Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits need to be extended for those undergoing cancer treatment

Most Canadians believe that when Employment Insurance (EI) deductions are taken from their paycheques, these benefits will be available when they need them.

However, EI sickness benefits, which are accessed in the event of illness, only last for 15 weeks. For those cancer patients who need chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, or some combination of the three, 15 weeks is usually not long enough for them to fully recover and return to work.

This is exactly what happened to a woman in Chilliwack, BC, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her EI sickness benefits were cut off before her treatment ended.

“15 weeks of EI sickness benefits is not long enough for most Canadians to complete their cancer treatment. The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network calls on the federal government to lengthen EI Sickness benefits so that Canadians undergoing cancer treatment are not forced to suffer financial hardship,” said Jackie Manthorne, President and CEO of CCSN.

Gwen O`Mahoney, the MLA for Chilliwack-Hope, noted that the average length of treatment for breast cancer is 38 weeks, but it can last longer. This means patients can be left for up to 18 weeks without any means of income, and provincial welfare programs are not easily assessible as they often require people to use many of their assets before they become eligible.

This is an important issue, one that the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network will be taking action on in the coming weeks.

Join our campaign to ensure that EI Sickness Benefits truly cover the length of time people with cancer need to recover and return to work by writing jmanthorne@survivornet.ca. We will keep you informed of our activities on this issue.

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