When it comes to Canadian maternity leave we all have a lot of questions. Is it paid? How much will I make? How much time am I entitled to as an employee? Does maternity leave apply to the father of the child?
We have the answers for all your questions. The top Canadian maternity leave myths and truths debunked and explained.
1. Maternity Leave is the same for biological and adoptive parents
MYTH: Maternity Leave varies per circumstance, and is very different for biological and adoptive parents. In Canada, Employment Insurance (EI) maternity benefits are offered to biological parents who leave the workplace due to pregnancy or recent child birth. Maternity benefits are also offered to surrogate mothers who carry children for those who are unable to do so themselves. El parental benefits are offered to adoptive parents who have recently begun taking care of a child, regardless of age.
2. The province of Quebec is unique in its maternity and parental benefits to the rest of Canada
TRUTH: Quebec is the only province within Canada that differs when it comes to benefits for parents. Residents of Quebec who have recently become parents are entitled to benefits under the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP). The QPIP is offered through the Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity of Quebec. It offers the ability for parents to share parental benefits, as well as an extra 5 weeks of paternity leave for fathers. If you are a resident of Quebec looking to apply for parental benefits, you can do so by inquiring online at http://www.rqap.gouv.qc.ca, or via telephone at 1 888 610-7727.
3. As a woman you are able to apply for both maternity and parental leave
TRUTH: While the two terms may be used interchangeably by some, it is very important to note that there is in fact a big difference between the two leaves of absence. Maternity (pregnancy) leave refers to leave that only biological mothers are able to take either during or after pregnancy. Maternity leave is eligible for expecting mothers up to 17 weeks prior to the due date. Mothers who have recently given birth are also able to apply for parental leave after maternity leave. Canadian Maternity leave is dedicated to women who find it difficult to continue work during or after pregnancy and is offered for a maximum of 18 consecutive weeks. Parental leave refers to leave that is offered to both mothers and fathers, biological or adoptive. It’s dedicated to allow new parents to settle both themselves and their new child into the new homelife. At the very earliest, parental leave can begin a week after the child is born and must end 78 weeks after the child is born.
4. You must be actively working for a year in order to be eligible for pregnancy leave
MYTH: According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, if you are a woman covered by the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and have been employed for a minimum of 13 weeks prior to your due date, you are eligible for pregnancy leave. In order to check whether you are covered by the ESA, check online at https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/index.php. However the vast majority of employers and employees within Canada are covered under the ESA, which looks after the rights and requirements of employees.
5. The Liberal Federal Budget in 2017 extended Parental up to 18 months
TRUTH: To the dismay of many employers across the country, this year the Liberal Federal Budget extended the ability for parents to take 18 months for parental leave rather than the 12 months previously offered. However this extended leave comes at a cost for parents. The extended 18 month parental leave will offer parents a lower pay rate of 33% of their weekly earnings in contrast to the 12 month leave which offers a 55% pay rate.
6. Your EI Benefits will kick in as soon as you take your leave
MYTH : Before you begin receiving your EI benefits for either maternity or parental leave, there is a 1-2 week wait period without pay. This period is comparative to a deductible that you must pay with other types of insurance.
7. Under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) an employer cannot demand you return to work before your scheduled parental leave end date
TRUTH: Under the protection of the ESA an employer does not have the right to require you to return to work prior to your scheduled end date. In fact, you are not required to provide your employer with a scheduled end date your parental leave. If you do not specify an end date, your employer has to assume you will take the full amount of leave you are entitled to. However, if you choose to extend or cut short your leave you must provide notice 4 weeks prior to your end date as well as obtain approval from your employer.
8. Some employees who suffer miscarriages and stillbirths are eligible for maternity leave
TRUTH: According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the eligibility of employees who suffer miscarriages and stillbirths who are eligible for maternity leave depends on the date of said miscarriage or stillbirth. Employes who miscarry or experience a stillbirth more than 17 weeks prior to their due date are not eligible for maternity leave. However if the miscarriage or stillbirth occurs within the 17 week mark to the due date, the employee is eligible for maternity leave. Still, the latest date to begin this maternity leave would be the date of said miscarriage or stillbirth. You will then be entitled to either 17 weeks after the leave began if said employee had already commenced the leave prior to miscarriage or stillbirth, or 6 weeks after miscarriage or stillbirth. However, employees who experience miscarriages or stillbirths are not entitled to parental leave.
9. Your employer can penalize you for taking or planning to take pregnancy leave
MYTH: According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, your employer is not allowed in any way to penalize you for taking or planning to take maternity or parental leave. If you feel in any way that your employer is penalizing you for this reason, contact the ESA immediately to obtain information regarding your EI rights as an employee.
10. Very few fathers take paternity leave
TRUTH: Despite it being 2017 with gender roles being highly debated daily, paternity leave, with the exception of Quebec, is something of a rarity. According to Statistics Canada, in 2013, including Quebec, only 12.2% of fathers took or thought about taking paternity leave. However, this statistic includes those fathers who took paternity leave alone or shared parental leave with their partner. According to a Macleans report “Only 1 in 10 eligible fathers was claiming parental leave benefits through Employment Insurance (EI) …”. And while this may be down to sexism in the workplace, many families simply cannot afford to have both parents take parental leave with the rocketing costs of child care in this day and age.
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Feature photo by Jerry Lai