Financial Support for Mothers and New Parents

July 26, 2017 · Todd Coopee

Most Canadian residents pay into Canada’s Employment Insurance program (EI). EI provides an income to mothers who have given birth and/or parents looking after a newborn in the first year of life. You must accumulate at least 600 insurable employment hours (excluding on-call and after-hours coverage) to qualify:

As of 2017, EI provides a maximum benefit of $547 per week before taxes.

  • The first 17 weeks of this leave is considered maternity leave and is offered to biological mothers including mothers who are pregnant or have recently given birth.
  • The following 35 weeks of the program is considered parental leave and is offered to parents who are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child.
  • The combined programs give birth mothers a total of 52 weeks, or 1 year, of benefits.

Provincial Top-Ups

Many provincial residency contracts provide additional financial support to birth mothers, called a “top-up”. Others may substitute a resident’s EI benefit for the maternity portion of her leave. This is often paid in a lump sum at the end of the 17-week maternity portion.

Quebec residents pay into something similar to EI benefits as above, the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP). Residents are eligible after 20 weeks of service:

There are many nuances within each province’s plans, so refer to your provincial residency association for the details. The table below summarizes what the provincial contracts provide as of May 2016.

Table 2: Summary of Leave Provisions by Province

BC Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Ontario Quebec Maritimes Newfoundland and Labrador
Maternal leave No top up; EI only 17 weeks  = 90% when combined with EI 17 weeks = 95% when combined with EI 17 weeks = 60% gross wages up to $1,200 a week 15 weeks = 84% when combined with EI 21 weeks = 95% pay when combined with QPIP 15 weeks top up = 93% pay when combined with EI No top up; EI only
Paternal/adoptive parent EI parental leave only 2 weeks 100% then EI parental leave 5 days 100% pay then EI parental leave As above 10 weeks = 84% pay when combined with EI 5 days at the time of birth paid leave then QPIP up to 38 weeks 10 weeks  = 93% pay when combined with EI EI parental leave only

Support for Fathers, Same-Sex Partners & Adoptive Parents

Male residents having a child, same-sex partners caring for a newborn, and residents who are adopting a child qualify for benefits under the EI parental leave program up to 35 weeks and often have protected unpaid leave for up to 52 weeks. Not all programs have a comparable top-up available for fathers, same-sex partners or adoptive parents.