How to apply for maternity and parental leave in Canada

When you are pregnant and your baby is on the way, you simply can’t stop counting down the days. But before you wish your time away, we suggest you get some important paperwork done to be able to fully enjoy your baby and your new life when the time comes; becoming familiar with your maternity and parental benefits will allow you to get better organized.

This article will help you understand how these benefits work and how you can apply. 

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MATERNITY AND PARENTAL LEAVE?

In essence, maternity leave can only be taken by the mother and cannot be transferred between spouses. If you’re pregnant or have recently given birth, you’re entitled to up to a maximum of 15 weeks maternity leave, which will start as early as 12 weeks before your due date and end as late as 17 weeks after the actual birth.  

Parental leave, on the other hand, can be shared between parents, as it refers to dedicated time off taken by any biological or adoptive parent to care for their newborn child (no matter whether they’re employed full-time, part-time, under contract, or permanently). This break must begin within 78 weeks of the child’s birth or arrival to the family.

MATERNITY LEAVE: THE REQUIREMENTS AND WHAT YOU COULD RECEIVE

In order to qualify for maternity leave, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You’re pregnant or have recently given birth.
  • Your weekly earnings have decreased by more than 40% for at least one week.
  • You’ve worked for 600 hours (or 52 weeks) before the start of your claim. Note: If you’re self-employed, you must have earned $3,760 during the 31-week immediately before the start of your benefit period.
  • You’ve contributed to employment insurance.

The maximum you can expect to receive is $595 per week or 55% of your 14 to 22 best paid weeks before your maternity leave commenced. Although some employers pay additional compensation, it’s up to them to offer this top-up. You can use this official calculator to estimate how much you could obtain. 

When you return from your maternity leave, your employer will have to either give you your job back or offer you a similar remunerated post. Remember that during your leave, you are protected against redundancy.

PARENTAL LEAVE: THE REQUIREMENTS AND WHAT YOU COULD RECEIVE

Except for the need to be pregnant or have given birth, the requirements for parental leave are the same as those for maternity leave. You must choose between 2 parental leave options: standard or extended. As you can see in the following chart, your choice will determine the number of weeks and the weekly amount you can expect to receive:

(Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-maternity-parental.html)

Both parents must choose the same option, but they can decide whether to take it at the same time or separately. If you decide to share your leave, you could get an extra 5 weeks of standard parental benefits, or 8 weeks if you opted for the extended parental one. It’s important to note that once you start receiving benefits, you can’t change your option; so take your time to discuss this with your partner and consider each option carefully.   

Maternity benefits can be followed by parental ones. If you know that’s what you’ll want to do, we suggest you apply for both at once for your own peace of mind. 

HOW TO APPLY AND WHAT ARE THE PROCESSING TIMES?

You must apply online. You’ll have 72hs from the time you start working on your application to complete it. You’ll be required to submit the following information:

  • Name and address of your employers in the last 52 weeks
  • Dates you were employed for and reasons you no longer work there (if it applies)
  • Full mailing and home address 
  • Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) and your partner’s if you plan to share benefits
  • The last name of one of your parents
  • The Child’s expected date of birth 
  • If it applies, the date your adopted child was placed with you. You should also provide the full name and address of the agency that handled the adoption case. 
  • The banking details where you’ll receive the benefits (bank’s name, branch number, and account number)

You may also be asked to provide additional information. You’ll be able to check the progress of your application by logging into your My Service Canada Account (MSCA) or contacting a Service Canada Centre, either online, by phone, or by email. Due to COVID-19 restrictions still being in place, in-person visits are urged to be avoided. 

You must apply for maternal or parental leave no later than 4 weeks after your last day of work to qualify. Once your information is checked, it’ll take about 28 days before you start receiving benefits. There may be a week for which you won’t get paid. This is known as waiting period, and it’ll serve to pay for other types of insurance.

We hope the information we compiled was useful and clear enough. For further advice, you can read the Government of Canada official website or you can consult with a professional. We offer our congratulations and wish you all the best in your new arrival!

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