Demand for EI sickness benefits on the rise; NDP cites need for update

More and more Canadians are applying for federal help as they take time away from work to battle serious illness, and almost four out of every 10 applicants are maxing out their benefits.

Since 2015, demand for sickness benefits under the federal employment insurance program has reached a 10-year high, with more than half of successful applicants taking 10 or more weeks' worth of payments.

The figures, contained in a recent report to Parliament, show more than 142,000 people used their maximum allotment of 15 weeks in 2017, an increase of about eight per cent from the previous year.

NDP jobs critic Niki Ashton says the fact that so many people are using up their benefit is evidence that the 47-year-old program needs an update.

A spokesman for Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says the government has already made improvements to sickness benefits to give people more options for returning to work.

In the 2018 budget, the Liberal government agreed to allow new parents and those recovering from illnesses to work while receiving benefits without jeopardizing their EI payments.