Media Release

The Canadian Cancer Society commends the federal government for implementing an extension to the EI sickness benefit from 15 to 26 weeks


Today, the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) congratulates the Honourable Minister Carla Qualtrough (Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion) and the Government of Canada for announcing an implementation date for the much-needed extension of the Employment Insurance (EI) Sickness benefit. As of December 18, those faced with a disease such as cancer will now receive 26 weeks of paid time off work to focus on getting well. This is up from 15 weeks, which until now has gone unchanged since the 1970s.

When someone faces cancer, their struggle is not just medical but also financial. In addition to a decrease in income, they also face a rise in expenses such as medications, the cost of medical travel, parking and home care costs.

The EI sickness benefit serves as an important safety net for workers who need time to recover from serious illness or injury. It provides financial support so energy can be focused on treatment and recovery, rather than worrying about finances.

“This extension to the EI sickness benefit will go a long way in helping to alleviate the financial burden of a cancer diagnosis,” says Kelly Masotti, Vice President of Advocacy at the Canadian Cancer Society. “We commend the government for implementing this important extension so fewer Canadians are forced to choose between a paycheque and cancer treatment.”

As Canadians live longer, with longer careers, more people are likely to develop an illness while in the workforce. With 2 in 5 Canadians expected to develop cancer in their lifetime and more than 1.5 million people in Canada living with or beyond cancer, there is a critical need to provide additional support. The extension will provide approximately 169,000 Canadians every year with additional time and flexibility to recover and return to work.

This extension is welcome news for people like Kathy MacNaughton who know all too well that the current 15 weeks provided under the sickness benefits are not enough for a loved one diagnosed with cancer.

Kathy’s husband, David, learned he had esophageal cancer on his 50th birthday. David had to take a break from his work as a carpenter to focus on treatment and began receiving coverage through the EI sickness benefit. The 15 weeks covered under the EI sickness benefit at the time came to an end, but David was unable to return to work because the cancer progressed and became terminal.

“An extension of the EI sickness benefit to 26 is an incredible step forward,” says Kathy. “Having that extra paid time off work would have meant a lot to David. I know it will mean a lot to other Canadians like David.”

The federal government’s 2021 Budget included an extension to the EI sickness benefit. Now that an implementation date of December 18 has been set, the government’s long-standing commitment has been realized.

This moment is the culmination of extensive advocacy work. For years, CCS has been calling on the government to make changes, sharing that 15 weeks is simply not enough time for most people with cancer to undergo treatment and recover. This extension wouldn’t have been possible without the collective support of CCS, its partners and, most importantly, the voices of those who care about cancer.

“An extension to 26 weeks is a strong start and will have a major impact on the lives of those living with cancer, but our work does not stop here”, says Masotti. “We commend the Government of Canada and Minister Qualtrough for this historic investment and commitment to ensuring more people can access the financial supports they need to thrive through their diagnosis and treatment.”

CCS will continue to work with the government and all parties to build on this significant investment. 

For information about existing sickness benefits and what this change will mean for those currently receiving the EI sickness benefit, contact Employment and Social Development Canada at 1-800-206-7218 or visit    

About the Canadian Cancer Society  
The Canadian Cancer Society works tirelessly to save and improve lives. We fund the brightest minds in cancer research. We provide a compassionate support system for all those affected by cancer, across Canada and for all types of cancer. As the voice for people who care about cancer, we work with governments to shape a healthier society. No other organization does all that we do to make lives better today and transform the future of cancer forever. 

Help us make a difference. Call 1-888-939-3333 or visit today. 


For more information, please contact:
Hailey Mellon 
Communications Coordinator