Government Benefits in Canada

Maternity and Parental Benefits

If you work and ready to become parents, you may apply for a maternity or parental leave at your work. Most of workplaces provide maternal and parental leaves without pay. To apply for a leave without pay you need to give a four-week notice to your employer in writing. Sometimes an employer will ask you to submit a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy. You will receive payments from Employment Insurance if you meet their requirements.

Only parents who paid into Employment Insurance are eligible to receive maternity or parental benefits under Employment Insurance Act. Other requirements are: your regular weekly earnings have decreased by more than 40%; and you have accumulated 600 insured hours in the last 52 weeks or since your last claim.

To receive maternity benefits you need to prove your pregnancy by signing a statement declaring the expected due or actual date of birth.

Who may receive? Only biological or surrogate mothers may receive EI maternity benefits. You need also to meet other above-mentioned requirements for EI benefits.

Planning your maternity leave: It is important to wisely plan the beginning of your maternal leave. Normally, EI maternal benefits are payable on the Monday of the first full week that the employee is on maternity leave. It is to the employee's advantage to work until the end of a calendar week because a partial week of work may reduce the amount and period of the weekly EI maternity benefits payable. Maternity benefits are limited to 17 weeks. Your maternity benefits may start either up to 8 weeks before you expect to give birth or at the week you gave birth and must end no later than within 17 weeks of that date. Two weeks out of 17 are the waiting period without pay.

You should be aware that, if you choose to work or take paid leave and delay taking your maternity leave without pay until after the week of the expected date or the actual week of childbirth, whichever is later, each subsequent week of delay will result in a corresponding one-week reduction in the 17-week post-natal period during which EI maternity benefits are payable. If, for example, you were on a 2-week paid leave at the time you gave birth, the period when you can collect maternal benefits will be reduced by 2 weeks.

Extended leave: If your baby is hospitalized, then the 17-week limit can be extended for every week your child is in the hospital up to 52 weeks — following the week of the child's birth. You will still receive benefits for a maximum of 15 weeks, but payments can be delayed until your child comes home.

A biological mother may be entitled to up to 6 additional consecutive weeks of unpaid leave from work if, for reasons related to the birth or the termination of the pregnancy, she is unable to return to work when her leave ends. EI does not pay any benefits.

The benefit amount: EI maternity benefits are payable for up to 15 weeks and, generally, are equal to 55 per cent of an employee's average insurable earnings for the last 26 weeks up to a maximum EI benefit of $415 per week The weekly EI payment and the number of weeks to be paid remain the same even if you give birth to more than one child at the same time.

Work while receiving maternity benefits: If you work while on maternity benefits, your earnings will be deducted dollar for dollar from your benefits.