Tories to extend EI special benefits to self-employed

Claims for maternity, parental and compassionate care leave could be paid out as of January 2011

The federal Conservatives have introduced a bill to provide employment insurance parental benefits to self-employed workers.

If Parliament passes the bill, called the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act, self-employed workers will be able to opt in to EI's special benefits, including parental and compassionate care leave.

Those who wish to take part can start paying premiums as early as January 2010 but claims won't be paid out until at least January 2011.

There are about 2.6 million self-employed Canadians, according to Human Resources Minister Diane Finley.

The new legislation would provide maternity benefits (up to 15 weeks), parental and adoptive benefits (up to 35 weeks), sickness benefits (up to 15 weeks) and compassionate care benefits (up to six weeks).

Self-employed Canadians would have to opt into the program at least one year before claiming benefits.

They would also have to make premium payments starting with the tax year in which they apply and must have earned at least $6,000 through self-employment in the preceding year.

They can opt out of the EI program at the end of any tax year, as long as they have never claimed benefits. But if they have claimed benefits, they would have to contribute for as long as they are self-employed.

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