 hours of insurable hours,
  2. a medical certificate that the ill family member has a significant risk of death within 6 months and that she or he needs one or more family members to provide emotional support, arrange health care, or directly provide health care.

There is a two-week waiting period where you can be off work during which you will not receive any EI benefits. Two or more family members who meet the requirements can share the compassionate care benefits. However, the total amount of benefits is 6 weeks (plus 2 unpaid weeks). Benefits are payable for ill family members who live outside of Canada. The six weeks of benefits can be shared among family members, and are payable within any 26-week period. Workers will be able to receive a top-up from the Employer for this leave, similar to other special leaves (i.e. maternity leave), once negotiated. Since provinces must yet amend their employment standards legislation to provide for this new benefit, negotiating compassionate care leave language is ideal.

For more information, go to www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/ae-ei/menu/faq/compassionate_care.shtml, and see the fall issue of Table Talk 2003 (bargaining newsletter).

Compassionate Care Family Leave Proposed Language

Employees shall be granted an unpaid leave of eight (8) weeks to care for a seriously ill family member. During the leave the employee will continue to accumulate all benefits and seniority under this collective agreement. If the employee chooses to make contributions for the period of the leave to the pension or benefits plan, the Employer will pay the Employers contributions for the same period. On return from leave, employees will be placed in their former position.

The Employer will provide payment equal to 97% of the actual weekly rate of pay for the employees classification, which the employee was receiving on the last day worked, prior to the commencement of the leave, during the two (2) week EI waiting period and the difference between the payments received from EI and 97% of the actual weekly rate of pay for the employees classification which the employee was receiving on the last day worked, prior to the commencement of the leave, for six (6) weeks.

The employee may request an extension to the leave, in writing, should circumstances warrant. Approval of an extension shall not be unreasonably denied. During an extended leave the employee shall continue to accrue all benefits and seniority.