Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits

This document can be made available in alternative formats such as Braille, large print, audio cassette, CD, DAISY, and computer diskette. Call 1 800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) to request a copy. If you have a hearing or speech impairment and use a teletypewriter (TTY), call 1-800-926-9105.

Produced by Service Canada
January 2013
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2013

IN-057-01-13E
SG5-57/2013E-PDF
978-1-100-20043-9

What are compassionate care benefits?

One of the most difficult times for anyone is when a loved one is dying or at risk of death. The demands of caring for a gravely ill family member can jeopardize both your job and the financial security of your family. The Government of Canada believes that, during such times, you should not have to choose between keeping your job and caring for your family.

Compassionate care benefits are Employment Insurance (EI) benefits paid to people who have to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is gravely ill and who has a significant risk of death within 26 weeks (six months). A maximum of six weeks of compassionate care benefits may be paid to eligible people.

This publication is designed to answer questions you may have about compassionate care benefits, including who is eligible and how to apply for these benefits.

Service Canada administers the Employment Insurance program. For information about all EI benefits, visit the Service Canada website.

What is "care or support"?

Care or support of a family member means:

  • providing psychological or emotional support; or
  • arranging for care by a third party; or
  • directly providing or participating in the care.

Who can apply?

Am I eligible?

You can receive compassionate care benefits for up to a maximum of six weeks if you have to be absent from work to provide care or support to a gravely ill family member at risk of dying within 26 weeks. If you are unemployed and already receiving EI benefits, you can also apply for compassionate care benefits.

To be eligible for compassionate care benefits, you must be able to show that:

  • your regular weekly earnings from work have decreased by more than 40 percent; and
  • you have accumulated 600 insured hours of work in the last 52 weeks, or since the start of your last claim (this period is called the qualifying period).

Note: If you have been paid EI benefits in the past and you received a written notice (for example, a warning letter or penalty letter) for making a false statement, you may need more insured hours to claim compassionate care benefits.

EI Special Benefits for Self-Employed People

Self-employed Canadians can apply for EI special benefits (maternity, parental, sickness, compassionate care and parents of critically ill children (PCIC) benefits) if they are registered for access to the EI program.

For more information or to see if you qualify, visit www.servicecanada.gc.ca or call 1 800 O-Canada.

Who is considered a family member?

You can receive compassionate care benefits for a variety of family members—both yours and those of your spouse or common-law partner—as shown below.

Family members
Your family members Family members of your spouse
or common-law partner
Children Children
Wife, husband, common-law partner  
Father, mother Father, mother (married or common law)
Father's wife, mother's husband Father's wife, mother's husband
Common-law partner of the father or the mother Common-law partner of the father or the mother of your spouse or common-law partner
Brothers, sisters, stepbrothers, stepsisters Brothers, sisters, stepbrothers, stepsisters
Grandparents, stepgrandparents Grandparents
Grandchildren, their spouses or common-law partners Grandchildren
Sons-in-law, daughters-in-law
(married or common law)
Sons-in-law, daughters-in-law
(married or common law)
Father-in-law, mother-in-law
(married or common law)
 
Brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law
(married or common law)
 
Uncles, aunts, their spouses or common-law partners Uncles, aunts
Nephews, nieces, their spouses or common-law partners Nephews, nieces
Current or former foster parents Current or former foster parents
Current or former foster children, their spouses or common-law partners  
Current or former wards Current or former wards
Current or former guardians, their spouses or common-law partners  

Note: A common-law partner is a person who has been living in a conjugal relationship with another person for at least a year.

Could I be eligible to receive compassionate care benefits to care for someone else?

Yes. You can also receive compassionate care benefits to care for a gravely ill person who considers you a family member, such as a close friend or neighbour. A signed Form INS5223, Compassionate Care Benefits Attestation, is required from the gravely ill person or their legal representative.

Is my job protected if I take compassionate care leave?

Most provincial and territorial labour codes provide job protection for workers in this type of family situation. However, the definition of "family member" varies. It is important that you confirm with your employer and the provincial/territorial government that you have job protection for compassionate care leave before you apply.

Can I share compassionate care benefits?

Yes. You can share the six weeks of compassionate care benefits with other members of your family. Each family member must apply for and be eligible for these benefits.

If you plan to share compassionate care benefits, you and your family members should agree on the number of weeks that each of you will take before you apply for benefits. Each family member can claim the benefits at any time during the 26-week period, either at the same time or at different times.

Example: Sharing compassionate care benefits

The following is an example of how your family could share compassionate care benefits between three family members:

  • You: Your claim starts on January 2, 2011, and you ask for two weeks.
  • Your sister: Her claim starts on January 16, 2011, and she asks for one week
  • Your brother: His claim starts on June 12, 2011, and he asks for three weeks.

If the medical certificate (see the box called "Medical proof") was signed on January 7, 2011, then the 26-week period starts on the previous Sunday, January 2, 2011, and ends on July 2, 2011.

Since you are the first to claim compassionate care benefits, you will serve the two-week waiting period.

The waiting period and number of weeks payable for each family member are as follows:

  • You will serve the two-week waiting period from January 2 to January 15, 2011, and then you will receive two weeks of benefits, payable from January 16 to January 29, 2011.
  • Your sister will serve no waiting period; she will receive one week of benefits, payable from January 16 to January 22, 2011.
  • Your brother will serve no waiting period; he will receive three weeks of benefits, payable from June 12 to July 2, 2011.

How to apply

How, when, and where should I apply?

To receive compassionate care benefits, you must submit an EI application online. Apply as soon as you stop working. If you delay filing your claim by more than four weeks after your last day of work, you may lose benefits.

To apply, use any computer with Internet access and visit the Service Canada website. You can apply at home, at any Service Canada Centre using one of the many Internet kiosks available, or at a public Internet access site, such as a public library. The website takes you step by step through the application process. It could take up to one hour to complete the application online.

Do I have to provide my Records of Employment to Service Canada?

Service Canada uses Records of Employment (ROEs) to determine whether you qualify for EI benefits, the benefit rate that applies to you, and the duration of your claim. Missing ROEs can delay the processing of your claim.

  • If your employers issue ROEs in paper format, you must request copies of all ROEs issued to you during the last 52 weeks and provide them to Service Canada as soon as possible after you submit your EI application. You must either mail us your paper ROEs or drop them off in person at a Service Canada Centre.
  • If your employers submit ROEs electronically to Service Canada, you do not need to request copies of your ROEs from your employers, and you do not have to provide copies to Service Canada. On the same day your employers submit them, you will be able to view and print copies of your ROEs online using My Service Canada Account.

If you are having difficulty obtaining your ROEs from your employers, we can help. Go to your Service Canada Centre or contact us at 1-800-206-7218 (TTY: 1-800-529-3742). One of our agents will advise you on how you can obtain the ROE, or what we need to calculate your claim.

What information and documents do I need?

To apply online for compassionate care benefits, you will need the following information:

  • your Social Insurance Number;
  • your mother's maiden name;
  • your mailing and residential addresses, including the postal codes;
  • your complete banking information, including the financial institution name, the branch number, and your account number, if you want to sign up for direct deposit;
  • employer names, addresses, dates of employment, and reasons for separation for all your employers for the last 52 weeks;
  • your detailed version of the facts, if you quit or have been dismissed from any job in the last 52 weeks; and
  • information about the gravely ill family member, such as first and last name, date of birth, and home address (if some of this information is not available when you apply, you can provide it to us later).

After you apply online, you will need to provide us with the following documents before we can finalize your claim:

  • if your SIN begins with a "9," proof of your immigration status and work permit;
  • the two required forms that prove the ill family member needs your care or support (see the box called "Medical proof" below for details); and
  • any required information about the ill family member that was not available when you applied online.

You will need to either mail us these documents or drop them off in person at a Service Canada Centre.

Medical proof

When requesting compassionate care benefits, as soon as possible after you apply, you must provide medical proof showing that the ill family member needs care or support and is at risk of dying within 26 weeks.

As proof, you must submit the following two forms:

  • Form INS5216A, Authorization to Release a Medical Certificate, which must be completed and signed by the gravely ill person or their legal representative; and
  • Form INS5216B, Medical Certificate for Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits, which must be completed and signed by the medical doctor of the gravely ill person to confirm their significant risk of death within 26 weeks.

Copies of these forms are available on the Service Canada website, or from any Service Canada Centre. A Service Canada agent will be able to print the form, if you cannot.

You must submit these two forms at the same time. Please note that you are responsible for any fees the doctor requests for completing the medical certificate form. Another medical practitioner, such as a nurse practitioner, can sign the medical certificate when:

  • the gravely ill family member is in a geographic location where access to a
    medical doctor is limited or not possible; and
  • a medical doctor has authorized the other medical practitioner to treat the ill family member.

Only one medical certificate is required per gravely ill family member within the 26-week period, regardless of whether only one person is claiming the six weeks of benefits, or whether these benefits are being shared. If more than one medical certificate is submitted, it is the first certificate that determines the start and end dates of the 26-week period.

Getting paid

When will I receive my first payment?

If we have all the required information and if you qualify for benefits, you will usually receive your first payment within 28 days of the date we received your claim. If you do not qualify, we will notify you of the decision we made about your claim.

Using direct deposit

Direct deposit ensures that you will get your payments as quickly as possible. You can register for direct deposit when you apply for EI, or sign up for direct deposit online, by phone, in person, or by mail.

If you do not sign up for direct deposit, we will mail your payments to you.

What is the two-week waiting period?

You must serve a two-week unpaid waiting period before you begin receiving your EI benefits. Usually, this period is the first two weeks of your claim. This is like a deductible for any kind of insurance.

Note: If you are reactivating a claim for benefits for which you have already served a two-week waiting period, you do not have to serve another two-week waiting period. Contact us for more information.

Any earnings that you receive during this two-week waiting period will be deducted from future benefits.

Under certain circumstances, the two-week waiting period may be waived or deferred.
For example:

  • If you get sick leave pay from your employer following your last day worked, the waiting period may be waived.
  • If family members are sharing compassionate care benefits, just the first family member to claim these benefits has to serve the waiting period. Only if the other family members later claim regular, sickness, maternity, or parental benefits would they have to serve the two-week waiting period.
  • If you receive group insurance payments, you can serve the two-week waiting period during the last two weeks you are receiving these insurance payments.

If two or more family members are claiming compassionate care benefits at the same time, the family members must decide which individual will serve the waiting period.

For how long can I receive compassionate care benefits?

You can receive compassionate care benefits for a maximum of six weeks within
the 26-week period that starts during one of the following weeks, whichever is earlier:

  • the week the doctor signs the medical certificate; or
  • the week the doctor examines the gravely ill family member; or
  • the week the family member became gravely ill, if the doctor can determine that date (for example, the date of the test results).

The benefits end when:

  • six weeks of compassionate care benefits have been paid; or
  • the gravely ill family member dies or no longer requires care or support (benefits are paid to the end of the week); or
  • the 26-week period has expired; or
  • you have exhausted the maximum benefits payable on a claim that combines
    compassionate care benefits with other types of EI benefits.

If you submit more than one medical certificate, it is the first certificate that determines the start and end dates of the 26-week period.

Note: If the gravely ill family member dies while you are collecting compassionate care benefits, you must let us know immediately to prevent EI overpayments.

Example: Duration of benefits
On December 30, 2013 your father becomes gravely ill. You reactivate an existing claim for benefits, for which you have already served the two-week waiting period. You ask for the full six weeks of benefits, as follows:

  • three weeks from December 29, 2013, to January 18, 2014; and
  • three weeks from May 4 to May 24, 2014.

The medical certificate is signed on January 2, 2014; the 26-week period starts on the previous Sunday, December 29, 2013, and ends on June 28, 2014.

If your father dies before the end of the 26-week period, your benefit payments may be affected.

For example, if he dies on May 9, 2014, your benefits will be paid as follows:

  • For December 29, 2013 to January 18, 2014, you will receive three weeks of benefits.
  • For May 4, 2014, to May 10, 2014, you will receive one week of benefits.
  • For May 11, 2014, to May 24, 2014, you will not receive the final two weeks of benefits. In this case, benefits are payable only until May 10, 2014.

Do I have to file a report before I can receive my payments?

For most Employment Insurance claims, you have to complete a report before we can issue a payment. However, when receiving compassionate care benefits, you do not have to complete reports to receive your benefits. To waive the need to complete reports, you must request an exemption when you apply online. This request states that you will notify Service Canada if you work, receive money, or find yourself in a situation that may affect your EI benefits. We can then make your payments directly to your bank account using direct deposit.

Where can I get more information about my claim?

Online

If you have a current or previous claim for EI benefits, use My Service Canada Account to view and update your EI information in one place using a secure website. With My Service Canada Account, you can:

  • confirm any decisions made about your EI application
  • sign up for direct deposit
  • see details on your payments and deductions
  • view and update your personal information
  • view all Records of Employment that your employers submitted electronically
    in the last two years

Note: If your bank account information changes or if you move, you must let us know as soon as possible. You can update your mailing address, telephone number, and direct deposit information using My Service Canada Account.

Shortly after you file your EI application for compassionate care benefits, we will mail you an EI benefit statement, which will provide you with an access code. Your access code is a four-digit number printed in the shaded area of your statement. You will need it, along with your Social Insurance Number (SIN), when you make telephone enquiries about your claim.

The access code identifies you and ensures that your privacy is protected. Do not let others have it, because they could get information or take action on your claim without your knowledge. You would be held responsible for this. Keep your access code in a safe place and, for extra security, keep it stored separately from your SIN.

Keep in mind that receiving the EI benefit statement does not mean that we have made a decision about your claim.

Can I work while receiving compassionate care benefits?

You cannot work full time while receiving compassionate care benefits. However, you are entitled to work part time and keep a portion of your benefits.

Normally, if you work and receive compassionate care benefits at the same time, you are entitled to earn a certain amount without having your benefits reduced. You can usually earn up to $50 per week or 25 percent of your weekly benefit, whichever is higher. Any money earned above that amount will be deducted dollar for dollar from your benefit.

However, effective August 5, 2012 until August 1, 2015, a pilot project is in place which will change the way earnings are deducted.

Under the Working While on Claim (WWC) pilot project, once you have served the waiting period, if your earnings are equal to or less than 90% of your weekly earnings that were used to calculate your benefit rate, your benefits will be reduced at a rate of 50% of your earnings each week. Any earnings that exceed this 90% threshold, will be deducted dollar for dollar from your benefits.

You must report all gross earnings—before taxes and deductions—during the week you earn them, as well as any other money you may receive while collecting compassionate care benefits. To report your earnings, simply call the EI Telephone Information Service at 1-800-206-7218 (TTY: 1-800-529-3742) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, and press "0" to speak with a representative. You can also write to us at your local Service Canada Centre, or you can visit us in person there.

To find the Service Canada Centre nearest you, visit our the Service Canada website.

How much will I receive?

The basic benefit rate is 55 percent of your average insurable earnings, up to a yearly maximum insurable amount ($48,600 in 2014). This means that, in 2014, you can receive a maximum payment of $514 per week. Your EI payment is taxable income, meaning federal and provincial or territorial taxes, if they apply, will be deducted.

You could have a higher benefit rate if your family includes children, and if you earn a low family income—less than $25,921 per year. If you or your spouse receives the Canada Child Tax Benefit, you may then be entitled to the Family Supplement, which means a higher benefit rate. However, the benefit payments will never be more than $514 per week.

How do you calculate my weekly EI payment?

The Employment Insurance rate and the maximum amount are reviewed each year. For the most recent amount, visit the Service Canada website.

We will calculate the amount of your weekly benefits based on your total earnings before deductions during the “best weeks” in your qualifying period. (This includes tips and commissions.) Your qualifying period is the 52-week period prior to the start date of your EI claim. Your best weeks are the weeks that you earned the most money. In regions of Canada with the highest rates of unemployment, we will calculate using the best 14 weeks; in regions of Canada with the lowest rates of unemployment, we will use the best 22 weeks. In other regions, the number of weeks used to calculate benefits will be somewhere between 14 and 22, depending on the unemployment rate in those regions.

The amount of weekly benefits is calculated as follows:

  • We calculate your total earnings for the required number of best weeks based on the information you provide and/or your Record of Employment.
  • We determine the divisor (number of best weeks) that corresponds to your regional rate of unemployment (see Table 2).
  • We divide your total earnings for your best weeks by the corresponding divisor in Table 2 below to obtain an average.
  • We then multiply the result by 55% to obtain the amount of your weekly benefits.

Note: The divisor cannot be less than 14 or greater than 22.

Table 2 – Divisor used to calculate benefits based on the regional rate of unemployment
Regional rate of unemployment Divisor (number of best weeks)
6% or less 22
6.1% to 7% 21
7.1% to 8% 20
8.1% to 9% 19
9.1% to 10% 18
10.1% to 11% 17
11.1% to 12% 16
12.1% to 13% 15
13.1% or more 14

Example: How we calculate your payment

You have worked consistently over the last year. As you live in an area where the unemployment rate is 13.1 per cent, the minimum divisor will be 14. In your best 14 weeks of work, you have earned $10,400.

To obtain your average weekly earnings

We calculate
$10,400 ÷ 14 weeks = $742.85 rounded to $743

To obtain your weekly EI payment

We calculate
55% of $743 = $409 EI benefits payable to you.

Other frequently asked questions

Can I combine compassionate care benefits with other types of benefits?

Yes. You can combine compassionate care benefits with other type of benefits.
However, the type of other benefit may make a difference to the length of your claim, as described below.

Compassionate care benefits combined with other special benefits

You can receive up to 50 weeks of benefits when compassionate care benefits are combined with EI regular benefits. For more information, visit the Service Canada website.

Compassionate care benefits combined with maternity, parental, or sickness benefits

You can receive up to 102 weeks of benefits when compassionate care benefits are combined with sickness, maternity, parental and/or PCIC) benefits. For more information, visit the Service Canada website.

Will I have to repay benefits at income tax time?

When you file your income tax return, you will not be required to repay any of the compassionate care benefits you received. However, if you received compassionate care and regular EI benefits within the same taxation year, you may be required to repay some or all of the regular EI benefits.

For more information on repaying benefits at income tax time, visit our website.

Can I quit my job for compassionate care reasons?

The compassionate care benefits program is designed to help you provide care or support to a gravely ill family member at risk of dying without having to quit your job. If you do quit, however, you can still receive compassionate care benefits, but it is possible that you may not be paid EI regular benefits.

You may be able to receive EI regular benefits if quitting your employment was the only reasonable alternative in your case, considering all the circumstances. In other words, you took all the necessary steps to avoid quitting your job.

For more information, visit our Service Canada website.

What happens to my claim if there is a labour dispute?

If your absence from work to claim compassionate care benefits was already approved by your employer before a work stoppage for a strike, lockout, or other form of labour dispute, you may still be eligible for compassionate care benefits. To find out more about the impact of labour disputes on EI benefits, visit our website at www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/digest/chp23.shtml.

Can I receive compassionate care benefits outside Canada?

Yes. You can receive compassionate care benefits to care for or support a family member, regardless of where that family member lives. You have to apply for benefits and submit the same information and documents as you would to take care of a gravely ill family member residing in Canada.

If you go outside Canada, you must advise Service Canada by calling the EI Telephone Information Service at 1-800-206-7218 (TTY: 1-800-529-3742) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, and pressing "0" to speak to a representative. You can also write to us at your local Service Canada Centre, or you can visit us in person there.

What benefits are available to a gravely ill person from Canada's public pensions?

A gravely ill person who may be eligible for EI sickness benefits may also be eligible for disability benefits from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). That person can apply for both of these benefits at the same time.

If the gravely ill person worked in Quebec, he or she contributed to the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP), which offers benefits similar to those of the CPP.

What benefits are available to family members of a gravely ill person?

The CPP and QPP also pay disability, survivor, and children's benefits to those who qualify. Surviving spouses or common-law partners and dependent children may be eligible for a CPP or QPP death benefit, survivor's pension, or children's benefit.

For more information about the Canada Pension Plan:

  • visit the Service Canada website
  • Call us toll-free at 1-800-277-9914 (in Canada and the United States) (if you have a hearing or speech impairment and use a teletypewriter (TTY), call 1-800-255-4786)

For more information about the Quebec Pension Plan:

Rights and responsibilities?

What are my rights?

As a claimant of EI benefits, you have rights and responsibilities.

Your right to request a reconsideration of a decision

If you disagree with the decision regarding your application for EI benefits, you have the right to request a reconsideration.

Can my employer contest a decision concerning my EI benefits application?

Yes. If we decide to pay you benefits when you quit, were fired for misconduct, refused work or were/are involved in a labour dispute, we will notify your employer that your claim has been accepted. If an employer believes that our decision is not justified, he or she can request a reconsideration of that decision. However, if you are in receipt of special benefits such as compassionate care, an employer’s disagreement with our decision to allow your claim would not adversely impact your access to these benefits.

What are Service Canada's responsibilities?

At Service Canada, we are responsible for:

  • giving you prompt and courteous service;
  • advising you of the programs and services that are available to you;
  • serving you in the official language of your choice;
  • determining if you are eligible to receive benefits—that is, whether or not you meet the qualifying conditions specified in the Employment Insurance Act and Regulations—and determining how many weeks of benefits you can receive;
  • processing all claims within the same timeframe;
  • issuing your first payment no later than 28 days after the date we receive your application, if you have provided us with all the required information and if you are eligible for benefits;
  • giving you accurate information about your claim, including how you can share parental benefits with your EI-eligible spouse or partner and compassionate care benefits with other EI-eligible family members, and whether or not you will need to serve a two-week waiting period; and
  • letting you know about decisions we've made about your claim and explaining the process to follow if you disagree with a decision.

What are my responsibilities?

When you apply for compassionate care, you must:

  • provide an authorization to release a medical certificate and a medical certificate completed by a doctor or other medical practitioner indicating that your ill family member has a significant risk of death within the next 26 weeks (six months) and requires your care or support;
  • provide all required information and documents;
  • notify Service Canada of any situation that may arise which could affect EI benefits; for example, if your gravely ill family member dies or recovers;
  • report all employment, whether you work for someone else or yourself;
  • accurately report all employment earnings before deductions, in the week(s) in which they were earned, as well as any other monies you may receive;
  • decide with other eligible family members who will serve the waiting period if compassionate care benefits are shared.

For more information on rights and responsibilities, see the publication called Rights and Responsibilities (IN-044) on the Service Canada website.

Your responsibility to provide accurate information

To help protect the integrity of the EI program, you are responsible for providing accurate information with your claim. Depending on the circumstances, if you knowingly make false or misleading statements, you will likely be fined. In addition, we will record a violation on your EI file. When this happens, you will need to work more hours to qualify for EI benefits in the future.

We understand that mistakes can happen

Mistakes can happen. Claimants can make a mistake when filling out forms. Mistakes can cause a delay in payment or cause an error in the amount of benefits you receive. Contact us as soon as you become aware of the errors, and provide us with the correct information. Under our voluntary disclosure policy, we can waive any penalty or prosecution if the matter is not already under investigation.

Employers who commit fraud—for example, by falsifying or selling a Record of Employment—are also subject to penalties.

How to contact us

  • Click Service Canada website
  • Call 1-800-206-7218 (TTY: 1-800-529-3742) 
    This automated telephone information service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To speak to a representative, call this number between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, and press "0." You can get general information about the Employment Insurance program, the Social Insurance Number (SIN), and your specific Employment Insurance claim. Information about your claim is updated every morning from Monday to Friday. You will need your SIN and access code numbers to receive information on your claim.
  • Visit a Service Canada Centre
    To find the Service Canada Centre nearest you, visit the Service Canada website, or call 1 800 O-Canada
    (1-800-622-6232; TTY: 1-800-926-9105).
  • Write to us at your local Service Canada Centre

Service Canada has produced a series of EI-related videos. To watch them, visit our Service Canada website.