• Sarah Nantel

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT MATERNITY LEAVE IN CANADA



It’s only been a year but seemed like forever when I took my maternity leave with Olivia. The whole process was new and unknown to me – in fact overwhelming. I read through the articles on Service Alberta, Government of Alberta and used the mighty power of google, the more I read the more overwhelmed I got. I was the first one to have baby amongst my friends, so I had no one to turn to except myself. A few questions I asked myself were:

  1. Have I worked for the same employer for 52 weeks? If not, 600 hours?

  2. Will my weekly normal earning reduce by more than 40%?

  3. When am I planning to leave work?

My answers were:

  1. Well, at that time I did not work for the same employer for 52 weeks but I have accumulated 600 hours. Which means I may not have the protection of an unpaid job protected maternity leave but I was still eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) payment.

  2. This one was no brainer, of course my income will reduce by more than 40% if I don’t work.

  3. This one was tricky, apparently I was able to start at any time within 12 weeks of Olivia’s due date and lasted for 15 weeks. This 15 weeks is only made available to the baby’s biological mother, a nice little present to all the hardworking mommy out there. The remaining 37 weeks of parental leave can be shared amongst both parents, but must be taken right after the first 15 weeks. I think this meant that I couldn't take 15 weeks off, go back to work for few weeks and use up the remaining maternity leave. Since I wasn't eager to get back to work, this wasn't an issue.

Below is an infographic I created to share with you what I learned.


Six weeks after I gave my work the “notice” (the legal requirement), I enthusiastically waved my team goodbye and happily went on my maternity leave. I first did some overdue errands, prepared last minutes baby items, checked my hospital bag, then this struck me. I should apply for my EI right now, if I don’t, I might be delayed for more than four weeks after my last day of work. What this means is I could risk losing the benefits all together – imagine 55% of my average weekly income flapping away one after the other. (The benefit is your total annual earning divided by 52 weeks to a maximum of $524 per week or maximum of $2,096 a month.) I quickly submitted my application and put my mind at ease knowing I have done my part and I was ready to deliver my baby, Olivia.

What’s the take away here, well essentially you don’t just GO on maternity leave. There are two things you must do:

  • Decide your last day of work and give your work 6 weeks’ notice

  • Submit your EI application as soon as you stop working.

Great work mommy! You are almost there! You are going to have a memorable year with your newborn baby.


Photo Credit: The Red Balloon Photography




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