There have been widespread reports that pregnant Canadians are being told they are not eligible for CERB and must go on EI parental leave early. We raised this issue with the Minister of Employment & Social Development and the Liberals were forced to correct program flaws affecting expectant parents.
ESDC Minister's Update:
As you know, March 15, 2020 is an important date in reference to the CERB. For claimants who are eligible for EI, the March 15th date determines whether a claim will be processed through the regular EI system or through the CERB system. If a worker became eligible for EI prior to March 15th, the claim is processed through the regular EI system and claimants receive EI benefits. If a worker became eligible for EI after March 15th, the claim is processed under CERB rules and claimants receive the $2000 CERB over four weeks. The triggering date is not the date of application, rather it is the date the individual became eligible for EI.
As a result, expectant mothers who lost their job and are eligible for EI before March 15th should have received EI regular benefits and when eligible will transition to EI maternity and parental benefits following the birth of their child. The benefits will be paid at the rate established under EI rules.
Expectant mothers who lost their job and are eligible for EI after March 15th should be receiving the CERB (to a maximum of 16 weeks) and when eligible transition to EI maternity and parental benefits following the birth of their child. CERB benefits will be paid out at the rate of $500/week. An expectant mother could potentially claim EI regular benefits in between the end of CERB and the beginning of EI maternity and parental benefits should she need to bridge a gap in benefits.
The maximum number of weeks of EI regular and maternity and standard parental benefits any claimant can receive is 50 weeks, or over a longer period for claimants who choose the extended parental benefits. Whereas EI regular benefits count towards this 50-week maximum, CERB benefits do not. In all cases, maternity and parental benefits will be paid at the rate established under EI rules.
Expectant Mothers’ Claims
As part of the CERB process, applicants are asked if they are pregnant and anticipating going on maternity/parental benefits. This is to ensure that claims are properly established, and to ensure a smooth transition over to maternity/parental at the appropriate time without having to re-apply.
However, there was a limitation within the CERB system when expectant mothers disclosed they were pregnant: women were being immediately put on EI benefits even if they should have been on the CERB. This was happening regardless of whether the expectant mother became eligible for EI before or after March 15th.
We have determined how to address this, which is scheduled to be implemented effective May 8, 2020.
As of May 8th, expectant mothers who should have been receiving the CERB will have their claims converted retroactively to the CERB. Those who had been receiving less than the $500 per week will receive a payment to get them up to the $500. Those who had been receiving more than the $500 per week will not have any money clawed back, but will receive the $500 per week flat rate from the time their claim is converted going forward. The weeks for which they collect the CERB will not impact the number of weeks of maternity and parental benefits they may receive.
To reiterate, we will ensure that expectant mothers affected by this are not disadvantaged and receive their full entitlement of weeks for their future maternity/parental claim – any weeks where they received regular EI benefits when they should have been receiving CERB will be put back onto their account and they will have those weeks available to them when needed once their child is born.