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Canada Maternity Leave

Canada maternity leave policies are designed to support parents in balancing the joy and responsibility of welcoming a new child while managing their careers. The system reflects a commitment to family well-being and gender equality, offering both mothers and fathers (or adoptive parents) the opportunity to take time off work to care for their newborn or newly adopted children. This article provides an overview of Canada’s maternity and parental leave benefits, eligibility criteria, and how to apply for these benefits.

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Overview of Maternity and Parental Leave in Canada

Canada distinguishes between maternity leave and parental leave. Maternity leave is specifically for birthing mothers and covers up to 15 weeks, allowing them time to recover from childbirth. Parental leave, on the other hand, is available to both parents and can be shared. It is designed for the care of the newborn or adopted child and can be taken any time within the first year (52 weeks) of the child’s arrival. Parents can choose between two options: the standard parental leave, which lasts up to 40 weeks (with a maximum of 35 weeks paid to one parent), and the extended parental leave, which extends up to 69 weeks (with a maximum of 61 weeks paid to one parent), but with a lower weekly benefit.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for maternity or parental leave benefits in Canada, individuals must have worked for their employer for a minimum of 600 hours in the 52 weeks prior to the claim. They must also have a significant drop in their regular weekly earnings by more than 40% for at least one week, and be actively insured under the Employment Insurance (EI) program.

Application Process

Applicants for maternity or parental leave benefits must submit their claim to Service Canada. The application can be made online or in person at a Service Canada office. Required documentation typically includes a Social Insurance Number (SIN), proof of pregnancy or birth, and records of employment and earnings. It’s advisable to apply as soon as possible after the baby is born or the child is adopted, or as soon as the mother stops working.


The amount of maternity and parental benefits is based on a percentage of the applicant’s average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount. As of the last update, the basic rate for calculating EI benefits is 55% of the average weekly earnings, up to a yearly maximum insurable amount. For extended parental leave, the rate is reduced to 33% of the average weekly earnings. It’s important to note that these benefits are taxable income, meaning federal and provincial or territorial taxes will be deducted.

Provincial and Territorial Variations

While the maternity and parental leave benefits outlined above are federally regulated, it’s important to note that each province and territory in Canada may offer additional benefits or have specific rules. For instance, Quebec administers its own Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP), which has different rates and eligibility requirements.


Canada’s maternity and parental leave policies are designed to provide significant support to new parents, allowing them to take necessary time off work to care for their children without undue financial hardship. By understanding the eligibility criteria, application process, and benefits available, parents can better plan for this important life event. Always check the most current policies and guidelines, as these can change and may vary by province or territory.