Digest of Benefit Entitlement Principles Chapter 24 - Section 10

24.10.0 Maternity benefits

The foundational principle for these benefits is that a person should be protected from losing their income when withdrawing from the labour force to recover from childbirth.

24.10.1 Who can receive maternity benefits

Maternity benefits for the self-employed are payable to a person who meets the conditions required to establish a benefit period and who provides the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (the Commission) with a signed statement attesting to their pregnancy and declaring the expected or actual due date (EIA 152.04; EIR 41(1)).

In the case of a surrogate pregnancy, it is the surrogate person who experiences the physical inability to work associated with pregnancy and childbirth and as such is entitled to maternity benefits.

In relation to the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP), 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 (EIR 76.36(1)).

This disentitlement does not apply to 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 Employment Insurance Act. A regulatory provision makes it possible to pay weekly Employment Insurance (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 they would otherwise have been entitled to under the Employment Insurance Act (EIR 76.36(2)).

A person who has received or is entitled to receive benefits from a provincial plan will see their EI benefits reduced by an amount equal to those provincial benefits, in addition to any other deduction (EIR 76.37; EIR 76.38; EIA 152.04(4), EIA152.18).

24.10.2 Sickness benefits within the maternity period

A pregnant person may request and be entitled to self-employment sickness benefits during the maternity period. Although pregnancy and childbirth are not considered to be illnesses, complications with respect to either may be.

The claimant must demonstrate being unable to work because of complications due to their pregnancy or childbirth, or because of an unrelated illness and that except for their inability to work, they would be otherwise working.

To receive sickness benefits, the person must obtain, at their own expense, a medical certificate that attests to the incapacity, the start date, the probable duration of the incapacity and is signed by a medical doctor or other medical professional (section 24.9.1 of the Digest).

Once inability to work is proven (or an ability to work is considerably lessened), this claim is dealt with according to the principles applicable to any person requesting sickness benefits.

A pregnancy that is terminated within the first 19 weeks of that pregnancy is an illness for the purposes of the Act and must be treated as such (EIR 40(5)). The claim in this case, would be considered for sickness benefits rather than maternity benefits.

24.10.3 Payment of maternity benefits Waiting period

A one-week waiting period must be served when an initial benefit period is established and before maternity benefits can be paid (EIA 152.15).

The waiting period can be served in the week immediately prior to the start of the maternity window (section of the Digest; EIA 152.04(3.1)).

Employment Insurance Regulation 76.22 authorizes waiving the waiting period where benefits have been paid under a provincial plan such as the Québec Parental Insurance Plan. When maternity benefits are payable

The legislation has set the specific time frame within which maternity benefits are payable to a person under the EI program (EIA 152.04(2)). This period:

  • begins the earlier of
    • 12 weeks before the week in which their confinement is expected, and
    • the week in which their confinement occurs; and
  • ends 17 weeks after the later of
    • the week in which their confinement is expected, and
    • the week in which their 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.

In the event the child is hospitalized, the window for payment of maternity benefits may be extended by the number of weeks that the child is in hospital (EIA 152.04(5)). However, any such extension cannot exceed the period of 52 weeks following the week of the child's birth (EIA 152.04(6)). An extension of the maternity window does not have the effect of extending the benefit period, which ends in the usual manner (EIA 152.11(2)). When out of Canada

A claimant who is outside Canada temporarily or permanently is entitled to maternity benefits, unless their social insurance number has expired. A claimant receiving these benefits is not required to prove availability for work, and is not disentitled for the sole reason of being out of the country (EIR 55.01(3)).

[November 2023]

Page details

Date modified: