Canada’s disability system at a glance

A brief outline of the seven programs that make up Canada's work disability system, taken from the Institute for Work & Health's 2010 Issue Briefing, A patchwork quilt: Income security for Canadians with disabilities

1. Canada/Quebec Pension Plan Disability (CPP-D or QPP-D): Accounting for nearly 16 per cent of all disability benefit expenditures in 2008-2009, CPP-D uses a stringent definition of disability for eligibility: “severe and prolonged disability such that the person is incapable of gainful employment.” Eligibility is also subject to minimum contribution requirements.
2. Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits: Accounting for 3.8 per cent of disability benefit spending in 2008-2009, this program provides benefits for up to 15 weeks for periods of temporary disability. Workers must have accumulated at least 600 insured hours in the last 52 weeks or since the last claim to be eligible. Benefits are reduced if recipients qualify for benefits from other sources.
3. Veterans’ benefits for disability: Veterans or members of the Canadian Armed Forces are eligible for this benefit if a disability can be attributed to exposures arising from service, and the disability is severe. Benefits are reduced if the veteran also receives benefits from a group disability insurance plan. This program accounted for 7.7 per cent of disability benefits spending.
4. Provincial workers’ compensation programs: Accounting for 21 per cent of disability benefit spending in 2008-2009, this program provides income benefits for wage losses arising from a disabling disease or injury with a work-related cause. Coverage varies from 70 per cent (in Ontario) to 95 per cent (in Quebec) of all workers. Premiums are paid by employers.
5. Provincial social assistance programs: All provincial social assistance programs provide benefits to people with disabilities. In most provinces, eligibility is determined by duration of the disability and means-testing. In Ontario, for example, people who own above a certain amount in assets—vehicles, savings, homes and so on—are not eligible for support. If they work, part of their earnings will be deducted. Also, income from CPP, EI, workers’ compensation or private disability insurance plans is deducted dollar-for-dollar. These programs made up 31 per cent of disability benefits in 2008-2009.
6. Employment-based long-term disability plans: About 55 per cent of Canadian workers are offered a work-based long-term disability (LTD) plan. Premiums may be paid by employees or by both employees and employers. Most plans provide for two years of benefits, and longer only if the plan members cannot do any work for which they’re trained. LTD plans make up for about 18 per cent of total disability spending in 2008-2009.  
7. Tax measures: Accounting for just over one per cent of benefit spending in 2008-2009, federal tax measures include the Disability Tax Credit, which also includes the Working Income Tax Benefit Disability and the Registered Disability Savings Plan. These non-refundable tax credits are used to reduce the amount that people who are eligible owe on federal income tax.

For more information, see the Institute for Work & Health's Issue Briefing: A patchwork quilt: Income security for Canadians with disabilities.

Source: At Work, Issue 75, Winter 2014: Institute for Work & Health, Toronto

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