Since January 4, 2004, eligible Canadian workers who take time off work to care for a gravely ill family member can receive up to six weeks of employment insurance benefits over a period of six months. Their jobs will also be protected.
Before the introduction of the compassionate care benefits, Canadians who took time off to help a dying relative usually had to depend on their employer's goodwill to be allowed unpaid leave and may have had to put their jobs at risk.
To qualify for the compassionate care employment insurance benefits, an applicant must have worked 600 hours in the previous 52 weeks, and also must show that regular weekly earnings have decreased by 40 percent. A medical certificate must be provided to show that the family member has a high risk of death within 26 weeks.
Compassionate care includes providing emotional support, arranging for third-party support or directly providing the care.
Effective the week of June 11, 2006 the definition of "family member" was expanded to include those who provide care for a brother, sister, grandparent, grandchild, in-law, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, foster parent, ward, guardian, or a gravely ill person who considers the claimant to be like a family member. The benefits remain available to those caring for a parent, child, spouse or common-law partner.
The compassionate care benefits can be shared between eligible family members and the dying family member can be in another country.