Digest of Benefit Entitlement Principles Chapter 12 - Section 2

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12.2.0 Who can receive maternity benefits

Maternity benefits are available for the period surrounding the birth of a child(ren), to an eligible individual who attests to their pregnancy, and the expected or actual date of confinement (child’s birth).

12.2.1 Qualifying and entitlement conditions

Maternity benefits under the EI program are payable to the birth parent who has experienced an interruption of earnings , and is major attached; that is, has accumulated 600 or more hours of insurable employment in their qualifying period (EIA 22(1); EIR 93; EIR 14(2); Digest 2.3.1).

In the case of a surrogate pregnancy, it is the surrogate who experiences the physical inability to work associated with pregnancy and childbirth, and as such, is entitled to maternity benefits, provided all other qualifying and entitlement conditions are met.

Maternity benefits are also accessible to self-employed persons who have voluntarily registered into the EI program (EIA 152.04; Digest 24.2.0).

A pregnant individual who is already receiving EI benefits can request to have their claim converted to maternity benefits.

Pursuant to EIR 76.09(1), a person who is entitled to receive benefits from a provincial plan in respect of the birth or adoption of a child (for example, from the Québec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP)) is not entitled to receive maternity or parental benefits under the EI program, in respect of the same birth or adoption.

12.2.2 Attestation of pregnancy

A person claiming maternity benefits must provide to the Commission, a signed statement (hard copy or electronically) attesting to their pregnancy, and declaring the expected or actual date of birth of the child (EIR 41(1)(a) and (b)).

12.2.3 The number of weeks for which maternity benefits may be paid

A qualified EI claimant may receive up to 15 weeks of maternity benefits in their benefit period, for a single pregnancy. This 15 week maximum applies, even if the pregnancy results in multiple births (EIA 12(3)(a); EIA 12(4)).

These weeks do not have to be paid consecutively, but can be interrupted for the payment of another type of benefits, as long as the claimant meets the entitlement conditions for any type of benefits requested (Digest 12.2.1). There is also a maximum number of weeks of special benefits that may be combined and paid in a benefit period.

12.2.4 Period during which maternity benefits are payable

The EI legislation sets out the specific timeframe within which maternity benefits may be paid to a claimant (EIA 22(2)). This period:

  1. begins the earlier of:
    • 12 weeks before the week in which the birth of the child is expected, or
    • the week in which the child is born, and
  2. ends 17 weeks after the later of:
    • the week in which the birth of the child is expected, or
    • the week in which the child is born

The window for payment of these benefits allows the claimant some flexibility to decide when maternity benefits will begin or end, within this legislated time period.

In certain cases, claimants may set up their maternity claim a maximum of 13 weeks prior to their expected date of confinement (EDC). In order to do so they must have:

  • the required 600 hours to establish a claim for special benefits, and
  • the minimum number of hours required in their economic region, that would otherwise allow them to establish a claim for regular benefits

This allows them to serve the one week waiting period the week prior to the start of their maternity window, and be paid a full 12 weeks of benefits prior to their EDC.

In the event that the child is hospitalized within the defined maternity window, the window may be extended by the number of weeks that the child remains in hospital (EIA 22(6)). Once it has been established that the child was hospitalized, the maternity window can be extended, regardless of whether or not the claimant is in receipt of maternity benefits, or any other type of benefits, during the period of hospitalization. However, the maternity window cannot be extended beyond 52 weeks following the week of the child’s birth (EIA 22(7)). It is important to note that an extension of the maternity window does not automatically extend the benefit period, which ends pursuant to the provisions of EIA 10(2).

12.2.5 Antedates

Standard adjudication principles apply when a claimant requests an antedate of a claim for maternity benefits. A lenient approach will be applied, in the same manner as for other types of special benefits (Digest 3.3.5).

12.2.6 Waiting period

Like all claims for EI benefits, a one week waiting period must be served when an initial benefit period is established, and before maternity benefits can be paid (EIA 13). However, the waiting period may be waived if, after having ceased work, the claimant has received paid sick leave from their employer (EIR 40(6)). In situations where the claimant works for more than one employer, receives paid sick leave after ceasing work from one employer and has an interruption of earnings from that employer, the conditions to waive the waiting period have been met (EIR 14(2); EIR 40(6)).

EIR 76.22 authorizes waiving the waiting period where benefits have been paid under a provincial plan, such as the QPIP.

12.2.7 Earnings

Any earnings received while in receipt of EI maternity benefits must be declared. Earnings will be deducted from benefits at a rate of 50 cents for every dollar earned or received while on claim, up to a maximum of 90 percent of the weekly earnings used to establish the claimant’s EI benefit rate. Any earnings above this threshold will be deducted dollar for dollar from benefits (EI Act 19(2)).

Exceptions to this provision are cases where an employer who is registered in the Premium Reduction Program (PRP) makes wage loss indemnity (WLI) or paid sick leave (PSL) payments. WLI or PSL payments paid through a registered plan and for which the employer has been granted a premium reduction, are deducted dollar for dollar during the benefit period; this ensures that employers registered in the PRP remain first payers (EI Act 22(5)).

Detailed information on the rules regarding the deduction of earnings while receiving benefits can be found in Digest Chapter 1.9.7 and on the Government of Canada website.

[ August 2021 ]

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