The Canadian federal government has released a Phase Two report1 from ongoing consultations regarding the modernization of the Employment Insurance (EI) program. The stakeholders involved in these consultations included: employer groups, health/disability insurance organizations, labour and worker organizations, organizations representing arts and culture, contractual and gig workers, individuals, and other community/social support organizations. The consultations focused on the adequacy of EI benefits, EI financing, support for the self-employed, gig workers, and seasonal workers, and the Premium Reduction Program (PRP).

Research shows that when employees are out of work longer than six months, they have less than a 40% to 50% chance of returning to work.

Changes to the EI program

One key change could be the extension of EI sickness benefits from the current 15 weeks to 26 weeks.2 While an extended EI period provides better coverage for employees, it creates a greater need for a well-managed and robust short-term disability program. Research shows that when employees are out of work longer than six months, they have less than a 40% to 50% chance of returning to work.3

There has been no date set for these changes to take effect, only that they will likely happen before the end of 2022. Should the PRP change, we expect existing policies to continue to be eligible for rebates, and employers will have sufficient time to make any changes.

What’s next?

Should you have any questions on your current absence or leave policies or require changes, please speak to your Cowan consultant, or reach out to us by phone at 1-866-912-6926 or by visiting

For more information on our wellness and disability service offerings, please visit us at

We will closely monitor the decisions and dates for these EI changes and communicate them to you once available.

Return To Health®

Return To Health® wellness and disability services delivered by Cowan can help reduce absence durations, prevent Long-Term Disability claims, manage rising premiums and benefit costs, and improve your workforce’s overall health and productivity. Our multidisciplinary case managers work with you, your employees and their healthcare team to facilitate a safe, early, and sustainable return to work.

1 Government of Canada report (2022). Modernizing Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) Program: Consultations – The What we heard report (Phase 2). Retrieved from URL.
2 Government of Canada news release (April 29, 2022). Government of Canada launches second phase of consultations to modernize Employment Insurance program. Retrieved from URL.
3 National Library of Medicine (September 8, 2016). Factors affecting return to work after injury or illness: best evidence synthesis of systematic reviews. Retrieved from URL.