New EI Changes Make Caring For Sick Children Easier On Parents

By: Cliff Ritter on August 9, 2012

It isn’t often that the government does something useful for the average Canadian family but as is so often in this world, surprises are everywhere.  At a Vancouver elementary school on August 7, Prime Minister Harper announced a change to the Employment Insurance system allowing parents of sick children to have access to special benefit coverage during health care treatments.  According to government research, this change is expected to affect up to 6000 families every year.

Under this new amendment parents will be able to qualify for up to 35 weeks of the special benefit of EI if forced to take time off to care for their sick child.  Harper acknowledged that too many parents are forced to choose between their financial situations and their children’s health, all the while struggling to balance the two.  He says this is an area the government should be and is now willing to step in to lend a hand.

The fulfillment of this announcement all started with pressure from a woman out of Oxford Station, Ontario named Sharon Ruth.  Her daughter was only six years old when she was diagnosed with cancer and under the current EI system, she did not qualify for any coverage only capable of achieving a few months of stress leave from work while her daughter began treatment.  As a result she left her job and her husband was forced to take on a second job just so they could make ends meet. The financial struggle coupled with the emotional turmoil of cancer and the family being unable to be together during the treatment; drove Ruth to fight a battle for all families in this situation to enact legislation for change to the system.

The change is being praised by sick kids’ foundations as well.  Richard Pass, CEO of Ronald MacDonald House in BC, outlined a typical situation of a child in rural Canada diagnosed with cancer and the family being uprooted to the major cities like Vancouver to begin treatment.  All the while they must still pay for the bills at home and on the home; while working to pay down debts and expenses to keep out of financial trouble.  When treatments require months, sometimes years at a hospital far from home parents can’t continue to work and as a result end up paying an even greater cost for cancer.

These new benefits while only for 35 weeks are being universally welcomed as necessary for family health and financial security.  Once passed by Parliament they are expected to go into effect in June 2013.