maternity leave benefits for Canadian moms

3 types of leave available in Canada for pregnant and new moms

To say that my pregnancy was hard, feels like an understatement. It’s already hard enough with all the changes that come with pregnancy, but then you have to tack on preparing for maternity leave! Stressful, especially when you just want to sleep. Here are the types of leave that are available to pregnant and new moms in Canada.

My husband and I read through the website multiple times trying to find the answers we were looking for. I even tried a general Google search about the maternity leave benefits in Canada, but a lot of the results were for US citizens. Which is great for everyone who lives in the US, but I wanted Canadian info. I couldn’t find straight forward information regarding sickness leave. I wanted to know what I needed, how it affects my maternity leave and the difference between maternity and parental leave etc. After multiple calls and hours of waiting on hold to speak with an actual person, I finally got the answers I was looking for. Because this process was so difficult, I decided to write this post. 

I hope this will help other to-be-mamas find the information they need with the least amount of stress. My goal is to provide more direct answers so you don’t waste time endlessly searching. I have weeded out the information that doesn’t apply. After all, the point of taking the leave is to enjoy the time off with your babe.

If you’re Canadian, pregnant or a new mom this post is for you! 

*** Disclaimer ***

I do not work for Service Canada and your situation with Service Canada might be different depending on your circumstances. Make sure that you contact Service Canada for additional information for special circumstances. All this information can also be found on their website.

Types of Leave

I found that there are 3 types of leave that are available for pregnant women/moms. Make sure that you are eligible for Employment Insurance. There are a required number of weeks you have to work (in the previous year) in order to be eligible.

1. Parental Leave in Canada

What is it?

According to the government of Canada, maternity leave and parental leave is different. When a mom says “I am on a one-year maternity leave”, what they really mean is that they are on a parental leave.

It is labeled as parental leave because both parents (not just the one who gave birth) have the option to take paid time off work to care for their newborn or adopted child(ren). 

How much time do you get and what benefits do you receive?

As of 2018, parents have the option to take the standard time or extended time off. As of January 2019, they cap your benefits at maximum yearly insurable earnings of $53,100. This means that if you make more than $53,100, annually, you will not receive more than the maximum per week (see below). 

Standard time
  • 12 months leave to take care of your child, this entitles you to 55% of your income.
  • Paid for a maximum of 35 weeks plus 15 weeks of the maternity leave at 55%. Based on the cap the maximum you will receive is $562 per week. This does not include federal and provincial taxes that are deducted.
  • One parent can take a maximum of 35 weeks paid.
  • If the other parent decides to take parental leave as well, they can apply for up to 5 weeks paid.
  • The total leave mom can take, paid, is 50 weeks (maternity and parental combined).
Extended time
  • 18 months leave that entitles you to 33% of your income.
  • Paid for 61 weeks plus 15 weeks of maternity leave at 55%. According to the cap, you would receive a maximum of $337 per week. Again, does not include federal and provincial taxes that are deducted.
  • Same as the standard time, one parent can take up to a maximum of 61 weeks parental leave paid.
  • If the other parent decides to also take leave can get up to 8 weeks paid.
  • The total leave mom can take, paid, is 76 weeks (maternity and parental combined).
Who can take it and can you split it?

Both parents can take this leave and can share the time off. Both mom and dad must register for the benefit to split the time.

You can decide how many weeks each parent will take and you can change it throughout the time of leave. A friend of mine ended up splitting the 12 months leave. She took the first 6 months and the dad took the last 6 months. You can split it however it will work for you and yours. 

Parents can also decide to take leave at the same time. For example, if the mom takes the standard time off (12 months) the dad can take time off at the same time. Dad can take up to 5 weeks paid at the standard time off without cutting into mom’s time off work with paid benefits. 

*** Remember that the 12 months or 18 months leave includes the mom’s maternity leave (15 weeks at 55%) 

One thing to keep in mind is that both parents must take the same kind of leave. For example, if the mom takes leave first and she has chosen to take the extended time (18 months leave) when the dad takes over, he must also take the extended time (at 33% of his income). You cannot go back and forth on the time duration of the leave. You can change it, but only if done so before you start receiving your benefits. Once the benefits are being paid out, it cannot be changed. 

2. Maternity Leave in Canada

What is it and who can take it?

Maternity leave is for pregnant women who will be or have given birth. The time is given to women to recover from childbirth. Even if you are a surrogate or will be putting your child up for adoption. Moms are eligible for this leave to take time for their recovery. You are able to take your maternity leave early, or it can start the Sunday of the week of your expected due date. No matter when you take it, the maximum is 15 weeks paid. 

How much time and how much benefits?

Maternity leave is a maximum of 15 weeks at 55%. It’s capped the same way as the parental leave. If you make more than $53,100 per year, the most benefits you can receive is $562 (before taxes). 

3. Sickness/Disability Leave in Canada

What is it and who can take it?

Sickness leave can be taken if you require time off work due to complications in your pregnancy. For example, I had to take leave from work due to complications with my gestational diabetes.

You are required to have a “medical certificate” filled out by your medical practitioner. They could request this “medical certificate” at any time in the next 6 years.

It is important that your care is from a midwife or a doctor that specializes in pregnancy. Ensure midwives are recognized by your province or territory.

For example, a podiatrist should not be writing your medical note or filling out your medical certificate. To collect benefits due to leave for pregnancy reasons your medical certificate should be recommended by someone specialized in care for pregnant women. 

If you’re having complications with your pregnancy, speak to your medical professional.

I am so thankful that I had time off due to my gestational diabetes. Not only was I able to keep my blood sugar under control but also helped me keep my insulin levels at a minimum.

Click here to read about my pregnancy journey.

How much time and how much benefits?

You can collect benefits for a maximum of 15 weeks at 55% with your sickness leave. Much like the maternity and parental leave, there is an annual salary cap of $53,100. The maximum amount of benefits you can receive is $562 per week if your salary is greater than the cap. 

During the sickness leave application, it gives you the option to opt into maternity and parental leave. This allows the benefits to roll over right away. This way you don’t have to apply again for each leave and there is no waiting period for your application. 

Don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor or midwife regarding medical leave. It was not in my plan to leave work as early as I did. Due to my gestational diabetes, I took sickness leave and ended up leaving 2 months before my expected due date. It wasn’t in my plans, this cut our family income earlier than we wanted. However, I found that if you’re having complications and your medical care team recommends the time off, this option is available to you.

Focusing on your health and well-being, including mental, physical, or emotional states are what is important and what is best for your baby. While pregnant, the best mom you can be is a mom who is taking care of yourself. 

Additional Information: 

Make sure that you are eligible for benefits before applying as it is a lengthy process. You must have worked at least 600 hours in insurable employment (where they deduct EI etc) during the last year (last 52 weeks) as per the website. 

If you’re not sure, apply anyway, it’s better that Service Canada rule you out than you ruling yourself out. You never know, you might be eligible. 

Your social insurance number (SIN) is required, so have it ready. If you work salary, have your annual salary amount and a few pay stubs handy. You will need the information to complete the application. 

If you make less than $53,100, your weekly benefits will be calculated using the weeks that you earned the most money. This depends on your province and location. Service Canada will take into consideration a minimum of 14 to a maximum of 22 of your highest-earning weeks. You may need all of your paystubs if you don’t make a consistent amount each payday.

Make sure that you apply right away. Remember, there is a waiting period, you will not receive benefits during this time. You can apply early with the expected due date of your child and submit the actual due date after. This is all done online at 

I hope this information was useful and clear. If you have specific questions call Service Canada. Your situation may warrant a different outcome.

Remember that in Canada, parents have 3 different kinds of leave benefits. Parental leave is open to both parents, maternity leave, available for moms who will or have given birth. If you are experiencing pregnancy complications that prevent you from working, take sickness leave.

You can find this information online. However, here it is all together with some clarification to help you. Pregnancy is already a difficult enough transition for you and your body without the added stress of applying for leave. Take advantage of the different kinds of leave you may be eligible for. Take advantage of the benefits available to you.

Preparing for motherhood? Check out my post on 7 things all new parents must have!

When you're pregnant and applying for maternity leave it can get pretty confusing. Know what leave you're eligible for.

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