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A few things to know about changes to federal parental, caregiver benefits

OTTAWA — The federal government outlined the details of new parental leave benefits that were announced in this year's budget. Here are some things to know about the new benefits, which come into force on Dec. 3.

— New parents will be able to choose between receiving 35 weeks of parental benefits at 55 per cent of their average weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $543 per week, or 61 weeks at 33 per cent, up to $326 per week. The decision must be made upon applying and won't be available to anyone receiving parental benefits before Dec. 3.

— Eligibility requirements remain the same: A new parent needs 600 hours of work in the previous 52 weeks to be eligible for benefits, while self-employed workers who have opted in to the EI system must have earned at least $6,888 in the last year.

— The rules automatically apply to all federally regulated workplaces like banks, the public service and telecoms, but not to those whose jobs fall under provincial and territorial labour laws, about 92 per cent of all workers. Provinces and territories will have to adjust to the option for extra months of parental leave. Affected workplaces will have to decide whether to amend existing policies to allow salary top-ups over the entire 18 months; union shops will have to review collective agreements.

— Pregnant workers will also be eligible to start claiming their maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before the expected birth of their child, up from the current eight.

— On Dec. 3, a new family caregiver benefit will provide up to 15 weeks of benefits for Canadians to care for adult family members who are over age 18 and are "critically ill," defined by the government as being "at risk as a result of illness or injury and has experienced a significant change in their baseline state of health." A revamped benefit will also allow any eligible family member — immediate or extended family — to take up to 35 weeks of benefits to care for a critically ill child.

— The government is also making a small change to the compassionate care benefit: in addition to doctors, nurse practitioners will also be allowed to sign the medical certificate needed to receive the benefit, up to 26 weeks' worth to care for a relative who is at significant risk of death.

The Canadian Press

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