Maternity and parental leave benefits

Maternity leave benefits are payments given to mothers who can’t work because they're pregnant or have recently given birth.

Parental leave benefits are payments given to parents who are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child.

Your employer must give you a minimum number of weeks for maternity, parental and adoption leave. The number of weeks you get varies by province and territory. However, employers don't have to pay you during this time.

Talk to your employer and find out how much money you’ll get from maternity and parental leave benefits while you’re on leave.

You must meet certain conditions to qualify for benefits.

Learn more about the eligibility criteria for:

Maternity and parental benefits for the self-employed

If you’re self-employed and planning a family, register for Employment Insurance or the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan as soon as possible.

Before you apply for EI maternity or parental benefits, you must:

  • be registered with the EI program for at least 12 months
  • pay EI premiums for a specific period of time

If you’re self-employed in Quebec, you must also meet certain other conditions before you can get parental benefits.

How long it will take to get maternity or parental benefits

Apply for EI or the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan benefits as soon as you stop working. There will be a delay of 4 to 6 weeks before you get your first payment.

You can apply for EI maternity benefits before you give birth or if your employer has not yet issued your Record of Employment.

You’ll need a Record of Employment from your employer to apply for maternity or parental benefits. If you’re adopting, be sure to include the adoption papers in your application.

In most provinces and territories, the first two weeks of EI maternity and parental leave are a waiting period. You won’t get any money from benefits during this period. There’s no waiting period for benefits in Quebec and you’ll get your benefits right away.

Amount of money you’ll get from maternity and parental benefits

EI maternity and parental benefits generally pay out only 55% of your income, up to a maximum amount.

The Quebec Parental Insurance Plan pays a maximum of 75% of your income, up to a maximum amount.

You’ll need to pay tax on any benefits you get during maternity, parental or adoptive leave.

Find out how much you can expect to get from EI maternity and parental benefits.

Low-income maternity or parental benefit supplements

Families with low incomes may also be eligible for an additional amount to supplement maternity or parental benefits, depending on:

  • total family income
  • the number of dependent children

Find out if you’re eligible to receive the Employment Insurance Family Supplement.

Or if you live in Quebec, find out if you’re eligible to receive the increase for low-income families.

Employer benefits for new parents

Some employers offer their employees additional benefits when they become new parents. Examples include extended health and dental coverage and extra parental leave income.

Ask your employer about parental paid and unpaid leave.

Find out if you can:

  • use vacation and sick days to extend your parental leave
  • get health and dental benefits while on leave
  • continue to make pension contributions while on leave

Paying for health and dental benefits while on parental leave

Before you go on parental leave, find out:

  • how much health and dental coverage you’ll have while you’re off work
  • if you have to pay premiums for health and dental benefits yourself
  • if your coverage or payments will change when you switch from individual to family coverage

If your employer doesn’t cover health and dental benefits while you’re on parental leave, you may be able to pay for these benefits yourself. Ask your employer for more information.

Remember to include any premiums you have to pay in your budget.

Coordinating insurance benefits

Coordinating your benefits with your spouse or partner’s insurance plan may allow you to claim up to 100% of your eligible expenses. Coordinated benefits allow you to submit one claim to your plan, and then submit a second claim to your spouse or partner’s plan to cover the rest of the expense.

Making pension contributions while on parental leave

If you stop making pension contributions while you’re on leave, you’ll have less money from your pension in retirement.

If you contribute to your employer’s pension plan, find out:

  • how much money you'll lose in pension contributions while on leave
  • how you can continue to make pension contributions while on leave
  • how you can make up for skipped pension contributions once you return to work

Employer-sponsored income top-ups

Some employers may offer you an income top-up when you're on parental leave. This top-up pays a portion of your regular salary and supplements your EI or Quebec Parental Insurance Plan benefits.

If your employer offers a top-up, find out:

  • how much you'll get
  • how long the top-up will last
  • if you’ll be required to return to work by a certain time and remain at your job for a minimum period of time

How your maternity and paternal benefits are taxed

You need to pay taxes on income you get while on maternity or parental leave.

This includes:

  • top-up benefits from your employer
  • EI maternity and parental benefits
  • Quebec Parental Insurance Plan maternity and parental benefits

Deductions from your maternity and parental benefits aren't based on your total income. Instead, your employer and the program providers for EI or the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan will base tax deductions on the assumption that they’re your only source of income for the year.

This means that the income tax deducted from maternity and parental benefits does not take into account:

  • salary you received before going on leave
  • other employment income
  • top-up benefits from your employer

As a result, you may not pay enough income tax and you could end up owing taxes at the end of the year.

How to avoid an unexpected tax bill

Find out how much tax your employer will deduct from any top-up you may get while you’re on parental leave.

To avoid an unexpected tax bill, you can set aside money to pay for the taxes you'll owe when you file your tax return. Or you can ask your employer to deduct more income tax before you start your maternity or parental leave.

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