Skip to main content

Your web browser is out-of-date. For the best experience, please update to a modern browser like Chrome, Edge, Safari or Mozilla Firefox.

Insights & advice

How does parental leave work?

December 2021 – 15 min read

Key takeaways

  • The government provides parental leave and maternity benefits to help new parents cover the cost of time off work.

  • Benefits are available to biological parents, as well as parents of a newly adopted child.

  • You need to apply for maternity and/or parental leave, and could receive up to $595 a week.

Share on

There’s plenty to prepare for and think about when welcoming a baby, including who will take time off to care for your new arrival, and for how long.

This also means looking at your financial plan to see how you’ll cope with this loss of earnings, especially at a time when you’ll take on several new expenses. Luckily, there is financial assistance available. In Canada, you can take maternity and parental benefits to receive financial assistance as you take time away from work to care for your baby.

What are parental benefits?

Parental benefits provide financial assistance to people who:

  • Are taking time off work because they’re pregnant, or have recently had a baby
  • Are taking time off work to care for a newborn, or a newly adopted child

These benefits are provided through Employment Insurance (EI) and are designed to replace your earnings while you’re off work. The amount you can receive will depend on how long a leave you take:

Type of leave

How long will it cover?

How much will it replace?

How much will I receive?

Standard parental leave

Up to 40 weeks, but 1 parent cannot receive more than 35 weeks of standard benefits

Up to 55% of your earnings

Up to a maximum of $595 a week

Extended parental leave

Up to 69 weeks, but 1 parent cannot receive more than 61 weeks of extended benefits

Up to 33% of your earnings

Up to a maximum of $357 a week

Can you split parental leave?

Yes, both parents can choose to take parental leave. You’ll both need to apply for EI, both must choose the same option of standard or extended leave. You’ll be asked to choose the number of weeks you plan to take when you apply. It’s important to note that once you start receiving benefits, you can’t change your choice, so make sure to discuss  time-off plans in detail before submitting your application

What is maternity leave?

Unlike parental leave, maternity leave is only available to the person who is pregnant or has recently given birth. These benefits can’t be shared between parents, and they cover the first couple of months after you’ve had your baby:

Type of leave

How long will it cover?

How much will it replace?

How much will I receive?

Maternity leave

Up to 15 weeks

Up to 55% of your earnings

Up to a maximum of $595 a week


There’s no extended maternity leave option, but instead, you can combine your mat leave with parental benefits. For example, if you take 15 weeks of maternity leave and 35 weeks of standard parental leave, you’d be receiving benefits for a total of 50 weeks. If you wanted to take the extended parental leave at 61 weeks, this would result in a total of 76 weeks of leave.

Am I eligible for parental leave?

If you’re living and working in Canada, you may qualify for parental leave provided you can prove that:

  • You’re pregnant or have recently had a baby when applying for maternity benefits
  • You’re a parent caring for a newborn or newly adopted child when applying to receive parental benefits
  • Your regular weekly earnings have decreased by more than 40% for at least 1 week

Even if you’re not a Canadian citizen, you may still be eligible to receive maternity and/or parental benefits provided you have a valid social insurance number (SIN). 

If you have had a recent EI claim, this may impact your eligibility, or may mean that you aren’t able to receive the maximum benefits available. Until September 24, 2022, you must be able to demonstrate that you’ve completed 420 insured hours of work (for example, 12 weeks of full-time work at 35 hours a week) in the year before you make an EI claim to cover parental leave.  You can find out more about the complete rules for eligibility on the Government of Canada websiteOpens a new website in a new window - Opens in a new window .

How to apply

You can apply online via the Service Canada website or in person at Service Canada centre (again, if you’re in Quebec, you’ll need to apply via the QPIP website). You’ll need to provide information such as:

  • Your SIN number

  • Your bank details (so the government knows where to pay your benefits)

  • A Record of Employment (ROE) from your employer

  • Government issued ID (such as a passport or driver’s license)


Once your application is complete, Service Canada will submit to determine if you qualify for EI. If approved, you’ll receive more information and instructions for the next steps.

The first 2 weeks of EI maternity and parental leave are considered a waiting period, meaning there will be a delay in receiving your first payment (except for in Quebec, where there is no waiting period). You should make sure that you apply as soon as possible after you stop working, and have a plan in place to cover the costs of those initial few weeks while your application is processed and your benefits are set up.

When should I start my maternity or parental leave?

When to start your maternity leave is a personal choice. Some mothers choose to start their leave as close as possible to their due date so they can maximize the time off with their baby, while others may choose to stop working sooner to prepare. You can start receiving maternity benefits 12 weeks before your due date, so you have the option to see how you feel closer to the time.

For parental leave, you can start to receive these during specific periods starting the week your baby is born, or the week your adopted child is placed with you. You can start standard parental leave at any point within 12 months after welcoming your baby, and you have a window of 18 months to take extended parental leave.

The information provided is based on current laws, regulations and other rules applicable to Canadian residents. It is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the date of publication. Rules and their interpretation may change, affecting the accuracy of the information. The information provided is general in nature, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for advice in any specific situation. For specific situations, advice should be obtained from the appropriate legal, accounting, tax or other professional advisors.