Canadian parents can now get up to 35 weeks of Employment Insurance (EI) benefits if they have a critically ill child. I've read about parents going broke after having to quit their jobs to care for a sick child, particularly when the family has to travel to another city for treatment.
This is a good thing. And it certainly provided a nice photo opp for the federal government. But where are the benefits for critically ill adults?
How the system fails sick adults
If your employer doesn't offer extended benefits, or if you don't qualify for them because you are working on contract, you could be entitled to a whopping 15 weeks of EI. That is, provided you pay into the system via your employer.
If 15 weeks isn't enough, and your illness or treatments are debilitating enough that you cannot work, you may qualify for Disability Benefits through Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Applications for CPP Disability take about three months to review.
So adults get much more time off for a sick child than they will if they happen to be the one who is ill.
In my case, I get paid a percentage in lieu of benefits. I pay out of pocket for a very basic benefits plan that does not include sickness benefits. Silly me didn't anticipate getting cancer at age 39.
I applied for Disability and was denied because I can work, now anyway. Fingers crossed I don't start having debilitating side effects later in treatment, or that if I do, it happens within the three-month time slot I have to appeal the decision.
So far, I've been lucky: I feel okay to work, and I have a job I really enjoy where my colleagues are incredibly supportive.
But imagine if I didn't feel well enough to work, but felt too well to qualify for Disability. And if I had a stressful job that taxed my energy reserves. Not exactly a prime situation for healing, is it?
Add that to the fact that I apparently make too much money to qualify for any other type of assistance and I'm the stereotypical member of the middle class who is screwed no matter what.
There are a lot of things I'm grateful for, the quality of cancer care in BC in particular.
But the financial support system for people with cancer has holes in it. It's time for the federal government to take a consistent approach to who they award EI benefits to, and fix it.
Put the pressure on
If this bothers you too, make your voice heard: