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Understanding Canadian maternity leave policies

When you first give birth to your little bundle of joy, you want to spend every moment you can with your new baby. And that is far easier to do when you understand Canada’s maternity leave policies. Read on to discover exactly what you are entitled to as a new mom.

Mother and newborn daughter

Maternity leave through employment insurance

In Canada, employment insurance (EI) benefits are granted to biological mothers, including surrogate mothers, who cannot work because they are pregnant or have given birth. These benefits can be collected for 15 weeks, beginning as early as 8 weeks before the birth and up to 17 weeks after the birth.

How to become eligible

To be eligible for EI, you had to have paid EI premiums. Your employer can deduct these premiums from your wages or salary. You must also have accumulated 600 hours of work within the qualifying period, meet the specific criteria for receiving maternity benefits, and your normal weekly earnings must have been reduced by at least 40 per cent. Self-employed Canadians can also receive EI special benefits if they register for access to the EI program. Contact Service Canada for more information.

What are the benefits?

The benefits offered vary depending on your earnings and financial situation. In the majority of cases, benefits are the lesser of either 55 per cent of the expected weekly insurable earnings or $485 per week. If, however, your net family income is less than $25,921 per year, you have other children or you receive the Canada Child Tax Benefit and are therefore considered a low-income family, you could be eligible to earn up to 80 per cent of your regular income.

What else is there?

In addition to paid maternity leave, biological and adoptive parents are eligible for parental leave. This leave can last for up to 35 weeks and can be used by either parent or shared. Employers are required to welcome parents back to their jobs at the same rate of pay and with the same employment benefits at the end of the allotted leave.

How does it work?

Service Canada has to determine whether you are eligible for maternity and parental benefits, so you have to apply. They recommend applying as soon as possible after you stop working to avoid the risk of being too late. Better yet, apply for benefits before giving birth. Call 1-800-206-7218 for more information. Your benefits can either be sent to you by mail or deposited directly into your bank account. Like your wages, your benefits are taxable, so federal and provincial or territorial taxes will be deducted.

Unlike some areas of the world, Canadian parents are blessed to have the opportunity to take time off from work to care for a new child. Check out Service Canada for more information on how you can make your leave easier on you, your family and your baby.

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