Over 40 years ago, long before many of us were even a twinkle in our fathers' eyes, working women began to receive government maternity benefits. In 1971, a working mother was eligible to receive up to 15 weeks of monetary benefits, depending on her insurable earnings. Fast-forward to 1990, when parental benefits were added. What began as 10 weeks of compensation became 35 weeks of parental leave benefits in 2000. So where do we stand today? In Canada, the Employment Insurance Act allows for up to one year of a combination of paid maternity and parental leave. Here is a brief rundown on the details.
Employment insurance maternity benefits are given only to the biological mother, but this includes the surrogate mother when applicable. A total of 15 weeks can be claimed, and it may start as early as eight weeks before the due date and end up to 17 weeks after the delivery date. To qualify, certain criteria need to be met, such as the required 600 hours of insurable employment during the qualifying period and paid EI premiums.
Parental leave may be taken by either parent who chooses to be the caregiver for the newborn or adopted child. Thirty-five weeks of potential benefits are available when the criteria have been met. Since this benefit can be shared between two parents, each needs to meet the requirements for employment insurance. Parental leave can be paid from the child's date of birth or from the date an adopted child is placed with the parents.
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