All About Maternity Benefits

maternity benefits

What Benefits Can I Get On Maternity?

In Canada, expecting mothers and new mothers are entitled to “maternity benefits” known as “employment insurance (“EI”) maternity benefits”.

The EI benefits system is federal, meaning it is run by the Government of Canada, not the provincial governments.

Nonetheless, the Federal Government’s benefits system works in lockstep with the provincial governments as the ability to take time off work is administered through the provincial governments.

To be clear, it is the Federal Government who pays maternity benefits while the provincial governments provide the scheme whereby expecting mothers and new mothers can take a job-protected leave of absence.

Maternity Benefits Canada

EI maternity benefits are monies paid to biological mothers who take a leave of absence from work because they are pregnant or have recently given birth.

Maternity Benefits Eligibility

Someone is entitled to EI benefits if:

  • They were are employed in insurable employment; and
  • They are unable to work because they are pregnant or have recently given birth; and
  • Their normal weekly earnings are reduced by at least 40%; and
  • They have accumulated at least 600 hours of insurable employment during the qualifying period.

How Much Can I Expect To Receive?

EI maternity benefits are paid for a maximum of 15 weeks. Benefits pay 55% of a worker’s income up to a maximum of $573 per week as of 2020.  

EI TypeMaximum weeksBenefit rateWeekly max
Maternityup to 15 weeks55%up to $573

EI maternity benefits can start anytime between 12 weeks before the expected date of birth and 17 weeks after the baby’s birth.

The Federal Government has a benefits calculator.

How Often Are Benefits Paid?

EI benefits are paid every other week.

How Long Will I Receive EI Maternity Benefits?

You can receive EI maternity benefits for up to 15 weeks.

Do I Have To Submit EI Reports To Receive Maternity Benefits?

No, for EI maternity benefits you don’t have to submit biweekly EI reports like EI regular benefits.

Am I Allowed To Leave Canada?

Yes, unlike regular EI benefits, on EI maternity benefits you can leave the country for any reason, including vacation.

Maternity Benefits Ontario

As discussed above, Ontario does not provide EI benefits. However, Ontario does provide the law that allows expecting and new mothers time off work to collect benefits from the Federal Government. To that effect, Ontario has something called, “maternity leave”, which is a leave of absence from work commencing before the baby is born or on the day the baby is born at the latest.

Thus, Ontario’s maternity leave law works in conjunction with the Federal Government’s EI benefit program such that a worker may go on a leave of absence (protected by the Ontario government) and collect government monies (provided by the Federal Government).

Is maternity leave paid? No, in Ontario, employers do not have to pay employees on maternity leave. However, employers are free to pay employees on maternity leave or top up the Federal Government’s EI benefits.

What are an employee’s rights on maternity leave? When an employee is maternity leave, her job is protected, generally meaning her employer must reinstate her to the same position at the same rate of pay when she returns.

Read more: Maternity Leave in Ontario

EI Maternity Benefits Top Up

Employers can offer supplemental (i.e. top-up) payments to new mothers on maternity leave.

The top-up plan does not have to be registered with Service Canada.

The top-up amounts are not considered as earnings and are not deducted from an employee’s EI benefits if the top-up payment combined with EI benefits does not exceed the employee’s normal weekly earnings from employment.

How to get Benefits?

You need to apply for EI benefits. You must first take maternity leave from work, and then you must apply for EI benefits within 30 days after you stop working. To be clear, you do not apply to any government for the maternity leave, but you do apply to the Federal Government for EI benefits.

Thus, in summary, here is how to apply to EI maternity benefits:

  1. Inform your employer you are going to maternity a leave. An email is fine.
  2. Begin the maternity leave.
  3. Apply for EI maternity benefits on the Federal Government website.

When Will I Know If I Am Eligible To Receive Benefits?

If you are approved for EI benefits, you will be notified in around two weeks and you will receive your first payment in about one month.

If you are not eligible to receive EI benefits, the government will let you know in about two weeks, and you can file an appeal with the instructions they provide on the notice.

What Happens When Benefits Run Out?

After EI benefits are exhausted, mothers can receive EI parental benefits. You should make a new application for EI parental benefits.

There are two kinds of parental benefits options available for receiving parental benefits: standard or extended.

  • Standard parental benefits can be paid for a maximum of 40.
  • Extended parental benefits can be paid for a maximum of 61 weeks
EI TypeMaximum weeksBenefit rateWeekly max
Standard parentalup to 40 weeks, but one parent cannot receive more than 35 weeks of standard benefits55%up to $573
Extended parentalup to 69 weeks, but one parent cannot receive more than 61 weeks of extended benefits33%up to $344

Mothers can receive EI parental benefits starting the week after her child’s date of birth or the date her child is placed with her for the purpose of adoption. However, parental benefits must begin for:

  • EI Standard parental: within 52 weeks of the birth
  • EI Extended parental: within 78 weeks of the birth

Dutton Employment Law is a Toronto employment law group advising employees and employers in Ontario. Call for a free consultation with an employment lawyer or paralegal.