You are here: 

EI sickness benefit

When Canadians face cancer, their struggle is not just medical but also financial. In addition to a decrease in income, they also face a rise in expenses such as medications, the cost of medical travel, parking and home care costs. The stress of this financial burden affects their emotional well-being and, therefore, their psychosocial needs.

The Employment Insurance sickness benefit currently provides 15 weeks of coverage, which is not enough to cover the length of treatment for many people with cancer. A report by BC Cancer notes that the average length of treatment and recovery for people with breast cancer is between 26 and 36 weeks and for colon cancer it is 37 weeks. These are two of the most common types of cancer in Canada.


As Canadians live longer, with longer careers, more people are likely to develop an illness while in the workforce. With 1 in 2 Canadians expected to develop cancer in their lifetime and about 800,000 Canadians living with cancer today, there is a critical need to provide additional support for people with cancer and their families.

It is time to alleviate this burden on people who are living with a disease as serious as cancer. We are calling on the federal government to follow through on its commitment to extend the sickness benefit to at least 26 weeks. This would bring the length of the benefit in line with the compassionate care benefits, which was extended from 6 weeks to 26 weeks in 2016.

An extension to the EI sickness benefit will ensure that Canadians who are facing a life-threatening disease such as cancer will receive more time off to heal and recover from their treatment.

  • Our position

    Now that the government has provided an extension of the compassionate care benefits for caregivers, the Canadian Cancer Society recommends the government turn its attention to people with cancer to enhance the Employment Insurance sickness benefits by:

    • increasing the maximum entitlement for regular benefits from 15 to at least 26 weeks to align with compassionate care benefits
    • increasing flexibility for workers by allowing workers to claim benefits in smaller units (on an hourly or per day basis)
    • changing the eligibility criteria by decreasing the threshold of the number of hours worked by claimants
    • reducing the administrative burden by streamlining the requirements, application process and aligning with other federal benefits such as Canada Pension Plan
    • increasing employer access to supports and accommodations for workers

    Read the 2019 Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit Policy report.



Researcher Dr John Bell Fighting cancer with designer viruses

Read more

Funding world-class research

Icon - paper

Cancer affects all Canadians but together we can reduce the burden by investing in research and prevention efforts. Learn about the impact of our funded research.

Learn more