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Government BenefitsCompassionate Care Benefits: Assessing Eligibility

Compassionate Care Benefits: Assessing Eligibility

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Numerous individuals in Canada find themselves juggling demanding full-time jobs while also shouldering the responsibilities of caring for their children and elderly parents. Surprisingly, many do not even identify as caregivers; instead, they strive to be dutiful sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers but often feel inadequate in every role they undertake. The burden of caregiving affects their physical, mental, and financial well-being.

Formerly hesitant to share their struggles, caregiving employees are now speaking up about the harsh realities they face. These include furtive, anxious calls to arrange last-minute care and an increasing sense of frustration and fear as they strive to manage everything without displaying signs of distress or vulnerability to their employers.

Employee Assistance Programs1

At some point in their lives, most Canadians will either become family caregivers or need one. Nonetheless, no one should be forced to choose between caring for their family and maintaining their job. In recognition of this, the Government of Canada provides support to caregivers.

Let’s explore whether you qualify for this assistance.

What are Compassionate Care Benefits? 

Compassionate Care Benefits (CCBs) form a crucial component of the Employment Insurance (EI) program, offering temporary income support to employees who take time off work to care for a seriously ill family member who may be at significant risk of passing away within 26 weeks (6 months).

What are the distinct types of caregiving benefits available in Canada? 

In Canada, caregiving benefits come in three distinct types, each catering to specific situations:

  1. Family caregiver benefits for children: These benefits provide a maximum of 35 weeks of payable assistance to those caring for a severely ill or injured person below 18.
  2. Family caregiver benefits for adults: This type of benefit extends a maximum of 15 weeks of payable assistance to those caring for a seriously ill or injured individual aged 18 or older.
  3. Compassionate care benefits: These benefits offer a maximum of 26 weeks of payable assistance to those caring for individuals of all ages who require care for the rest of their lives.

Who qualifies for Compassionate Care Benefits? 

To be eligible for Compassionate Care Benefits, an employee must meet the following criteria:

  1. Experience a significant income reduction due to employment interruption, resulting in a decrease of more than 40 percent in their weekly earnings.
  2. Accumulate at least 600 hours of insurable employment within their qualifying period (the last 52 weeks or since the start of their last claim) to unlock compassionate care benefits.
  3. If the claimant has violated a previous claim, they must have accumulated more than 600 hours of insurable employment in their qualifying period.
  4. Eligible claimants must provide a medical certificate confirming that their family member has a severe condition with a significant risk of death.

Who is considered a family member?

Employee Assistance Programs3

 The CCB program has a broad definition of family members, encompassing:

  1. Grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, spouses, and more.
  2. Family members of a common-law partner or spouse, such as daughters-in-law, sons-in-law (married or common-law), and others. 

Can compassionate care benefits be extended to caring for a close friend?

Yes, compassionate care benefits can be extended to care for a seriously ill friend or other close individual. However, the patient or their legal representative must confirm on the attestation form that they consider the caregiver a family member.

What amount do compassionate care benefits entail?

The exact monetary value of compassionate care benefits under the CCB program can only be determined once the application is processed. Nevertheless, most recipients receive 55% of their average insurable weekly earnings, with a maximum limit of $650 per week in 2023. This base rate is used to calculate Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. 

When can payments for compassionate care benefits commence?

If eligible for CCBs and after providing valid documentation, the first payment is typically disbursed 28 days after registration. If the claim is denied, the applicant will receive a notification with an explanation.

Is there a waiting period for compassionate care benefits?

Yes, a waiting period of one week is mandatory before receiving compassionate care benefits. This waiting period is similar to the deductible seen in other insurance types. However, waiting periods may be waived or postponed in certain cases. For instance, if family members share CCBs, the first claimant will serve the waiting period, while others won’t. Only if the other family members later claim regular sickness, maternity, or parental benefits will they have to endure a waiting period. 

Can compassionate care benefits be shared?

Yes, eligible family members, including the primary caregiver, can share the 26 weeks of compassionate care benefits. To do so, they need to coordinate the distribution of these benefits among themselves, considering the needs and duration of care required for the seriously ill family member.

Is your job protected during compassionate care leave? 

Most territorial and provincial labour codes provide job protection for workers taking compassionate care leave. During the leave, employers are required to maintain the employee’s group health and dental benefits, and the worker will be reinstated to their previous position or a comparable one once the leave ends. However, the rules regarding eligible family members may vary, necessitating confirmation with the employer and the provincial/territorial government about the rights and obligations. 

How to apply for compassionate care benefits?

Employee Assistance Programs2

It is advisable to apply for CCBs immediately after stopping work. Delaying the application beyond four weeks from the last working day may result in the loss of these benefits. Here are four steps to guide you through the application process:

Step 1: Gather the necessary information. This includes personal details, employment history, medical certificates, and other pertinent documents.

Step 2: Complete your online application. The online application takes approximately one hour to complete, with an option to save and return to it using a temporary password received during the initial session.

Step 3: Submit the required documents. Once the online application is completed, necessary documents can be submitted via email or at a Service Canada Centre.

Step 4: Await a decision. Upon receiving the application, Service Canada will mail a statement of benefits accompanied by a 4-digit access code. However, the code and social insurance number does not imply immediate acceptance. The applicant must wait for the final decision. 

When do compassionate care benefits conclude?

Compassionate Care Benefits are available within a 52-week window, providing eligible claimants with up to 26 weeks of support during this period. Payments may be continuous or intermittent until the endpoint, which could be when:

  1. The eligible claimant has reached the maximum number of weeks for which CCBs can be claimed, combined with other EI benefits.
  2. Fifty-two weeks have elapsed since the patient was certified as being critically ill or injured or requiring end-of-life care.
  3. The allowance for eligible claimants has been paid.
  4. The gravely ill family member has recovered or passed away.
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