Pickle Planet is pleased to welcome Shauna Cole, a New Brunswick mother and human resources professional, to share some insight for those of you transitioning between career and parenting. Last post she shared her 17 questions you must ask your employer before going on maternity leave. Now, it’s a deep dive into the nitty gritty details of maternity and parental leave in New Brunswick.
If you’ve tried making sense of your maternity and parental leave Employment Insurance benefits on the official government websites, you may be more frustrated than a mom in Hour 20 of labour! Let me walk you through some of the common questions when it comes to maternity and parental leave Employment Insurance benefits to help make sense of it all.
Please note: All information has been adapted from Government of Canada Employment Insurance website and is current as of January 2019.
What is Maternity Leave?
Maternity leave is a benefit offered to support new moms through the physical recovery of childbirth. There is only one type of maternity leave and it is exclusively for moms. Maternity leave is 15 weeks.
What is Parental Leave?
Parental leave is a benefit available to parents, both moms and dads, caring for a new baby or adopted child.
It’s important to understand there are different types of Parental Leave:
Type 1: Standard Parental Leave: 35 weeks
Type 2: Extended Parental Leave: 61 weeks
Why do we always say ‘Maternity Leave’ when we’re in fact spending most of our leave time on ‘Parental Leave’?
We say Maternity Leave but we probably mean Maternity Leave and Parental Leave when we’re talking about anything beyond a 15-week leave from work. Maternity Leave was introduced before Parental Leave. My suspicion is we just never updated our language to reflect the program update. I think we say ‘Maternity Leave’ simply because it’s been around longer.
How much money will I make?
Your Employment Insurance earnings will depend on which type of Parental Leave you choose. Remember, there are two types of Parental Leave: Standard and Extended. Here’s the breakdown on each version:
- Standard Parental Leave
If you choose the Standard Parental Leave option you’ll get a total of 50 weeks of leave: Maternity Leave of 15 weeks + Standard Parental Leave of 35 weeks = 50 weeks total leave
The basic rate of your benefit is 55% of your average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum of $53,100. This means that you can receive a maximum amount of $562 per week on the Standard Parental Leave option. The amount is the same for your Maternity Leave amount.
In short – if you earn the maximum insurable amount, or more, your Employment Insurance payments will be $562 per week for 50 weeks.
- Extended Parental Leave
If you choose the Extended Parental Leave Option this gives you a total of 76 weeks of leave: Maternity Leave of 15 weeks + Extended Parental Leave of 61 weeks = 76 weeks of total leave
For the Extended Parental Leave option, you need to stretch out the same dollar amounts from the Standard Parental Leave option over a longer period of time. The benefit is about added leave time, not added money.
On the Extended Parental Leave option you can receive a maximum amount of $337 per week for up to 61 weeks. The weekly benefit rate is 33% of your average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum amount of $53,100.
Your Maternity Leave amount is calculated at 55% of your average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum amount of $53,100. This means that you can still receive a maximum amount of $562 per week for the Maternity Leave portion of your leave.
In short – if you earn the maximum insurable amount, or more, your Employment Insurance payments will be $562 per week for 15 weeks of Maternity Leave and then $337 for up to 61 weeks.
Can my partner take leave, too?
Yes, both parents who qualify for Employment Insurance (see below) can use standard or extended parental leave. However, the total number of weeks (50 or 76) is shared between the parents: you can’t both take 50 weeks of standard parental leave, but you can 40 weeks and your partner can take 10 weeks. You CAN take these weeks at the same time.
Please note: IF your child requires extended medical care at birth (a preemie that spends a few weeks in the NNICU, etc.), there is a Family Caregiver Benefit that allows support for up to 35 weeks, as well.
What is the Parental Sharing Benefit?
This benefit came into effect on March 17, 2019. It added an additional five weeks to parental leave – when parental leave is shared between parents. The benefit is available to two-parent families, including adoptive parents and same sex couples. The most important thing to take note of here: The Parental Sharing Benefit is ONLY available to top-up existing parental leave benefits if the leave is shared between parents. For more on this benefit: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2019/02/backgrounder-parental-sharing-benefit.html
How to do I qualify for Employment Insurance Maternity and Parental Leave Benefits?
Here are the key criteria for qualification:
- You’re employed and paying Employment Insurance premiums (your employer does this for you – look at your pay record and you will see a lovely little deduction called ‘EI’)
- You meet the criteria (you gave birth, adopted, etc.)
- Your weekly earnings are reduced by more than 40%
- You’ve worked 600 hours (about 15 full-time work weeks or four months of full-time work)
Can I start my Maternity Leave before the baby is born?
Yes, you can start maternity leave up to 12 weeks before the expected date of birth.
If you need to start your leave early because you’re sick, make sure to check your eligibility for Employment Insurance Sick Benefits; you don’t need to use up your Maternity Leave for a pregnancy-related illness. Sick benefits are yet another benefit type provided through Employment Insurance and can be used for up to 15 weeks. You should apply for these benefits on or shortly after your last day of work. If you’re feeling unsure about the specifics of your situation, you should call Employment Insurance directly.
What’s the point of Employment Insurance Sick Benefits?
Employment Insurance sick benefits are not exclusive to pregnancy. Sick benefits are available to any eligible Canadian who is not able to work due to illness who meets the eligibility criteria.
How much money will I make on Employment Insurance Sick Benefits?
This is a more complicated calculation and can depend on a bunch of different factors. The best thing to do is to contact Employment Insurance and talk through the details of your specific situation. For most people, the basic rate for calculating EI benefits is 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount of $53,100. This means that you can receive a maximum amount of $562 per week. Employment Insurance benefits can be paid for a maximum of 15 weeks.
How do I get Employment Insurance sick benefits for a pregnancy related illness?
Like maternity and parental leaves, you need 600 insurable hours of work. You also need proof from your doctor that the leave is required. With sick leave, you need to do the dreaded Employment Insurance weekly reporting.
What’s the deal with weekly Employment Insurance reporting?
You basically need to prove that you still require the Employment Insurance benefit. The program holds you accountable by filling out some online forms about the status of your ability to work. The weekly reporting is pretty dreaded but really not all that bad or time consuming. Once you move to Maternity and Parental Leave benefits the weekly reporting is no longer needed.
How do I go from Employment Insurance Sick benefits to Maternity Leave to Parental Leave?
You can apply for all your Employment Insurance benefits at once. This means you can go through a single process to apply for Sick Leave, Maternity Leave, and Parental leave. It’s likely you’ll need to make adjustments along the way when you have the exact details of the baby’s birth date, etc.
After being approved for the benefits, the process is automated. You should move pretty seamlessly from receiving Sick Leave to Maternity Leave to Parental Leave benefits. I recommend you write all the details down so you have a clear handle on key dates. You should know which type of benefits you are receiving so you can plan for any reporting requirements and any changes in dollar amounts.
I have to call Employment Insurance to talk about some specifics of my situation. Is it true wait times are bad?
Yes. Sometimes I tried calling for days and got nothing more than a busy signal. My key to getting through – call first thing in the morning. If you’re up for it, go to your local Service Canada Centre and get the support you need there.
Where do I start this process?
Start by getting all your key dates lined up with your employer. Decide when your leave will start (if the baby allows this), communicate this with your employer, and fill out any paperwork that’s required on their end.
When should I apply for my Employment Insurance Benefits?
If you have to go on sick leave – do this right away and get those benefits lined up immediately. The right time to apply is on or shortly after your last day of work.
For Maternity and Parental Leave benefits you should apply on or right after your last day of work. It’s always a good idea to check things out in advance, and make sure you line up all the information you need for the application process, so that you’re well prepared and organized when the big day comes! (I’d do this around month five or six of pregnancy.)
If you have some special circumstances that seem unique from any information you can find, call Employment Insurance and get some direction and clarity for your specific situation.
If plans change and you run into unforeseen circumstances, that’s okay. Again, just be sure to notify Employment Insurance of this so there are no surprises.
What information do I need to apply for Employment Insurance benefits?
- your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
- your mother’s maiden name
- your mailing and residential addresses, including the postal codes (if you do not have a usual place of residence, you must apply in person at your local Service Canada Centre)
- your complete banking information
- the expected or actual date of birth
- the date of birth of your newborn or, in the case of an adoption, the date on which your child was placed with you (you must also provide the full name and address of the agency handling the adoption)
- the SIN of the other parent, if you plan to share the benefits
- the name and address of all employers you worked for in the last 52 weeks, as well as the dates of employment and the reasons for separation from these employers (Your employer should have issued Records of Employment directly to Employment Insurance – check with them to see if they have this information if you don’t)
- your detailed version of the facts, if you quit or were dismissed from any job in the last 52 weeks (Pro Tip: Less is more – no emotion, stick to facts!)
- the dates (Sunday to Saturday) and earnings for each of your highest paid weeks of insurable earnings in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is the shorter period
Where do I go to find key contacts and additional information?
Employment Insurance Maternity and Parental Benefits: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-maternity-parental.html
Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness.html
Employment Insurance Phone Number: 1-800-206-7218 (Shauna’s Pro Tip: Call at 8:30am)
Bonus Tip: There are so many moving parts when it comes to organizing a maternity leave. Treat yourself to a nice notebook to write everything down in one place. Be sure to capture your Employment Insurance login details and key dates like when your benefits start and end.
Shauna Cole is a Chartered Professional in Human Resources with a Master’s Degree in Business and Undergraduate Degree in Communications. She lives in a house filled with boys; her partner and their two sons. You can find more on her website.
Don’t forget to read her 17 questions you must ask your employer before going on maternity leave!
And for another great take on maternity leave from a New Brunswick mom – including a great video testimonial about the difficulty in actually stepping away from a job you love! – check out this great post from our friend Jenna at There’s a Shoe for That!