June 23,2015

Maternity Leave & Employment Insurance

Expecting a baby is time of great joy, but it raises a myriad of questions, not the least of which concern employment benefits. In this series of posts we explore the various benefits to be considered by both the expectant employee and the employer.

Maternity leave

According to the 2007 Human Resources and Social Development Canada Labour Laws and British Columbia Ministry of Labour, all eligible female residents of BC are entitled to 17 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. The birth mother must provide her employer with a written letter of expected leave of absence no later than four weeks before the leave of absence will commence or, when an adopted child will be placed, a letter and/or an attesting medical certificate or the name and address of the adoption authority.

To alleviate the financial impact of going on leave, birth mothers may apply for employment insurance (EI). To be eligible for EI, the natural birth mother is required to have worked 600 hours at her place of employment over a span of 52 weeks prior to the official application. She is then entitled to 55% of her weekly insurable earnings to a maximum of $524 a week, and for a total of 15 weeks.

Of course many circumstances can affect the amount and length of the EI permitted and received, such as labour complications affecting the mother or child, low family income, sickness or disability.

For more information or details regarding certain conditions, please visit servicecanada.gc.ca and click on Life Events / Having a Baby.


Parental benefits

Parental leave is a benefit payable to either biological or adoptive parent while caring for a newborn or adopted child. Available during the 52 weeks following the birth or placement of the child, the maximum period for which paternal benefits are paid is 35 weeks. (Most combine this benefit with the 17 week maternal benefits for a total of 52 weeks.)

To qualify for this benefit, the mother or partner is required to:

  • Have previously worked 600 hours in the last 52 weeks or since their last claim.
  • Sign a statement declaring the birth date of the newborn or placement of the adopted child. In the event of an adoption, the name and address of the adoption authority is also required.
  • Provide the name and SIN number of the other parent.

Once a person is eligible for parental benefits there are a number of claim options available to them:

  • The mother and partner can share and experience the parental benefits for the full 35 weeks.
  • After the maternity leave weeks have been completed, the mother may return to work letting the partner take the full 35 weeks of parental benefits.
  • The 35 weeks can be shared by returning to work and allowing the partner to take the remaining weeks left.
  • A parent may take a few weeks and go back to work and then realize that they would still like to be home with their child. It is possible to use the rest of the parental benefits if they do not exceed the 52 weeks since the birth of the child or placement.

Various circumstances may change the amount of time available to families for parental benefits. For more information visit the Service Canada website.

Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Program

The Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) Program allows an employer to subsidize an employee’s weekly earnings while receiving EI benefits. The subsidy may not exceed 95% of the employee’s regular employed weekly earnings.

To put the SUB program in place, an employer must apply in advance to Service Canada outlining the circumstances in which the employer wishes to subsidize an employee’s income. Examples include maternity and paternity leave as well as sick leave and compassionate leave. An employer may apply to extend the program to all employees or for only certain classes of employees.

Prior approval by Service Canada is required for supplementing EI benefits for all circumstances with the exception of maternity and paternity leave. Should an employer wish to supplement maternity or paternity leave, a note on the Record of Employment will suffice.

For general information or assistance in applying for the SUB program, visit the Service Canada website.

Maternity & parental leave employee benefits

When an eligible employee has decided to take maternity or parental leave, they are entitled to continue extended health, dental and retirement benefit programs.

In a cost-sharing situation, it is mandatory for the employer to inform the employee of their right to continue benefits. If the employee chooses to continue paying their portion of the monthly premium, the employer must continue to pay the company’s portion of the cost shared premium. Where the employer pays 100% of the premium, the employer must continue all benefits while the employee is on leave.

Kandy Cantwell specializes in employee benefits and brings a values-based approach to clients of all sizes.