Maternity Leave in Canada

5:00:00 AM
Maternity Leave in Canada is one of the most amazing programs our great country has to offer. I feel so fortunate to be Canadian and live in Canada where we have the ability and the right to these types of benefits in order to allow parents to bond with their children, encourage family, and allow birth mother's to recover from substantial changes to their mind and bodies.

Going on maternity/paternity leave with Little Dude was such an emotional time for me. Many can relate to the phrase "married to your work", well that's exactly how I felt except that I compared it to leaving my first baby for another. You simply cannot compare work to the love for a child and yet it was certainly an emotional roller-coaster for me.

Here is the full story:

What I don't mention in the video is how going back to work went - that's a whole story in itself about transition and the difference of working before having children and then going back to work with a child, but suffice it to say that everything was totally FINE. My job was at it was supposed to be, my coworkers welcomed me back and after a day or two it didn't feel like I had been gone at all, let alone for a full year.

On the technical side of things however, there are always so many questions about how maternity/paternity leave work and although I do not have all the answers and am NOT a Service Canada professional and you absolutely should double check everything I am going to explain in this blog post by calling yourself to be 100% sure (Service Canada Maternity/Paternity Information 1-800-206-7218). All of that said, I can certainly fill in a blanks and help guide some of your questions based on the questions that I recently had answered by calling the information line.

Last time I went on maternity/paternity leave there were less options and I did not plan on sharing any of the leave with my spouse so the questions that I had this time were not relevant. This time around however, I had sooooo many questions about 12 month leave vs. 18 month leave, sharing leave with my spouse, travelling outside of Canada and doing training/courses while on leave.
Before we get into my specific questions I wanted answered here is a bit of information about what Employment Insurance (EI) parental benefits are directly from the Federal Government of Canada's website:

"EI parental benefits are offered to parents who are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child or children. There are two options available for receiving parental benefits: standard or extended.

Standard parental benefits can be paid for a maximum of 35 weeks and must be claimed within a 52-week period (12 months) after the week the child was born or placed for the purpose of adoption. The benefits are available to biological, adoptive, or legally recognized parents at a weekly benefit rate of 55% of the claimant’s average weekly insurable earnings up to a maximum amount. The two parents can share these 35 weeks of standard parental benefits.

Extended parental benefits can be paid for a maximum of 61 weeks and must be claimed within a 78-week period (18 months) after the week the child was born or placed for the purpose of adoption. The benefits are available to biological, adoptive, or legally recognized parents at a weekly benefit rate of 33% of the claimant’s average weekly insurable earnings up to a maximum amount. The two parents can share these 61 weeks of extended parental benefits.

You can choose to claim extended parental benefits only if your child was born or placed with you for the purpose of adoption on or after December 3, 2017."
Now, let's get down to the specifics, starting with money, because really that's what we all need to know! And, what I really wanted to know this time around that you might be wondering too:

1) If I am eligible to receive EI maternity or parental benefits, how much can I expect to receive?
"We cannot tell you exactly how much you will receive before we process your application.

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, 2018, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $51,700. This means that you can receive a maximum amount of $547 per week.

The basic rate for calculating EI parental benefits depends on the option you choose:

Standard parental benefits are paid at a weekly benefit rate of 55% of your average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum amount. For 2018, this means that you can receive a maximum amount of $547 per week for up to 35 weeks.

Extended parental benefits are paid at a weekly benefit rate of 33% of your average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum amount. For 2018, this means that you can receive a maximum amount of $328 per week for up to 61 weeks. (The amount of $328 can be increased if you are eligible to receive the Family Supplement.)" Information from Federal Government website.

2) Is maternity leave (first 15 weeks) paid at 55% regardless of 12 month leave (Standard) or 18 month leave(Extended)?
YES

3) Can both parents take parental leave?
"Yes. If they both work for an employer falling under the jurisdiction of the Code, the two parents are entitled to combined parental leave of up to 63 weeks. Parents have the option of taking their parental leave at the same time, or one after the other, as long as the total combined parental leave does not exceed 63 weeks. Also, the 78 week combined maternity and parental leave limitation stated in the answer to question 7 above applies." This answer is taken directly from the Service Canada website and is assuming the 18 month leave option.

4) Can both parents be off on paternity leave at the same time?

Standard Parental Benefits - 12 month leave option
YES - the leave benefits must be used in the first 52 weeks of the child's birth. 37 is the parental leave portion and is the total leave that can be shared between both parents. The first 15 weeks are maternity leave and must be taken by the birth mother.

The total shared leave cannot exceed 37 weeks in total.

Here is an example based on the mother (me) taking 38 weeks and the father (The Mr.) taking 12 weeks where The Mr's 12 weeks on parental leave are at the same time as my parental leave:
Me - February 1, 2019 to November 3, 2019 (40 weeks)
The Mr. - August 2, 2019 to October 20 2019 (12 weeks)

*Be sure both parents apply for the "12 month" leave option on your application and double check the timing of your intended leave with a Service Canada rep*

Extended Parental Benefits - 18 month leave option
YES - the leave benefits must be used in the first 78 weeks of the child's birth. 63 is the parental leave portion and is the total leave that can be shared between both parents. The first 15 weeks are maternity leave and must be taken by the birth mother.

The total shared leave cannot exceed 63 weeks in total.

Here is an example based on the mother (me) taking 66 weeks and the father (The Mr.) taking 12 weeks where The Mr's 12 weeks on parental leave are at the same time as my parental leave:
Me - February 1, 2019 to May 3, 2020 (66 weeks)
The Mr. - January 10, 2020 to March 29, 2020 (12 weeks)

*Be sure both parents apply for the "18 month" leave option on your application and double check the timing of your intended leave with a Service Canada rep*

5) Can both parents collect EI benefits at the same time?
YES

6) Are the parents allowed to travel outside of Canada while receiving EI benefits?
YES, as long as the child is with the parents who are on paternity leave. So, yes you and your spouse can travel however the child must be with you both.

7) When can leave be taken?
Having the ability to begin maternity leave prior to the actual delivery date is new since Little Dude was born in 2015...

"The 17 week maternity leave may be taken any time during the period that begins 13 weeks before the expected date of delivery and ends 17 weeks after the actual delivery date.

For maternity leave, the employee must also provide the employer with a certificate from a qualified medical practitioner confirming that she is pregnant.

Parental leave may be taken any time during the 78 week period starting the day the child is born or the day the child comes into the employee's care. These periods can be extended in some cases (see answers to questions 15 and question 16)."

This answer is taken directly from the Service Canada website and is assuming the 18 month leave option. The 17 week maternity leave includes the wait period of 2 weeks.

Extra Information:
For those of you who have questions I encourage you to call and ask!
For those of you worried about going on leave, I assure you it WILL be ok!
For those who just want to chat, reach out! I'd be happy to chat with you.

All my best to all of you and congratulations on entering this new phase of your life,
Jenna xo

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