Project summary: Employment Insurance caregiving benefits

Employment Insurance (EI) is a service that touches almost 2 million Canadians every yearFootnote 1. Certain EI benefits are designed specifically for Canadians caring for a critically ill or injured family member, or for someone needing end of life care.

The Digital Transformation Office, Service Canada, and Employment and Social Development Canada collaborated to make it easier to find, understand and access those EI benefits.

Improving client service delivery is a top priority on The team was motivated to help Canadians understand which benefits are available to them and how to apply. Awareness of this motivated the team to improve the information provided on We researched, designed and tested a new prototype in just over three months. It succeeded in:

  • explaining the distinctions between three closely-related caregiving benefits
  • better informing Canadians about their eligibility before they started the application process
  • improving the clarity of the “how to apply” guidance

We used a set of eight tasks related to caregiving benefits to test the existing pages. We performed a total of 148 moderated task performance tests. After making changes, we ran a further 136 tests on the revised prototype. Overall success rose by 28% percentage points on the new design.

Establishing a baseline

In the baseline round, 19 participants tested the 8 tasks that our team had designed. They used the live website to measure:

  • findability rate: how often people successfully found the page on the website with the answer to the task question
  • success rate: how often people correctly identified and understood the correct answer to the task question

In baseline testing, the 8 tasks had an average success rate of 51%, and an average findability rate of 59%.

A few of the tasks were particularly challenging for the Canadians invited to participate in the baseline round. These included tasks asking if participants could find and understand:

  • if they needed Records of Employment to complete their application (37% success rate)
  • how to transition from one caregiving benefit to another, if the state of health of the person being cared for changed (0% success rate)
  • that they could apply for family caregiving benefits without actually being a relative of the critically ill patient (39% success rate)

Redesign to improve task success

The project evaluated the effectiveness of labels in the menu. Analytics data showed that Canadians use the word “leave” to search for EI special benefits, not “EI” or “benefits.” Introducing the word “caregiving” also helped Canadians identify the right links to follow.

The team decided to bring the three different caregiving benefits together into a single service template. We used a table to highlight the distinctions between each benefit.

In baseline testing participants found differentiating between caring for a child or an adult relatively straightforward. However, they had trouble when they tried to identify whether they needed “compassionate care” or “family caregiver” benefits.

Another innovation in the optimized prototype was to give an overview of the different steps in the application process. The process includes gathering documentation from employers and from medical professionals. Then applicants must submit these documents to Service Canada. On the live site, this information appeared under “After you’ve applied”. Some participants failed to identify the required documents because they didn’t think to look there.

In the prototype, we put the list of documents at the beginning of the process. Participants were more successful finding what documents they would need to provide.

Before and after images of “apply” guidance for EI caregiving benefits.
Before and after images of “apply” guidance for EI caregiving benefits
Detailed description

Two webpages are shown side by side. The page on the left is labelled "Baseline" and shows that the “After you've applied” webpage concerning caregiving benefits was missing content people expected to find on this page. An arrow points to the webpage with the annotation "Supporting documents were not found here."

The page on the right is labelled "Redesign” and shows the “Apply" page with a set of icons outlining the various application steps. An arrow points to the steps with the annotation "Visual overview of the complete process."

Below there is a header titled "Begin to gather supporting documents", which has a list of the needed documents. An arrow points to the list with the annotation "All required supporting documents visible."

Measuring success rates on the redesigned prototype

Once the revised prototype was ready, we recruited 17 new participants to complete the same 8 tasks. Our target was either 80% success, or an improvement of at least 20 points over the baseline score for both findability and task success.

These targets were exceeded:

  • findability rates rose from 59% to 84%
  • overall task success rose from 51% to 79%

This chart shows the task success rates across the baseline and redesigned validation test on the prototype:

Task completion success rates – table

Baseline measurement at start of project, validation on prototype redesigned by project team.

Task Baseline Validation
1. Eligibility: 600 hours 61% 76%
2. Apply: documents 41% 76%
3. Wait period/delay 58% 100%
4. Apply 79% 88%
5. Compassionate care 0% 24%
6. Eligibility: sick person 67% 88%
7. Benefit expiry 72% 94%
8. Eligibility: friend 39% 88%

Key drivers of success

The team identified four factors that had the greatest impact on success rates:

  1. Labels and doormats for navigation emphasized “caregiving” in addition to “family”
  2. Three benefits in one place helped people get to correct destination
  3. Content was located where people expected it to be
  4. Clarified and simplified language helped people understand the content

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