Report: Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit Policy
2019 Multi-Stakeholder Policy Roundtable
During the COVID-19 response, government quickly and aggressively experimented with policy innovation to give individuals and businesses the support they needed. Post-COVID, they will be taking stock of what worked best, where innovation discovered administrative efficiency, and how delivery of support was most effective. It will be a perfect time to rethink and redesign our overall support framework for the needs of the 21st century. The MS Society believes the recommendations in this report will contribute greatly to this discussion.
This report was created after extensive consultation from multiple stakeholder groups in the Fall of 2019. It is a guiding light for government policy-making; a consensus of what is needed to improve the Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit, packaged into 10 key recommendations.
This report provides an analysis and evaluation of Canada’s EI Sickness Benefit based on a roundtable discussion that assembled a diverse group of stakeholders with an interest in policies focused on sickness and disability benefits in Canada. The assembly was deliberately designed to be representative of the scope of perspectives concerned with EI sickness benefit policy: health charities, labour organizations, public servants developing and administering Employment Insurance policy, specialized policy consultants in the disability space, the medical community, small business, and business writ large. This report captures the policy option discussion that occurred, leading to solutions to fill those remaining gaps. Given the broad range of stakeholders, consensus ranged from broader agreement on more general objectives and undertakings, as well as 10 concrete policy change recommendations.
10 Key Recommendations
1. Expansion of the EI Sickness Benefit from 15 to 26 weeks without the unintended consequences of private coverage being reduced or cancelled altogether.
2. Enhanced coordination between public benefits; between public and private insurers; and a more claimant-centred client approach to dealing with claims.
3. A thorough review of how episodic disabilities fit into the current EI Sickness Benefit framework, with a call for Employment and Social Development Canada to propose access remedies.
4. Greater support for claimants in reintegration into the labour force.
5. A comprehensive review of the EI system (considerations of disability) and broader disability system – both short term and long term – including all actors and including a gap and system analysis to better address if EI is the best venue to address sick leave, such as options for asymmetrical accommodation of small employers, including a co-pay structure.
6. Premium Reduction Program re-examination to provide greater incentive for employers, and curb declining program uptake.
7. Additional research on the equity impact of sickness leave with an equity lens.
8. An economic, data-based review of the appropriateness of the 55 per cent replacement rate, including funding models, and potential reintegration and private plan impacts of potential change.
9. Creation of a regular forum for broad multi-stakeholder discussion and re-examination of the sickness and disability framework, to ensure regular feedback and policy responsiveness to evolving circumstances.
10. Formalize a regime that ideally includes both public and private insurance.