Financial Support for New Parents

July 26, 2017 · Todd Coopee

Most Canadian residents pay into Canada’s Employment Insurance program (EI). EI provides maternity benefits to persons who are away from work because they’re pregnant or have recently given birth as well as parental benefits for parents of a newborn or newly adopted child. You must accumulate at least 420 insurable employment hours (excluding on-call and after-hours coverage) to qualify. Please note that 420 hours is valid until September 2022, after which time the government will reevaluate the number of insurable hours required:

As of 2022, EI provides a maximum benefit of $638 per week before taxes.

Maternity Benefits

Maternity benefits are only available to the person who is away from work because they’re pregnant or have recently given birth. They can’t be shared between parents. The person receiving maternity benefits may also be entitled to parental benefits. A person can start receiving maternity benefits as early as 12 weeks before their due date or the date they give birth.  A maximum of 15 weeks of benefits is available.

Parental Benefits

A person can start receiving parental benefits the week their child is born or placed with them for the purpose of adoption.

When applying for parental benefits, a person needs to choose between 2 options:

  1. standard parental (up to 35 weeks, up to $638 a week)
  2. extended parental (up to 61 weeks, up to $383 a week)

If a person applied for parental benefits at the same time as maternity benefits, they don’t need to apply again. Once you start receiving parental benefits, you can’t change options.

Sharing parental benefits

If sharing benefits, each parent must choose the same option, standard or extended. Each parent must submit their own application. If parents don’t choose the same option, the choice on the first application received is used to determine the parental benefit option for all parents.

When sharing, the maximum number of weeks available increases to:

  • 40 weeks for standard parental
  • 69 weeks for extended parental

One parent can’t receive more than 35 weeks of standard or 61 weeks of extended parental benefits. The remaining 5 weeks of standard or 8 weeks of extended parental benefits are available on a use-it-or-lose-it basis: if taken, they can only be taken by the other parent(s).

Parents can receive their weeks of benefits at the same time or one after another.

Provincial Top-Ups

Many provincial residency contracts provide additional financial support for residents on pregnancy and/or parental leave, called a “top-up”. Others may substitute a resident’s EI benefit for their parental leave. This is often paid in a lump sum at the end of the 17-week maternity portion. To determine what additional benefits you may be eligible for under your provincial residency contract, please contact your PHO directly.