Maternity and Parental Leave – Baby Expenses I

by 4P and Mr. C

The post is part of the Baby Expenses Series. See the entire series here.

In Canada, new mothers are allowed by law to take 52 weeks off from their jobs. This time off is called maternity leave. During that period they are eligible for employment insurance (EI) benefits which are calculated as 55% of their normal earnings up to a maximum salary of $40,000. Some companies also offer a “top up” which usually involves paying the difference between what the mother gets from EI and some percentage of their normal salary. The top up amount and duration will vary from company to company – I’d be interested to hear what your company offers?


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New fathers are allowed to take up to 37 weeks off which is called parental leave however the EI benefits that are paid out have to be shared between the mother and father so they can’t both collect EI benefits at the same time. In my case my wife didn’t qualify for EI since she wasn’t working so I was able to collect EI benefits when I took my parental leave. The “top up” feature available to new mothers at some companies is also available to new fathers in some cases. At my company, most dads don’t get any EI since their wife gets all the EI benefits so their top up is calculated as though they were getting EI.

One misconception which I’ve heard from a number of my friends is that the time off has to be shared between the two parents and can’t total more than a year – this is not true, only the EI benefits have to be shared.

The EI benefits is calculated as 55% of the mother’s salary up to a salary of $40,000. The first two weeks of the maternity leave are unpaid so the EI benefits actually start on the the third week. My salary is more than $40k so I received the maximum benefit which is $413 per week. The actual payment after tax ($48) was $778 which I received every two weeks. In my case the withholding tax wasn’t enough but I think my company adjusted for it because I didn’t owe anything at tax time. You should keep in mind that you might end up owing some money at tax time because of this. You can get the withholding tax increased if desired.

The way to apply for EI is to go online at here. This contains all the steps you need. It also contains a link to the Quebec parental insurance plan which is different than for the other provinces. Basically you go online and fill out the required information and they will send you a pin number which will allow you to go here and see your online information. One of the items you will need from your employer is a form called “Record of Employment” which basically lists your financial employment for the past year. I went into my local Service Canada Centre when I got this form in order to complete my application. Applying for EI is not something you can do in advance, you have to wait until you have finished work before applying.

Something to keep in mind is that it will take about four to six weeks to get your first EI benefit deposited into your bank account, so don’t count on getting any money right away. Usually once you start getting them, you’ll get two or even three payments right away and then every two weeks after that.

When I was receiving EI benefits, I used the reporting feature of the online account to fill out my report every two weeks. This report basically says that you aren’t looking for work, are still not working etc. However in researching this post I realized that you can sign a declaration of exemption when applying which means you don’t have to fill out the reports every two weeks.

Tomorrow, I’ll be starting a series of posts where I take a look at the essential items that new parents should have.

Next Baby Expense post.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 TheFinancialBlogger

On another note, if you move to Quebec, 2 things will happen. You will get your paycheck reduced by half (smaller salary and higher tax rate) BUT, you get 5 weeks off as a father on top of the maternity leaves. These 5 weeks are paid at 70%, which is not too bad. For once, I know where my taxes are going!

2 FourPillars

Thanks for the info FB!


3 moneygardener

I am interested to hear how you and your wife coped with the income cut of you taking time off…that is if you plan on elaborating on this.

4 FourPillars

Lol – I wasn’t planning to post on that topic MG simply because our scenario was quite unusual, however I think I will after all.


5 Canadian Capitalist

I can’t believe you changed the title of the blog. lol.

One small note regarding collecting EI benefits during parental leave. Unlike a job loss, I believe you don’t have to be in Canada to receive the benefit.

6 FourPillars

Haha, I got a laugh out of the title when I thought of it so I figured I’d change it.

Good point about not being in the country and receiving benefits. You would have to make sure you sign the exemption form so the bi-weekly reports wouldn’t be necessary.

Lot of new parents take Junior back to the homeland (or their parent’s homeland) to show off the baby to the relatives so that’s an important point.


7 telly

I didn’t realize that new fathers were only entitled to 37 weeks (I also thought it was 52 weeks shared between the two). That’s good to know.
My husband and I are hoping to become parents in the near future. Unfortunately, with me working in the US (commuting), I am only entitled to 12 weeks leave max, of which only 6 weeks is paid. 🙁 So for this reason, we may choose to use the 37 weeks he would be entitled to.

See? Even us non-parents appreciate the baby theme.

8 sohotosoho

Yep, I’m another non-but-hopefully-soon-to-be parent who’ll be reading this series carefully, so thanks for this … don’t think we can give up my high salary for a year (I’m the missus) so it’ll be Dad in our case who will be taking the time off work and using the 37 weeks of EI and I’ll be on the bare minimum. It’s interesting that you note that many people have a misconception about sharing leave – we’ve been reading up on the subject recently and are no dummies but have found the official info available online to be written up in an incredibly confusing way. Anyway, look forward to reading the rest.

9 FourPillars

Thanks for the comment Telly!

Your situation is very interesting. I would strongly suggest you take the full 12 weeks if you can swing it financially. That would be great if your husband can take time off as well.

Let me know how it goes!


10 FourPillars

Sohotosho – thanks for the comment!

Just to clarify – the way I understand it, Dad can take 37 weeks off but can only get EI for 35 weeks. Mom can still get the EI benefit for the remainder which is 15 weeks. There is only one 2 week waiting period in this case so the higher income person (you) should use the waiting period to avoid a bit of taxes.

I kind of simplified things a bit in my post. As far as EI benefits are concerned – Mom can get 15 weeks of maternity leave benefits. Mom and Dad can share up to 35 weeks of parental leave benefits.



This is a very useful series for many readers including myself. I’ll bookmark this for reference.

12 FourPillars

Thanks FJ.

13 Brip Blap

As an American reader, I have to shake my head at the disparity between the US and Canadian systems. As a father, I got NO paid time off. I took 3 weeks of unpaid leave, and I believe I would have been entitled to approximately 12 weeks had I chosen to take that much time off. My wife wasn’t working at the time but she would have received no more than 3 months’ paid leave at her former employer. The US certainly doesn’t seem to offer the same level of benefits that Canada does, and I think that says something about values.

14 FourPillars

BB – in most cases for fathers, unless their company has a benefit, they would be on unpaid leave. Mothers in Canada have a much better deal than in the US.


15 Fecundity

As I understand the system in Canada, and I’ve been looking into it lately, it’s quite fair between parents, with the exception of the 17 week maternity leave.

Adoptive moms do not qualify for maternity benefits, but women who’ve had late term miscarriages, still births, or are giving up their babies do, as do women who have been surrogates. So it seems that it’s the actual giving birth part that maternity benefits apply to, and so Dads are therefore not eligible.

Maternity leave is followed by 35 weeks of parental leave, which any new parent can apply for, be they natural or adoptive, mother or father. The benefits must be shared between the partners, however, and according to the Service Canada website must be used within 52 weeks of the child’s birth or 52 weeks of the adoption date. Exceptions can be made for hospitalized children.

My company tops up my EI benefit to 93% of my salary for the 17 weeks of maternal leave (which means they’re paying the full 93% for the two-week waiting period). Parental leave I’m on my own for.

Since my salary is slightly lower than my husband’s, I’ll probably be taking the majority of the parental leave, as both of us are well over the maximum benefit cap, but we haven’t fully discussed it yet. Also, if I fail to return to work after the year is up, I’ll have to repay my employer for the top up.

16 FourPillars

Fecundity – thanks for the comment.

How would your company get your top up back if you don’t return? Maybe you can go back to work after the one year and then quit? (if that’s what you want to do).


17 Fecundity

Hmm. Great question. I’m not sure how they’d get the top-up back, but as written in the company HR policy “An employee who fails to return to work is indebted to [company name] for the full amount received as maternity leave allowance, and for the employee’s portion of the pension contributions paid by [company name].” I assume that means they can come after me as a creditor in court if they really want to. They don’t state a minimum time that I have to return to work for though… I’ll add it to my list of questions to ask when I sort out my leave with them. Since they aren’t legally required to give me any top-up at all, I imagine I won’t be able to get around the clause. But I’ll look into it.

Thanks for asking.

As for whether I want to return to work or not, I’ll probably decide during my leave. I love my job, I love my research and I know that it’s making a difference. Five years (until kindergarten) is a VERY long time in my field. We’ll decide what’s best for all of us when the time comes and we have more information about our specific situation.

18 Christina Burroughs

I can’t find any written material anywhere that says whether or not you can quit before taking parental leave. I do not plan on going back with the company I work for, and want to be honest with my boss. Does anyone know if I am allowed to resign, and then apply for maternity/parental leave?

19 Four Pillars

Christina – honesty will get you no where!

You have to be employed in order to get the EI benefits so I would stick it out.


20 Mr. Cheap

I agree with Mike… I think they’ll be overjoyed if you resign (and they don’t have to pay the benefits), but that would mean you wouldn’t get them either.

2 weeks before you’re due back, just contact them and tell them you need more time with the baby. Maybe string it out for a while so you have the option to go back in the future (i.e. tell them you need 4 more months or whatever, then re-evaluate as that runs out)

21 themoneyman

As someone who is a parent to be…I found this information to be extremely valuable and something that is not always easy to find on the CCRA website.

Much appreciated.

22 Four Pillars

Thanks a lot money man!!


23 Vince Strnad

I,m a new dad. Our girl will be 5 months on april 13th. What do i need to get parental leave and what do i need to do?

Thank you for your help,

Vince Strnad

24 Four Pillars

Hi Vince – I would contact your local EI office and find out what to do. You need to file an EI benefit application with them and they will process it and hopefully give you the money.


25 Ish Lamba

in Canada, it is necessary to be employed with the same employer for the preceding 52 weeks before you ask for th EI benefits related to maternity?
Secondly, what can we do if we do not have an RoE from one of the employers?

26 Four Pillars

Hi Ish – It doesn’t matter how many employers you worked at for the year before birth.

You can still get EI without a RoE but you have to show that you tried to get one. I think you have to show paystubs etc. I would contact your employment office to go over the exact procedure.


27 Erin

Im on Maternity leave and they cut me off . Im not working or anything im thinking somebody said i was working, my work i told them i wold return IF I found a babysitter and i haven’t so im not returning. so what do u think??

28 Leah

I just found out I am pregnant and am looking for a new job before I start to “show”, that offers benefits (neither my mand or I have them).

If I cannot find a job that has benefits, are we screwed?
Any suggestions about what to do if we are stuck without benefits?


29 Four Pillars

Leah – you will have to be more specific. What exactly do you mean by “benefits” – are you talking health insurance (ie are you in the US?) or Canadian-style health benefits such as drugs and dental?

And what do you mean by “screwed”?

30 Leah

I am in Ontario, Canada. For instance, I have an interview with a company where the employee pays half for their benefits and the company also pays half for the benefits (after a 3 month probation period).

It is up to the individual company to decide if they will top up (that is what I mean by benefits)?

If and when I give birth, I would like to know that hospital expenses are covered in addition to any other things that may occur.

I just have a fear if I get a job without benefits (or top up) that we may not make it financially when the baby comes, or I will just have to go straight to work again.

I guess I am confused by the whole thing. I assume that if your company offers you benefits you are better off with mat leave then when your company doesn’t. Am I wrong?

Thanks for your understanding.
ps: screwed as in not having $$$, which was why I was wondering if it would be smart to purchse additional insurance for when the baby comes….

31 Four Pillars

ahhh benefits = topup.

Now I understand – yes, topup pay is excellent.

If you can get it then that’s great – if not then you’ll have to do without.

For expenses – check out these 2 posts

32 Tatjana Letunica

I have a question
Does company have to save your job position and take you back after maternity/parental period (1year). And if they do, how long they can not laid off the employee
I am in Ottawa / Canada and I have filling that company doesn’t need me any more. I am suppose to go back on Jan 2009.

33 Four Pillars

Hi Tatjana – great question. I’m not really familiar with labour laws so I don’t really have any idea.

I think the idea of mat leave is that the company can’t fire you for going on leave (and no severance pay). If there are layoffs in the company then I’m pretty sure a company can include people on mat leave.

34 pikachu

Great post. My wife and I live in Ontario and are expecting our first kid in June. She just started a new job in November but is thinking of quitting in January because of the pregnancy.

Assuming she has the 600 hours worked in the last 52 weeks condition met, is she eligible for both maternity leave (15 weeks) and parental leave (35 weeks) i.e. 50 weeks total? Or will the fact that she voluntarily quit her job prevent her from getting maternity and parental leave benefits?

35 Four Pillars

Pikachu – it’s not a maternity leave if she quits.

She’s giving up a lot of dough by quitting – if there is a medical reason for it then it is possible to start the mat leave early. I would check with your local employment office to be sure about that.

36 pikachu

Just to clarify for others, I just called Service Canada and they informed that they don’t look at the “reason for separation” i.e. it’s okay if you voluntary quit work as long as you have 600 hours worked in the last 52 weeks preceding date of application. However, the earliest you may apply for maternity and parental leave beenfits is 8 weeks before the expected delivery date.

37 Four Pillars

Thanks for the update – that’s unbelievable – only in Canada eh?

38 R.G

I am a 24 year old mom to be and was just promoted at work as a branch manager 2 months before i got pregnant. As soon as my boss figured out that i am pregnant she started to emotionally harass me so that i quit from my possition and become a regular employee. It got soo bad that i am now staying at home too afraid to go back because i cant tolerate it anymore. I am due end of july am i going to still get maternity leave or any other kinds of benefits? what are my rights? what should i do?

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