Maternity Leave 101

I have been wondering about maternity leave for a while now — who gets it? How much is it?
Well, let me tell you. They make you work for the answers! Government sites are confusing! I’m still not sure I’ve grasped everything, so don’t sue me if this information is wrong. I tried!
So, I have went through about 10,000 pages of mumbo-jumbo, and condensed it to the basic facts about maternity leave in Canada.
Let’s begin …
“What is the difference between “maternity leave” and “maternity benefits”?
  • “Leave” refers to being off work, with your employer being obligated to take you back
  • “Benefits” refers to the money the government pays you (part of your usual salary) when you are off after having a baby
“Do I even get maternity leave?”
You need to have been with your employer for a certain number of months …
  • Alberta, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, and the Yukon: 1 year (6 months in the federal jurisdiction)
  • Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island: 20 weeks
  • Saskatchewan: 20 weeks (in the 52 weeks before leave)
  • Ontario: 13 weeks
  • British Columbia and New Brunswick: No requirements with respect to length of service
  • Quebec: As long as you work there the day you announce it, you’ll golden.
“How much time do I get?”
Well, let’s refer to this handy-dandy chart from BabyCenter.ca:

“Who do I tell at work?”
Talk to your HR department (if you have one). You might need to provide a medical certificate in order to qualify for maternity leave, but most provinces only require it if your employers requests it.

“When do I begin?”
  • It’s up to you when you take off — a month early, etc. — but your employer must agree.
  • Depending on your province, you can leave 11-17 weeks before giving birth.
“Can they really force my pregnant butt outta there?”
  • Your employer can make you take a leave of absence, if they feel you can’t do your job properly because you are pregnant.
  • You also can’t come back to work for at least six weeks after delivery, unless your doctor begs.

“How do I get extra time?”

  • You are allowed to take a leave of two years, without pay, as an extension of maternity leave
  • If your doctor certifies that you have medical problems as a result of the birth, you can be greanted an extra six weeks (without pay)
  • You can sometimes extend your leave by using up vacation time or sick time

“What’s the deal with EI maternity/parental benefits?”

  • They can start eight weeks before your due date, or the week of your actual delivery
  • There is a two-week waiting period
  • You can receive maternity benefits for up to 15 weeks
  • You can receive paternal benefits for up to 35 weeks
  • You are able to combine maternity and parental benefits, so that you can be off with your baby for 52 weeks (50 of them paid)
  • To be eligible, an employee must have worked a minimum of 600 hours in the previous 52 weeks
  • You must have been working for your company for at least 13 weeks

“How much will I get, on EI maternity/parental benefits?”

  • The benefits are usually 55% of your usual salary
  • There is a maximum of $447 per week
  • If you are in a low-income family (total income of less than $25,921), and receive the Child Tax Benefit (CTB), you can receive a higher benefit rate


“Can I make extra money while receiving benefits?”
  • While receiving benefits, you can also earn $75 a week (or 40% of your weekly benefits, whichever is greater) by doing part-time work/freelance
  • You cannot make more than $75, or they will take it off your benefits (i.e. You earn $100 writing an article one week. They will take $25 off your benefits)
  • You must declare any extra money you are bringing in
“What are top-ups, and how do I get them?”
  • If you have a really nice employer, they are allowed to “top-up” your benefits (as long as the total doesn’t exceed your usual salary

“While I’m off, will I still build up seniority, vacation, etc.?”

Yup — in most cases, you will still build …
  • Seniority
  • Annual leave
  • Pension
  • Usual benefits
  • Vacation (providing you return to work after your leave)

“What happens when it’s time to go back to work?”

  • You need to give your company at least three weeks notice
  • If you don’t go back on the day you are supposed to go back, you will no longer be employed
  • You must provide a doctor’s certificate stating that going back to work won’t hurt you
  • You will return to your previous position, or — if your old position was made redundant — with an alternate position
  • You will either make the same salary, or higher (if you should have received a raise while being off)
  • If you would have been let go while you were off — i.e. they terminated your whole department a month ago — you will be given the same rights as if you were just let go today (severance, etc.)

“Are there any other special perks?”

  • Until your baby is 1 year old, you are exempt from working stand-by and call-back shifts
  • You might be allowed to start back slowly, working part-time at first
  • If you didn’t take maternity leave, you are allowed to take a partial leave without pay, spread over two years. This means you will work at least 14 hours a week.

4 Comments on “Maternity Leave 101

  1. Wow, that must be nice, I live in Indiana in the states and i have a good job at a public university. I'll get 90 days Without pay.

  2. Only 90 days, Kate? Wow. Our maternity leave system is technically the same as our unemployment — same amount, I believe, and goes for the same length of time.

    I am very grateful for it, since my company will not be offering top-ups (I don't even have benefits to begin with).

So what do you think?

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