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A Quick Guide to Employment Insurance (EI) Maternity and Parental Benefits

Employment Insurance

Preparing for and welcoming your newest family member is exciting but it can also be a little stressful. It’s a crucial time for creating family bonds and newborn and child development. The Employment Insurance (EI) program offers qualifying parents financial support as Ontario employers are not required to pay an employee on pregnancy or parental leave.

On a related note, if your employer is pressuring you about your pregnancy or parental leave decisions, or you feel they are not treating you fairly because you asked about, are thinking about, or are on these leaves, speak to us at Ertl Lawyers. We’re passionate about employee rights and protecting new parents from being penalized at work.

You can use this guide as a reference for important info about EI’s maternity and parental benefits. The first thing to know is if you qualify.

Are You Eligible to Apply for EI Maternal and Parental Benefits?

EI offers two benefits:

  • Maternity benefits are only available to employees away from work because they are pregnant or recently gave birth (i.e. on pregnancy leave in Ontario.)
  • Parental benefits for parents (including birth mothers) away from work to care for a newborn or recently adopted child.

Other eligibility criteria for maternity and parental benefits include:

  • Providing proof of your baby’s due date, the baby’s birthdates or when your adopted child was placed with you.
  • That your regular weekly earnings have decreased by 40% or more for at least one week.
  • That you have accumulated at least 420* insured hours of work in the 52 weeks prior to your application for these benefits or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter. *Please note: the 420 insured hour minimum is a temporary measure as part of Canada’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Benefit. It is currently set to expire on September 24, 2022. (Check the eligibility page after this date.)

The CRA determines which types of earnings are insurable, but they generally include most wages, commissions, tips and bonuses.

If you received EI benefits in the 52 weeks before taking pregnancy or parental leave, you might not qualify for the maximum number of weeks of benefits. However, you should still apply for these benefits and let EI determine your eligibility. They also encourage birth mothers applying for maternity benefits to apply for parental benefits simultaneously as they can receive parental benefits following their maternity benefits.

How Much You can Receive and For How Long

For maternity benefits, birth mothers are eligible for up to 15 weeks of benefits at a rate of 55% of their earnings up to a maximum of $638/week.

They start receiving benefits as early as 12 weeks before their due date or the date of birth. They can’t receive these benefits more than 17 weeks after the due date or the date of birth, whichever is later.

When applying for parental benefits, you can share benefits with your co-parent. This allows you to receive benefits longer than one parent alone is entitled to.

There are two parental benefits plans: standard and extended. The standard option gives you a higher benefit payment per week, while the extended plan pays over a longer period of time.

Here’s how it works. With parental benefits, you are eligible:

  • For up to 40 weeks of benefits (one parent cannot receive more than 35 weeks) at 55% of earnings up to $638/week on the standard plan.
  • For up to 69 weeks of benefits (one parent cannot receive more than 61 weeks) at 33% of earnings up to $383/week on the extended plan.

You can start receiving parental benefits within 52 weeks of the week of your baby’s birth or the week your adopted child is placed with you on the standard option, or within 78 weeks on the extended option.

Parents sharing benefits must apply for the same plan (standard or extended) and submit separate applications. You can receive benefits simultaneously or one after the other, but you can’t change the options after you start receiving benefits.

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