Area of Law: Employment Law
Answer # 614
Maternity and parental benefitsRegion: Ontario Answer # 614
In Ontario, the Employment Standards Act (ESA) is the law that provides eligible employees who are pregnant or are new parents with the right to take unpaid time off work. There are two types of leave available to employees: pregnancy leave for pregnant women, and parental leave for both mothers and fathers.
However, it is under the federal Employment Insurance Act, that eligible employees are paid for this time off with Employment Insurance (EI) maternity and parental benefits.
EI Maternity Benefits
1. What are maternity benefits?
Biological mothers, including surrogate mothers, who cannot work because they are pregnant or have recently given birth are eligible for EI maternity benefits. To meet the specific criteria to receive EI maternity benefits, the biological mother must prove her pregnancy by signing a statement declaring the expected due date or the actual date of birth of her child.
2. Length of maternity benefits
The maximum of EI maternity benefits available is 15 weeks, which can start as early as 12 weeks before the expected date of birth, and can end as late as 17 weeks after the actual date of birth.
3. Amount of maternity benefits
A maximum of 15 weeks of EI maternity benefits for pregnancy leave is available. Eligible employees are entitled to up-to 55% of their average insurable weekly earnings, up-to a maximum amount. The amount paid is based on a maximum yearly insurable earnings amount. For 2021, this amount is $56,300. The maximum weekly benefit is $595.
4. Combined maternity and parental benefits
Maternity and parental benefits can be combined for a total of between 50 – 76 weeks, depending on the parental benefit option chosen.
EI Parental Benefits
1. What are parental benefits?
Parental benefits are payable to the biological, adoptive, or legally recognized parents while they are caring for their newborn or newly adopted child. A legally recognized parent is one who has been recognized as such on the child’s birth certificate. They must sign a statement declaring the newborn’s date of birth or, in the case of adoption, the child’s date of placement for the purposes of the adoption and the name and address of the adoption authority.
Once parents start receiving parental benefits, they cannot change options.
2. Type and length of parental benefits
There are two types of parental benefits (which can be shared by both parents):
(a) Standard parental benefits:
- must be claimed within 52 weeks (12 months) after the week the child was born or adopted,
- can be paid for a maximum of 40 weeks (but one parent cannot receive more than 35 weeks of standard benefits).
(b) Extended parental benefits:
- provide a lower benefit rate over a longer period of time,
- must be claimed within 78 weeks (18 months) after the week the child was born or adopted,
- can be paid for a maximum of 69 weeks (but one parent cannot receive more than 61 weeks of extended benefits).
3. Amount of paternity benefits
Standard parental benefits are paid for a maximum of 35-40 weeks over a period of up-to 12 months at the current benefit rate of 55% of average weekly earnings, to a maximum of $595 per week in 2021.
Extended parental benefits are paid for a maximum of 61-69 weeks over a period of up-to 18 months at the lower benefit rate of 33% of average weekly earnings, to a maximum of $357 per week in 2021. (Those eligible for the Family Supplement may receive more).
4. Sharing parental benefits
Both parents can share parental benefits but they must choose the same type of parental benefit (standard or extended) when applying, and indicate how many weeks they each plan to take. The benefits can be received at the same time, or separately.
Eligibility to receive EI maternity or parental benefits
Employees are eligible to receive EI maternity or parental benefits if:
- they have paid EI premiums;
- they meet the specific criteria for receiving EI maternity or parental benefits;
- their normal weekly earnings are reduced by more than 40%; and
- they have accumulated at least 600 hours of insurable employment during the qualifying period.
The qualifying period is the shorter of: the 52-week period immediately before the start date of the EI period; or, the period since the start of a previous EI benefit period, if that benefit period started during the last 52 weeks.
Applying for benefits
Mothers can apply for EI maternity benefits before they give birth. They can start receiving benefits as early as 12 weeks before their due date or before the actual week they give birth.
EI parental benefits for biological or legally recognized parents can be paid starting from the child’s date of birth. For adoptive parents, benefits can be paid starting from the date the child is placed with them for adoption. Again, both parents can apply for parental benefits, but they have to share them.
To receive maternity or parental benefits, applicants must submit an application online at canada.ca. Applications should be made as soon as possible after an employee stops working.
The application process is the same as making an application for regular EI benefits, although some additional information is required. For maternity benefits, you must also provide the expected or actual date of birth. For parental benefits, you must also provide the date of birth of the newborn, or in the case of adoption, the date of adoption and information regarding the adoption agency, along with the social insurance number of the other parent, if the benefits will be shared.
For more information about Employment Insurance maternity and parental benefits, visit the Government of Canada, EI Maternity and Parental Benefits – Overview. For legal help and assistance with employment matters, contact an employment lawyer.
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