The birth of a child is a life-changing event for everyone involved. To help biological, adoptive, and legal parents through the transition and provide a good foundation for the child, Canada offers Employment Insurance (EI) maternity and parental benefits. This program assists families during the final weeks of pregnancy and throughout the first year to 18 months of a child’s life.
Depending on their particular situation, parents may choose to claim maternity benefits, parental benefits, or both.
Women who give birth to a child, including biological mothers and surrogates, can receive maternity leave benefits. With this program, an eligible, pregnant woman may claim benefits equal to 55 percent of her average weekly pay for a 15-week time period. Birthing mothers have the option to begin the benefit 12 weeks before the child is born, or up to 17 weeks after the birth. There’s a lot of flexibility with this program, so mothers can decide when and how long they use their Employment Insurance maternity benefit depending on their personal preference.
While maternity leave is only available to biological mothers, parental leave is available to both biological, adoptive, and any other legal parent of a newborn child. As of 2017, there are two tracks a family take under the parental leave umbrella: standard and extended.
To receive up to 35 weeks of paid leave at 55 percent of the average weekly earnings during the child’s first year of life, parents should select the standard parental benefits option. Keep in mind, the maximum weekly benefit amount for the standard track is $547. For families interested in extending their parental leave window up to 18 months from the time a baby is born, the best option is extended parental benefits. With these benefits, parents receive 33 percent of their average weekly earnings for up to 61 weeks, and the maximum weekly benefit is $328. In many cases, both parents wish to spend time with the newborn child, and these two tracks allow parents to split the total week allotment.
Canadians are eligible for these Employment Insurance programs if they work 600 hours or more in the previous year in an insurable position. Self-employed fishers can also claim benefits, but only if they earned $3,760 in the last 31 weeks.
Although there are weekly maximum benefit amounts, the benefit increases depending on the number of other children and other dependents in the home.