A Guide to Maternity and Parental Leave in Canada

A Guide to Maternity and Parental Leave in Canada

By Babysits
6 min read

Do you know how maternity and parental leave work in Canada? If you’re expecting a new addition to your growing family, it’s important to know where you stand in terms of maternity and parental leave and benefits. Take a look at our guide to navigating maternity and parental leave in Canada.

Between 2012 and 2017, over 2.3 million parents in Canada took some type of leave for the birth of a baby, or for adopting a child (Statistics Canada.)

In this article, we will provide you with a simple overview of what maternity and parental leave are in Canada, your eligibility, what allowances and benefits you can receive, and more information based on your province. Whether you are pregnant, an expecting parent, or adopting a child, there are options for you.

What is maternity leave and parental leave in Canada?

In Canada, maternity leave is time off from employment that is given to the birth-giver during times of pregnancy, childbirth, post-childbirth, adoptions, and childcare. Parental leave is given to a parent that requests time off to care for their newborn baby or adopted child (Government of Canada). This time off is very important for families across Canada to care for their growing families.

New mother

What are the regulations for maternity and parental leave?

So, what exactly does this mean for expecting parents? Most importantly, paid maternity leave is up to 15 weeks across Canada with the exception of Quebec, which is 18 weeks. Paid parental leave is up to 35 weeks and can be used by either parent. In some cases, parents will split the parental leave between them; however, it is often the one who gives birth who takes the majority or the entirety of the 35 weeks of paid parental leave (Statistics Canada.)

Maternity leave without pay can be granted before the pregnancy ends, on the day it ends, or after the pregnancy ends. It’s important to note that maternity leave ends 18 weeks after the end of the pregnancy. Parietal leave can either be taken following maternity leave with a combined period of 52 weeks. Unpaid parental leave that does not follow maternity leave, or parental leave for adoption can be taken for up to 37 weeks and can often be taken in 2 periods (Government of Canada).

Between 2012 and 2017, more than 80% of mothers ended their leave 27-52 weeks after they have given birth or adopted a child. During the same timeframe, 48% of fathers or partners used paternity or parental leave for around 5 weeks or less (Statistics Canada.)

Newborn baby

In many cases, employment insurance for maternity and parental benefits will cover your leave. These benefits are explained below.

What are maternity and parental benefits?

Maternity benefits are a form of employment insurance, and are given only to the person who will be taking maternity leave, otherwise known as the one who is pregant or has given birth. This person is also eligible for parental benefits.

Parental benefits are given to both parents of a newborn baby or newly adopted child. There are two options for parental benefits, standard or extended benefits. By choosing either standard or extended, this will decide for how long you will have paid leave and the amount of benefits you will receive per week. If both parents are applying for parental benefits, who will have to apply for the same benefits (either standard or extended). These benefits can be given at the same time, or consecutively. This decision is permanent once the benefits begin.

For more information, visit the Goverment of Canada.

Am I eligible for maternity and/or parental benefits?

Eligibility is based on your pregancy and/or parental status, as well as your employment status.

So, this means that you must be:

  • You are pregnant or have just recently given birth
  • You are a parent who is caring for their newborn
  • You are a parent/parents who are caring for a newly adopted baby/child
  • Your weekly income has had a decrease of over 40% during the period of at least one week
  • You have made at least 600 hours that are insured within the 52 weeks before you apply

Please make sure to check the requirements according to the current Covid-19 relief.

You can estimate what benefits you are eligible for here.

How can I apply and what happens afterwards?

The Government of Canada has a step by step guide to help with you with your application process. You can begin this process and apply here.

After you have applied, you will start receiving maternity and/or parental benefits within 28 days if you are eligible. If you are not eligible, you will be notified. For more information about the waiting period, your eligibility throughout the time you are receiving benefits, and when the payments end, look here.

For more information based on your province, please check below:






British Columbia




Nova Scotia


Newfoundland and Labrador

New Brunswick

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