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Having a baby is perhaps the most incredible and memorable experience of a person’s life. But it’s also one of the most expensive. 

New parents will have to stay home for a certain amount of time, which means they’re losing out on pay that they otherwise would have collected when working. Plus, the onslaught of expenses that occurs when bringing a new baby home can put a huge financial dent in a family’s budget.

It’s estimated that women between the ages of 25 to 34 experience a 48% income loss over the first year after having a baby while on maternity leave. 

To help with the financial burden of having a baby and being off work for a temporary amount of time as a result, most new parents apply for Employment Insurance Maternity Leave (EI). This payment comes from the government and is designed to help families financially when one income is temporary on hold to care for an infant. 

What Is Employment Insurance Maternity Leave (EI)?

Employment Insurance (EI) benefits offer financial assistance to women who are off work because they’re either pregnant or have recently had a baby and must stay home to care for the child. These benefits can last up to 15 weeks.

While it’s usually the mother who stays home from work to care for their baby, fathers may also choose to stay home instead. 

Maternity benefits are available to parents who stay home from work to care for their child, and can’t be shared between parents. The individual receiving maternity benefits may receive parental benefits, which are available to the parents of a newborn or newly adopted child.

The person applying for maternity leave has 2 options to choose from:

Standard Parental Benefits

Once the initial 15 weeks of maternity leave expires, parents may receive standard parental benefits. These benefits last up to 40 weeks, though one parent is not allowed to receive more than 35 weeks of standard benefits. That means one parent may receive up to 35 weeks in benefits, while the other parent can receive another 5 weeks of standard benefits.

Extended Parental Benefits

Parents may also apply for extended parental benefits, which last up to 69 weeks. However, one parent cannot receive more than 61 weeks. 

If both parents decide to share the benefits, each one will have to choose the same option and apply separately. Parents can choose to receive their weeks of benefits simultaneously or one after the other.

Who Is Eligible For Employment Insurance Maternity Leave (EI)?

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

  • You’re pregnant or have just had a baby when applying for maternity benefits
  • You’re a parent caring for your baby when applying for parental benefits
  • Your regular weekly earnings at work have been reduced by over 40% for at least one week
  • You worked at least 600 insured hours over the past 52 weeks prior to starting your claim or since your last claim, whichever is shorter.
    • Note: Due COVID-19 there are temporary changes to required insurable hours. Untill September 24, 2022, you can be eligbile for maternity and parental benefits if you accure 420 insured hours in the 52 weeks prior to starting your claim or since your last claim, whichever is shorter.

When Can You Receive Employment Insurance Maternity Leave? 

Eligible parents can begin collecting maternity benefits starting 12 weeks before the due date or the date the baby is born. Parents cannot receive benefits for any longer than 17 weeks after the due date or the date the baby is born, whichever of the two is later.

Eligible parents can begin collecting paternity benefits starting the week of the baby’s date of birth or the week that an adopted child is placed in the care of their new guardian. For standard parental benefits, the period is within 52 weeks, and for extended parental benefits, the period is within 78 weeks. 

How Much Can You Get Through Employment Insurance Maternity Leave (EI)?

The exact benefit amount paid out is calculated using a specific number of a person’s highest-paid employment weeks, known as the “best weeks.” The number of best weeks used in the calculation is based on the unemployment rate in the applicant’s specific location, which can range from 14 to 22 weeks.

Those who qualify for maternity leave benefits can get paid up to 55% of their regular earnings for standard parental benefits, to a maximum of $638 per week. For extended parental benefits, the payout is up to 33% of the parent’s regular earnings and up to $383 per week.

Can You Get Maternity Leave If You’ve Been Laid Off?

Yes, you may still qualify for maternity leave benefits even if you’ve been laid off. However, you must meet the requirements for maternity leave. This includes working 600 insurable hours and being pregnant or being someone who has given birth.

EI Maternity And Parental Benefits Payment Dates

Eligible applicants will receive the first benefits payout within 28 days of the date that the application is received and all required documents are submitted. 

Prior to receiving EI benefits, there is a one-week waiting period before payment will be made, which is somewhat like a deductible paid when filing an insurance claim. 

How To Apply For EI Maternity And Parental Benefits

It’s important to apply for EI benefits as soon as possible; otherwise, you would risk losing your benefits. 

To apply, follow these steps:

Choose your benefits. Decide whether you will be applying for maternity or parental benefits. 

Complete the application online. You’ll need to supply the following information when applying:

  • Name and address of your employer over the last 52 weeks
  • Dates employed with each employer and why you may no longer be employed by them
  • Mailing address and home address, if they differ
  • Social insurance number (SIN)
  • SIN of any other parent if the benefits will be shared 
  • Last name of one of your parents at birth 
  • Due date or actual date of birth of your baby 
  • Date the child was placed in your custody after adoption (if applicable), and the name and address of the adoption agency 
  • Banking information for direct deposit

You have 72 hours after starting your application to complete it. If you don’t complete the application in this time frame, you’ll have to start over. 

Provide additional information. Other information will be required, including the following:

Provide your record of employment. Service Canada will use this information to determine whether or not you’re eligible for EI benefits and how much you’ll receive.

Wait for your benefit statement and access code. After completing your application, you’ll receive a benefit statement and access code by mail. You’ll need this code and your SIN to access updated information about your application.

Review the status of your application. To check your application status, you can log into your MSCA account (you’ll need to create one first), or get in touch with Service Canada. 

Employment Insurance Maternity Leave FAQs

Can I get Employment Insurance Maternity Leave if I had a recent claim?

You might not be eligible to receive the maximum number of weeks of benefits if you received EI benefits over the past 52 weeks. But if you worked 600 hours since your last claim, you might be able to start a new claim.

Can I get Employment Insurance Maternity Leave if I’m self-employed? 

You may be eligible for benefits if you registered for access to EI special benefits as a self-employed individual and waited 12 months from your confirmed registration date. That said, you’ll have to meet certain criteria.  For starters, the amount of time that you spend on your business must have been reduced by over 40% for at least one week as a result of a pregnancy, recent birth of your baby, or the caring of your newborn or newly adopted baby. You must also have earned a minimum amount of self-employed earnings over the calendar year prior to the year that you apply for maternal or parental benefits. 

Will I receive EI if I have a miscarriage?

If you suffer a miscarriage or any other health complications during your pregnancy, you may be eligible for sickness benefits.

Final Thoughts

Having a baby is a time of great joy, which should never be overshadowed by financial woes. To help ensure that you don’t suffer financially, maternity or parental EI benefits may be available to you. Be sure to do a little homework to see if you qualify.

Lisa Rennie avatar on Loans Canada
Lisa Rennie

Lisa has been working as a personal finance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same.

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