Calling for flexibility: Study on income and employment supports for people with serious illness

I have been talking a lot about jobs and income as the focus of our advocacy work these past few years. One of our top priorities is to change our current system of employment and income supports so that they are more flexible for people with chronic and episodic illnesses like multiple sclerosis.

System-wide change starts with assessing where we are now, so that we are fully informed when pushing for progress. Today the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP)—one of Canada’s top think tanks—has released a report called Leaving Some Behind: What Happens When Workers Get Sick. We commissioned the report with other nonprofit organizations, such as the Canadian Caregiver Coalition. These issues affect more than 1 million Canadians living with chronic and episodic illness (excluding caregivers), which is why this collaboration makes sense to benefit from the strength in numbers. (Read the press release for more details here.)

Here’s what happens, systematically, when a Canadian worker gets sick:

infographic - the standard supports funnel

The IRPP report will help us make a strong case for fundamental changes to income and employment supports across private and public systems. The recommendations propose a redefinition of disability policy, so that we may improve access to more flexible income and employment supports through employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan – Disability and private insurance systems. Specifically, here is what we are asking for through the report:

Short-term reforms

#1 Extended duration of Employment Insurance (EI) Sickness Benefits and creation of a flexible work-sharing program, so that a person can reduce work hours while receiving EI income

#2 The expert dissemination of information and hands-on support to employers on roles, best practices and resources available when an employee is diagnosed with an illness and may require time away or accommodations so they can continue to work

Long-term directions

#1 The standardization of program parameters across the disability support system

#2 The enhancement of disability insurance coverage within the labour market to account for people with episodic and chronic illnesses

#3 The general improvement of disability insurance coverage in amount and length of time accessed, to cover both short and long-term insurance needs

I have been involved in many large strategies in my 30-year career—this effort is the largest with the most potential for tangible impact. In the words of one key influencer within government, this report has changed our thinking on these issues as we work primarily to redefine what “disability” actually means to our governments.

And here’s where you come in—because you can help us take action. Take a moment to send a letter to your federal election candidates about the importance of flexible employment and income supports for people living with MS. All you need to do is click, fill out your information, customize your letter, and hit send. Share with your friends so they participate, too—the more messages sent, the larger the impact.

Thank you for choosing to fight, with us, to end MS.

Categories Advocacy

National vice-president, government relations: passionate about grassroots work to ensure our governments are responsive to the needs of Canadians living with MS.

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