Ottawa, May 2, 2018—Improving financial support programs for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) would increase their labour force participation and boost economic activity. A new Conference Board of Canada report released during MS Awareness Month finds that expanding the employment insurance (EI) sickness benefit program and making the disability tax credit (DTC) refundable would allow approximately 11,400 people to remain in or re-enter the workforce and boost economic activity by an estimated $1.1 billion annually.
“When people living with multiple sclerosis or their caregivers are unemployed or underemployed, it is often detrimental to their health and financial situation,” said Thy Dinh, Director, Health Economics and Policy, The Conference Board of Canada. “Although extending EI sickness benefits and making the DTC a refundable tax credit have clear and tangible costs, there are also clear benefits for individuals, employers and society in helping Canadians living with MS to obtain or maintain their employment and an adequate level of income.”
- With an estimated 100,000 Canadians living with multiple sclerosis, Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.
- Financial supports would help persons with MS remain in the labour force and ensure an adequate level of income. The economic benefit of increased labour force participation is an estimated $1.1 billion annually.
- Expanding the EI sickness benefit program to better support Canadians with MS would cost approximately $1.3 billion annually, while making the disability tax credit refundable would cost $1.2 billion.
Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. Close to 100,000 Canadians live with MS and this number is expected to rise to over 130,000 over the next 12 years. Many people diagnosed with MS often have to either decrease the number of hours they work or leave the workforce altogether, lowering their income. At the same time, they face higher costs of living, such as home modifications and accessible transportation.
Canadians living with MS or other episodic disabilities have access to federal supports such as the employment insurance sickness benefit program and the disability tax credit. However, some argue that the current EI sickness benefit program is inaccessible for those living with MS or other episodic disabilities. In addition, restrictive eligibility requirements can make it difficult for people with MS to access the disability tax credit.
Expanding the EI sickness benefit program would enable people with MS to stay in the workforce, have access to their employer’s benefit plan, and continue to pay income tax and EI premiums. Extending the maximum duration from the current 15 weeks to 26 weeks would benefit approximately 129,000 Canadians. Additionally, reducing the minimum number of hours worked to receive benefits from the current 600 to 300 would help up to 99,000 Canadians. These changes would cost the federal government approximately $1.3 billion annually.
Meanwhile, converting the federal disability tax credit into a refundable tax credit would provide up to $1,230 for Canadians with disabilities who have difficulty maintaining employment and not able to take advantage of a non-refundable tax credit. It would also help them cover some of the costs associated with their disability regardless of their employment or income status.
The federal disability tax credit allows tax filers to claim $8,113 on their tax return. However, as it is non-refundable it can only be used by Canadians with enough income to pay income tax. A refundable tax credit, on the other hand, can reduce tax owed to below zero, resulting in a refund from the government. Making both the federal and provincial portions of the credit refundable would cost $1.2 billion to the federal government and $539 million to the provincial/ territorial governments annually.
The report, Multiple Sclerosis in the Workplace: Making the Case for Enhancing Employment and Income Supports, was funded by the MS Society of Canada, Celgene Corporation, and EMD Serono Canada.
Join co-authors, Thy Dinh and Alexandru Dobrescu, as they present finding from the report at a live webinar on June 28, 2018 at 02:00 PM EDT.