Our maternity and parental benefits in Canada tend to be relatively generous, especially compared to the United States. But just like anything else, there are a few things you need to know about how they work before you go on leave. So, whether you’re an expectant parent who has questions about parental and maternity leave in Canada or you’re an employer, you’ll find many of the answers you’re looking for in this blog post. Please note this post is meant to provide general information. For specific guidance for employers or expectant parents, be sure to consult with HR and visit the Government of Canada website.

Understanding Parental and Maternity Leave in Canada

Before we get to some of those questions, let’s first discuss the difference between maternity leave and parental leave. Although these terms are often conflated with one another, they mean different things.

Maternity vs. parental leave

Maternity leave is a program the government of Canada offers that allow new mothers (including surrogate mothers) to take time off work after giving birth.

Parental leave is a separate program that offers fathers or other caretakers of newborn children up to 14 months (61 weeks) of job-protected leave and benefits. Parental leave can be taken at any time within the first year after the child is born. Additionally, both parents can share these benefits.

(Parental leave can help support new parents’ mental health. Visit this post next to learn how mental health impacts your bottom line)

What are the different types of parental leave?

Standard parental leave is available for a maximum of 40 weeks with a weekly max of $638 and a benefit rate of 55%. However, one parent cannot receive more than 35 weeks of standard benefits.

The other type of parental leave is extended parental leave. It’s available for a maximum of 69 weeks with a weekly max of $383 and a benefit rate of 33%. In this case, one parent cannot receive more than 61 weeks of extended benefits.

What is maternity leave in Canada?

Maternity leave is a federally legislated employment benefit. It provides job-protected leave to eligible employees who have recently given birth, adopted a child, or cared for a newborn child. It is designed to help parents care for their newborns and support them during this time.

Who is eligible?

The Government of Canada lists several qualifying factors for EI maternity or parental leave in Canada:

  • “you are employed in insurable employment
  • you meet the specific criteria for receiving EI maternity or parental benefits
  • your normal weekly earnings are reduced by more than 40%
  • you have accumulated at least 600 hours of insurable employment during the qualifying period, or
  • if you are a self-employed fisher, you have earned enough money during the qualifying period.”

(Offering generous leave policies can be beneficial for many companies. Click here to read more about corporate values building or breaking trust)

How long does maternity leave last in Canada?

In Canada, a maximum of 15 weeks of EI maternity benefits is available. The Government of Canada elaborates: “The 15 weeks can start as early as 12 weeks before the expected date of birth, and can end as late as 17 weeks after the actual date of birth.”

What does maternity leave in Canada cover?

The Government of Canada also explains how to calculate what EI maternity benefits cover in Canada: “The basic rate for calculating EI maternity benefits is 55% of your average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum amount. As of January 1, 2022, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $60,300. This means that you can receive a maximum amount of $638 per week.”

Can I take maternity leave if I am self-employed?

If you employ yourself, you can still take maternity leave by claiming Employment Insurance benefits. You will need to have worked for at least 600 hours in the past year and have paid into Employment Insurance premiums.

Do I pay income tax on EI benefits?

Yes, your EI benefits are taxable. This means that you will have to pay income tax on the money you receive from EI.

Do you have more questions about maternity leave in Canada? Activate HR offers human resources consulting services that are here to help.

We cater to businesses of all sizes and both union and non-union environments. Whether you need us to act as your HR team, want assistance with a particular HR concern (including maternity leave in Canada), or you need a fully developed HR strategy to deploy, we have the expertise you need.

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