New Legislation Extends Special Benefits to Self-Employed Workers

April 26, 2010

The Canadian government recently approved the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act, legislation that extends Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits, including maternity, parental, sickness and compassionate care benefits, to self-employed workers. This new legislation would require self-employed Canadians to contribute to the EI program for at least one year before claiming any of these special benefits.

Self-employed workers who choose to make a claim for these special benefits must continue paying premiums as long as they retain their self-employed status. They would also be responsible for making premium payments beginning in the tax year in which they apply to the EI program. However, self-employed Canadians will remain ineligible for any basic EI coverage.

Self-employed Canadians who opt into the EI program would be eligible to receive the same special benefits currently available to salaried employees.

  • Maternity benefits (15 weeks maximum) are available to birth mothers and cover the period surrounding birth.
  • Parental/adoptive benefits (35 weeks maximum) are available to biological or adoptive parents while they are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, and may be taken by either parent or shared between them.
  • Sickness benefits (15 weeks maximum), which may be paid to a person who is unable to work because of sickness, injury or quarantine.
  • Compassionate care benefits (6 weeks maximum), which may be paid to persons who have to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is gravely ill with a significant risk of death.

CDA has been advocating for parental, sickness and compassionate care benefits for self-employed dentists for many years. CDA included this issue in many of its prebudget submissions brought before the House of Commons Finance Committee and during meetings with members of Parliament at its Days on the Hill advocacy events.

CDA president Dr. Don Friedlander appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee of Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on November 24, to reinforce CDA’s support for this recent legislation. Dr. Friedlander explained to the committee how the dental workforce and practice environment are changing. He emphasized that the proposed measures found in the legislation will make the dental profession more desirable to those who might be considering dentistry as a possible career.

The Fairness for the Self-Employed Act might allow a greater number of younger dentists to alter their practice style, making it easier to balance the responsibilities of dental practice and family,” Dr. Friedlander told the committee.

“New dentists are coming to the profession with a different perspective and different needs than those who have come before. For instance, Canadian dental schools are now graduating a majority of female students, with 58% of graduates in 2008 being women,” he continued. “It is important to allow new dentists, male or female, who are bringing a fresh perspective of work–life balance to dentistry, the opportunity to participate in this program.”

Another key reason for CDA’s support of this legislation is its voluntary nature. It is quite likely that the majority of established dentists will choose not to join the program. If the legislation was compulsory, some dentists might view the premiums as an unnecessary burden on their practice that would increase the cost of providing services.

After gaining unanimous approval from the House of Commons, the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act received royal assent on December 15 and will now become law. For more information, visit www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/employment/ei/Fact_sheet_C56.shtml or http://news.gc.ca/web/article-eng.do?nid=493319.

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