How Long is Maternity Leave in Canada?

As the little one is gearing up to enter the world, the excitement grows day by day. As much as it’s a momentous occasion, it’s also a time of worry for many new and expecting parents. One of the many things on your mind is probably how you’re going to afford time off work to care for your new arrival. Read on for a breakdown of maternity leave in Canada.

How Long is Maternity Leave in Canada?

When people talk about Employment Insurance (EI) maternity leave, it’s usually a combination of maternity and parental leave. In Canada, you’re eligible for up to 15 weeks of maternity benefits if you’re the child’s biological mother. These benefits can start as early as 12 weeks before your due date.

How Long is Maternity Leave in Canada

As for parental leave, both parents are eligible for up to 40 weeks of standard benefits for an uncomplicated pregnancy. This can be split between the two parents however they see fit, as long as one individual’s leave doesn’t exceed 35 weeks.

The reason for the distinction is that parental leave is meant to aid in the care of a newborn or newly-adopted child, whereas maternity leave is for the mother’s recovery post-birth. With the standard benefits, you’re entitled to a 55% benefit rate of up to $638 each week.

If you want to take advantage of extended parental benefits, you can use up to 69 weeks of leave, but one parent mustn’t exceed 61 weeks. This is often used in cases of complications during childbirth or if the child has a health condition. In this case, you’ll receive a 33% benefit rate of up to $383 on a weekly basis.

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It’s important to consider your current situation and which benefit plan would suit you and your family best. Once you’ve applied for a specific plan, you can’t change it later on. You can apply for both maternity and parental benefits at once.

If you decide not to return to work after maternity leave in Canada, you might get cut off from your health insurance and other employment-related benefits. This is why it’s best to start looking for a new job before your leave ends so you can ensure a smooth transition back into the workforce.

With the costs of raising a child in Canada consistently on the rise, every bit of financial assistance helps. Knowing how much time you can afford to take off work is crucial to ensuring a stress-free pregnancy and delivery.

Who is Eligible for Maternity and Parental Benefits in Canada?

You’ll have to meet certain conditions to receive maternity leave and EI health benefits. Upon submitting your application, you’ll be asked to demonstrate that:

  • you’re pregnant or have recently given birth
  • you’re a parent who will be caring for a newborn or newly-adopted child
  • your wages haven’t decreased by more than 40% for at least 1 week
  • you have sufficient insured working hours in the past 52 weeks before the start of your claim or after your last EI claim, whichever is shorter

The eligibility criteria are the same across all territories, so it doesn’t matter if you’re applying for maternity leave in Ontario or you want to know how to apply for maternity leave in BC. The process is the same.

However, there are special rules for self-employed individuals or non-Canadian residents. If you fall into either of these categories, you might still be eligible for maternity or parental benefits, but you’ll need to contact Employment and Social Development Canada for more information.

Once you’ve used up your paternity leave, you might want to look into other EI benefits to ease the financial burden of taking care of your family, such as the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) or the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB).

How to Apply for Maternity Leave?

You should submit your maternity leave application straight away and not wait until you’ve collected all the supporting documents. Simply complete the online application and mail any additional documentation later on.

Applying for maternity leave by filling out the online form takes about one hour to complete and you’ll need to include personal information like your Social Insurance Number (SIN), bank account details, records of employment and your child’s date of birth or expected due date.

Once you’ve finalized the online application, you can send the required documents via mail or drop them off at a Service Canada Centre. You’ll receive a benefit statement with a 4-digit access code to follow up on the status of your request.

The waiting period before you start to receive your maternity leave pay is usually a week long, so it’s important to plan ahead and factor in this time when budgeting for your leave. Any changes to your contact information or employment status should be reported to Service Canada as soon as possible, as that may affect your payments.

Differences and Similarities Between US and Canada

The two countries have slightly different approaches to parental benefits and how they’re funded. Some of the most striking differences include:

  • In the US, maternity leave is typically shorter, rounding out to 12 weeks compared to Canada’s 15-week time frame.
  • American parents are expected to work 1.250 hours before they’re eligible for parental leave, whereas in Canada the number is just 600 hours.
  • You’re eligible for these benefits sooner if you’ve been with your employer for 12 months in the US, while maternity benefits in Canada have no such requirement.
  • You’re expected to work in a location with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite to qualify for parental leave in the US, as opposed to no employee criteria in Canada.
  • Parental leave in the US is unpaid unless your employer offers paid leave as part of their benefits package. In Canada, parental leave is partially paid by the government.

But even with all these differences, there are some key similarities between the two countries when it comes to parental benefits. Both the US and Canada offer:

  • time off for new parents to bond with their child
  • the option to extend leave or return to work early

In any case, it’s always best to check with your employer about their specific insurance policy and procedures regarding maternity and parental leave. Some companies offer more generous benefits and greater flexibility than what’s legally required, so it’s worth looking into.

Finishing Thoughts

So that’s a quick overview of how maternity and parental leave work in Canada. For the most part, the process is pretty straightforward and you should be able to get your benefits without any major issues.

Just remember to apply early and keep Service Canada updated on any changes to your employment status or contact information. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to them for clarification.


When to apply for maternity leave?

You should submit your maternity leave application as soon as you know your due date or the date of birth/adoption. Taking longer to apply will only delay the process and you may end up not receiving benefits for the full 15 weeks.

How many hours are needed for EI?

You must have worked at least 600 hours in the 52 weeks before your leave starts in order to be eligible. If you’re wondering how long is maternity leave in Canada, the standard time frame is 15 weeks.

How much does EI pay for stress leave?

For stress leave, you can receive 55% of your average weekly earnings. The maximum EI contribution in 2021 was $595.

Can I apply for EI if my hours are reduced?

If you’re working fewer hours because of your pregnancy, you can still qualify for EI as long as you’ve worked the required number of hours in the past.


Mila is an English literature student and a devoted animal's rights advocate. Despite her love for the written word, she's a keen observer of the everyday world and an excellent researcher with a bright and fresh perspective. When she's not doing research, you're most likely to find her out for a walk with her dog or binge-watching a TV show.

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