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What are maternity and parental benefits in Canada?

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Emmett O'Kane

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3 minute read

Great question. With lots of inconsistent information out there, Humi’s got you covered with your one-stop-shop for information about maternity and parental benefits. Here’s what you need to know:

The difference between maternity and parental benefits


Maternity benefits are available to biological mothers, including surrogate mothers, who are unable to work because they are pregnant or have recently given birth. Mothers are eligible for 15 weeks of benefits beginning up to 12 weeks prior to the expected birth date and can end up to 17 weeks after birth. They can receive the same amount per week as they would under parental standard leave.

Parental benefits are available, in addition to maternity benefits, to a mother or father who is caring for a recently born or adopted child. They can be allocated to one parent or shared between the two. There are two types of parental leave available, standard and extended.

Parental standard leave allows parents to take up to 35 weeks of leave at 55% of their weekly average insurable earnings up to a maximum amount. As of Jan. 1 2019, the maximum amount is $53,100 which equates to $562 per week. Benefits must be claimed within a 12-month period after the week the child was born or adopted.

Parental extended leave allows parents to take up to 61 weeks of leave at 33% of their weekly average insurable earnings up to the maximum amount. They must be claimed within an 18-month period after the week the child was born or adopted.

Eligibility

In order to qualify for EI maternity and parental benefits, an employee must have worked 600 insurable hours in the 52 weeks prior to their claim and their normal weekly earnings are reduced by more than 40%

An employee's return


If an employee’s position is no longer available or no longer exists, the employer is obligated to find a position with comparable wages and benefits. Employers cannot terminate an employee for taking maternity or parental leave unless the employer suspends or discontinues their business.

Employer top-up policies


To help compensate for earnings lost by employees on leave, some employers offer a Supplemental Unemployment Benefit, also known as a top-up. On top of the parental benefits an employee receives, an employer can cover some or all of the difference between benefits received and their regular earnings. The amount they provide and for how long is determined by company policies. Top-ups are a healthy way to encourage job continuity since they often stipulate a return to employment within a specified time.

A future policy change in Canada


Parents with children born on or after March 17, 2019, will be eligible to receive five additional weeks of benefits if they apply for the standard 12-month parental leave, or an additional eight weeks if they apply for the 18-month extended leave, as long as the couple agrees to share the time off. The second parent must use at least five weeks of their parental benefits if they are using standard benefits, or eight weeks if they are using extended benefits.

Provincial differences

Quebec is the only province that manages its own maternity and parental benefits system. It’s called the Quebec Parental Insurance Program (QPIP). Learn more.

Resources


Government of Canada’s Maternity and Parental Benefits website
Information on Supplemental Unemployment Benefit



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Emmett O'Kane
Emmett is on the benefits team at Humi and spends his free time tuning his air guitar skills.


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