If you’re currently expecting a child, you might be wondering: When can I apply for parental leave and how do I do it? Am I eligible to receive parental leave and how is it different from maternity leave?
As a premier family law firm in Red Deer, we’re more than happy to answer all of your questions. We’ll dive deep into parental and maternity rights, how they work, how they differ, and answer: When can I apply for parental leave?
So without further ado, let’s jump into it.
What to Know About Parental Leave in Canada
Before we answer: When can I apply for parental leave, let’s first discuss what parental leave is exactly. It is a term that describes the time parents and caregivers take off work to care for children or newborns.
Parental leave policies vary by country, company, and province, and they can be both paid or unpaid. The goal of parental leave is to allow employees of all genders to balance family responsibilities with their careers.
That said, parental leave is taxable income, which means federal and provincial taxes will be deducted from the payments. Parents also might be eligible to receive higher benefit rates if they receive the Canada Child Benefit.
Those who are having a baby or adopting a child can apply for parental leave. Also, it can be used solely as maternity leave or split between partners.
Typically, the parental benefits are equal to 55% of your average weekly earnings up to a maximum amount. To learn the exact figure of the maximum amount, you will have to check with Service Canada as the figure changes each year.
It’s important to note that parental leave can last for up to 40 weeks, but one parent can’t receive more than 35 weeks at one time. Also, the benefits have to be claimed within the first 52 weeks of the child being born or adopted.
Extended Parental Benefits
Parents can also choose to take the Extended Parental Benefits, which apply to both parents and can be shared between them. However, the pay would only be 33% of one parent’s average weekly insurable earnings.
Also unlike standard parental benefits, parents can take these Extended benefits can be taken within 78 weeks after the birth or adoption. The final difference is that the Extended Parental Benefits can last up to 69 weeks, with one parent being allowed no more than 61 weeks.
Parental Leave vs. Maternity Leave in Canada
Parental leave offers equal benefits to both mothers and fathers, allowing for greater gender equality. It also allows both parents to participate in and share childcare responsibilities.
On the other hand, maternity leave is limited only to birth and adoptive working mothers. That means only female employees can access these benefits.
Do I Qualify for Parental Leave?
The federal government pays for parental leave through Employment Insurance (EI) or for those living in Quebec, the QPIP.
Before you can claim parental leave benefits, you need to have worked 600 insurable hours in the year. Also, you need to have contributed to the EI in that time.
If you are self-employed and planning on having a child, you should consider paying into the EI. What’s more, if you choose to do so, you need to do it for at least a year before you can apply for parental leave.
To make sure you qualify for parental and/or maternity leave, it’s best to check out the Service Canada website for Employment Insurance. You can also get in touch with them online, by phone, by mail, or in person.
When Can I Apply for Parental Leave?
Maternity leave applies to both biological and surrogate mothers but for a maximum of 15 weeks. Then, an additional 35 weeks of parental benefits are available to biological, adoptive, or legally recognized parents. Those 35 weeks can be shared between two parents.
With that out of the way, it’s time to answer the biggest question: When can I apply for parental leave?
If you’re currently working, and you plan on taking parental leave, you need to apply for it as soon as you stop working. However, if you’re applying for maternity leave, you can apply up to 12 weeks before the child is born.
In order to apply at Service Canada, you need to get a Record of Employment (ROE) from your employer. If both you and your partner plan on taking the benefits at the same time, you can apply for them simultaneously.
Once you apply for parental leave, it will take around two weeks to start receiving benefits. However, if both partners have applied for the benefits at the same time, only one will have to wait for the two-week period.
It’s also important to note that the application can take up to a month to be processed. However, once it has been processed, the parents will receive benefits paid from the date they applied.
What Is Adoption Leave?
Parents who are adopting are eligible for 35–62 weeks of unpaid adoption leave. During the unpaid leave, the adoptive parent can apply for EI and two parents can share the EI benefits.
However, both parents have to choose the same benefit option, either Standard or Extended. Also, once the parental benefits have been paid, you can’t change between the two options.
How to Apply for Parental Leaving
Now that we’ve answered: When can I apply for parental leave, let’s take a closer look at how it’s done.
First, depending on who’s applying for the benefits, you’ll be able to choose between maternity and parental.
Maternity benefits start as early as 12 weeks before the due date, but they can’t be received more than 17 weeks after the due date or the date a mother gives birth. For maternity leave, there’s a maximum of 15 weeks of benefits available. It’s also important to note when applying for maternity, parents can also apply for parental benefits at the same time.
You can start receiving parental benefits the week your child is born or placed with the parents for the purpose of adoption. When applying for parental benefits, parents will also have to choose between the Standard and Extended options.
Gathering the Right Information
When applying for parental leave, you’ll need to gather some personal information, the child’s date of birth, and ROEs. Keep in mind that you don’t need to have all the documents to get the application process started. You can find all the information you need on the Service Canada website.
Completing the Online Application
If you’re applying online, the process will take around one hour to complete. Your information will be saved on the Service Canada site for 72 hours from the time you started. However, if you don’t submit the application within the time frame, it will be deleted and you’ll have to start the application process again.
Receive an Access Code and Benefit Statement
Once Service Canada receives your application, they will email you a benefit statement with a 4-digit access code. You will need the code, as well as your social insurance number to follow up on the application status.
Final Thoughts: When Can I Apply for Parental Leave
We hope to have answered: When can I apply for parental leave, what does the process look like, and what to expect when applying? If you have any more questions, need help navigating the process, or have run into any problems – don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
As part of our family law services at Chapman Riebeek, we can assist you with:
- Drafting, Reviewing, and Advising on various Domestic Agreements
- Commencing or Defending Divorce Actions
- Corollary Relief including support, custody & access
- Parental Rights
- Equitable Division of Matrimonial Property
- Resolution using Collaborative Law
- Negotiation, Mediation and Dispute Resolution