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If you need to stop work because of illness or disability, it is important that you understand your rights and various options for disability benefits.

We start by reviewing the various disability benefits available in Canada though government programs, insurance policies and other workplace plans. Then we do a review of your disability rights, including employment rights and human rights.

Disability Benefits Plans and Programs

There are several types of disability benefits plans and programs in Canada. These include private sector disability insurance plans and public sector disability benefits programs.

Each plan and program has its own criteria for eligibility and payments. 

If you are unsure where to start, or what benefits you may qualify for, read our Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for Disability Benefits in Canada. Or, if your disability claim has been denied, get started by reading our Step-by-Step Guide to Appealing a Disability Claim Denial. 

Employment Insurance (EI) SICKNESS Benefits

EI sickness disability benefits are paid by the Federal Government through the Employment Insurance (EI) program. All employees in Canada make mandatory contributions to the EI program through payroll deductions. EI sickness benefits are meant to provide disability income for workers who experience temporary absence from the workforce due to injury or illness. To qualify for EI sickness payments, you must have made the minimum number of contributions to the EI program. If you have made enough contributions, then you will qualify if your doctor confirms that your absence from work is due to illness or injury. You can apply for EI sickness benefits online or at any Service Canada office. You need to fill out forms and provide a medical certificate from your doctor. In most situations, EI sickness payments will be 55% of your usual weekly income. Payments can continue up to a maximum of 15 weeks. There is no limit to the number of times you can apply for EI sickness payments if you accumulate enough contributions before making another claim.

Short-term Disability

Short-term disability benefits are paid by employers or through group insurance policies. If you are an employee, you may be eligible for short-term disability, if this benefit is offered by your employer. Benefits are usually paid for 17-52 weeks and are 50-100% of your regular pay.

Long-term Disability

Long-term disability benefits are paid through insurance policies or plans. If you are an employee, you may have disability insurance benefits through your employer-sponsored group insurance plan. If you are self-employed, you may have disability insurance benefits through a private insurance policy you bought from an insurance broker. Disability insurance benefits include both short- and long-term disability payments. Disability payments are often sixty to sixty-six percent of your pre-disability income. If you qualify for disability benefits, you will receive a monthly payment for as long as you remain disabled or to the end of the payment period.

CANADA PENSION PLAN (CPP) DISABILITY

CPP disability benefits are paid by the Federal Government through the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). All employees make mandatory payments into the Canada Pension Plan through payroll deductions. In addition to paying a retirement pension, the CPP pays disability benefits if you become unable to work due to disability before age sixty-five. CPP benefits are intended to supplement other sources of disability income. To qualify for CPP disability benefits, you must meet the contribution requirements and have a "severe and prolonged" disability as defined by the Canada Pension Plan Act.

Workers' Compensation

Workers' Compensation disability benefits are paid by public sector workers' compensation programs. Each province has its own workers’ compensation program and they go by many names including, Workers' Compensation Boards (WCB), Worksafe, and the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB). While each province's workers' compensation program is unique, they all focus on paying disability benefits for work-related injuries and illnesses.

Workers' compensation programs are funded by the provincial governments and mandatory contributions paid by businesses and employers. To be eligible for workers' compensation, you must work for a "covered employer" and suffer a work-related illness or injury that renders you unable to work, either temporarily or permanently. If your claim is approved, then you will receive a monthly disability payment in addition to other benefits. If your claim Is denied, you have the right to appeal. The appeals process includes a reconsideration appeal by an employee within the Workers' Compensation Program. If the reconsideration appeal is unsuccessful, you can then appeal to an independent tribunal that has responsibility for workers' compensation appeals in your province. This tribunal is often referred to as the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal (WCAT) or the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT). These appeal tribunals are the final finder of fact for your case.

Veterans Affairs Canada Disability

Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) disability benefits are paid to current and former members of the Canadian Forces who have a service-related disability. The VAC disability program is run by the Veterans Affairs Canada, a department of the Federal Government. There are three types of VAC disability benefits: 1) earnings loss benefits, 2) monthly disability pension payments, and 3) lump-sum disability awards. The earnings loss benefit is a taxable monthly benefit that ensures your income will be at least 90% of your gross pre-release salary. The earnings loss benefit is paid if you are enrolled in VAC rehabilitation services. Once rehabilitation services have ended, your monthly earnings loss payment will convert to a monthly disability pension or a one-time lump-sum award. The amount of the monthly disability pension or lump-sum award is based on the degree to which the disability is service-related and the extent of your disability. Rank and years of military service have no impact on the payment amount.

DISABILITY TAX CREDIT

The Disability Tax Credit is a disability benefit offered through Revenue Canada. It provides an income tax credit to qualified persons with disabilities and their families. This tax credit will lower the amount of income taxes you pay and therefore increase your disposable income. The disability tax credit can be awarded retroactively, so it can result in you getting paid a tax return from those previous years. 

You qualify for the disability tax credit if Revenue Canada deems you to be disabled as defined by the disability tax credit program. The requirements for disability include “severity” and “prolonged” components, but is unique from other disability benefits programs, such as Canada Pension disability or disability insurance policies. Meeting the definition of disability for the Canada Pension Plan, for example, will not result in automatic approval for the disability tax credit. The disability requirements for each program are unique. If Revenue Canada denies your application, you have the option to appeal the denial or to reapply.

Disability Rights

Having to take a sick leave from work often comes with other workplace issues or problems. When going on disability benefits it is important that you understand your employment rights and human rights.

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