Digest of Benefit Entitlement Principles Chapter 24 - Section 14

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24.14.0 Maternity benefits

24.14.1 Introduction

The foundational principle underlying these benefits is that a mother should be protected from an earnings loss resulting from withdrawal from the labour force while she recovers from childbirth. Given this principle, the entitlement conditions under which maternity benefits are payable are less stringent than those present for sickness benefits.

24.14.2 Who can receive maternity benefits

Maternity benefits for the self-employed are payable to a mother Footnote 1 who meets the conditions required to establish a claim for benefits Footnote 2 and provides to the Commission a signed statement attesting to her pregnancy and declaring her expected or actual due date Footnote 3 .

It should be noted that in the case of a surrogate pregnancy, it is the surrogate mother who experiences the physical inability to work associated with pregnancy and childbirth and as such is entitled to maternity benefits.

In the context of the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan, a regulatory provision has been made providing that a self-employed person who is entitled to receive benefits from a provincial plan in respect to the birth of a child is disentitled to maternity benefits under the Employment Insurance program in respect of this same birth Footnote 4 .

This disentitlement doesn't apply however in situations where the amount of provincial benefits that the self-employed person is entitled to receive under a provincial plan is not substantially equivalent to the amount of benefits that they would be entitled to under the EI program. A regulatory provision Footnote 5 makes it possible to pay weekly EI maternity benefits in addition to the provincial benefits so that the global amount of the benefits is at least equivalent to the amount of benefits that he/she would otherwise have been entitled to under the EI Act.

EI benefits payable to a self-employed person in respect of any week for which the person has received or is entitled to receive benefits from a provincial plan are reduced Footnote 6 by an amount equal to those provincial benefits in addition to any other deduction provided for Footnote 7 .

24.14.3 Payment of maternity benefits Waiting period

Like all claims for self-employment special benefits, a waiting period must be served Footnote 8 before maternity benefits can be paid. However, the waiting period may be waived if, the claimant qualifies to receive benefits based on an interruption of earnings as described in EI Regulation 14.01 Footnote 9 and after the claimant ceased to work, allowances, payments or other moneys are payable to the claimant by the claimant's employer or former employer as sick leave pay Footnote 10 . In situations when the claimant works for more than one employer, if they were paid sick leave pay after ceasing work from one of these employers and had an interruption of earnings from the same employer, the conditions have been met to waive the waiting period. Limits to the number of weeks of benefits payable

A qualified EI claimant may receive up to 15 weeks of maternity benefits per benefit period, for a single pregnancy Footnote 11 .

These weeks need not be consecutive and can be interrupted by receipt of another type of special benefits, subject to their individual maximums Footnote 12 . When maternity benefits are payable

The legislation Footnote 13 has set the specific time frame within which maternity benefits are payable to a person under the EI program, the period:

  1. that begins the earlier of
    1. twelve weeks before the week in which her confinement is expected, and
    2. the week in which her confinement occurs; and
  2. that ends 17 weeks after the later of
    1. the week in which her confinement is expected, and
    2. the week in which her confinement occurs.

This window for payment of these benefits allows the claimant to determine when, within this legislated time period, maternity benefits will begin or end.

Prior to December 3, 2017, self-employed persons applying for benefits were not able to serve their waiting period outside the maternity window as there was no legislative provision to allow this. Subsection 152.04(3.1) has now been added to the EI Act that allows for the waiting period to be served in the week immediately prior to the start of the maternity window.

In the event the baby is hospitalized, the window for payment of maternity benefits may be extended by the number of weeks that the child is in hospital Footnote 14 . However, any such extension cannot exceed the period of 52 weeks following the week of the baby's birth Footnote 15 .

24.14.4 Sickness benefits within the maternity period

A woman who is pregnant may be entitled to sickness benefits during the maternity period. Although pregnancy and childbirth are not considered to be illnesses, complications with respect to either may be. To receive sickness benefits the claimant must prove she is unable to work because of complications due to her pregnancy or childbirth or because of an unrelated illness and that except for her inability to work, she would be otherwise working Footnote 16 . Once inability to work is proven this claim is dealt with according to the principles applicable to any person requesting sickness benefits.

A pregnancy that is terminated within the first nineteen weeks of that pregnancy is an illness for the purposes of the Act Footnote 17 and must be treated as such.

24.14.5 Earnings while in receipt of maternity benefits

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

Detailed information on the rules regarding the deduction of earnings while receiving benefits can be found in Digest Chapter 1.9.8 – Earnings while on claim and on the Government of Canada website.

More information on earnings both from self-employment and insured employment with an employer is found elsewhere in this Chapter Footnote 18 and details on the treatment of income from self-employment during an EI claim is found in Chapter 5.16 of the Digest of Benefit Entitlement Footnote 19 .

24.14.6 When out of Canada

The Regulation preventing the payment of EI self-employment special benefits to a claimant while out of Canada contains a prescription that it does not apply to maternity benefits. Therefore, a claimant in receipt of maternity benefits is not disentitled from benefits for the sole reason that the self-employed person is outside Canada Footnote 20 .

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