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The ins and outs of parental leave

Maternity leave? Parental leave? What’s the difference? Before it’s time for your new little one to arrive, make sure you get the heads-up on your possible benefits. Read on for more information.

Pregnant woman on leave

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.

Maternity leave

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

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.

Other information

  • There is a mandatory two-week waiting period before receiving EI maternity or parental payments. This is generally at the beginning of the benefit period. When two parents opt to share parental leave, there may be only one waiting period for both claims.
  • Quebec provides maternity benefits through its own Quebec Parental Insurance Program.
  • Parental leave benefits are taxable income.
  • For a quick, basic calculation of how much your payments could possibly be, take 55 per cent of your weekly insurable earnings up to the yearly maximum insurable earnings of $45,900. This is for informational purposes only, and you will know for sure only once the paperwork has been processed.
  • See Service Canada for all the specific details regarding maternity and parental leave.

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