Employment insurance and adoption


Siobhan Rowe and Joanne Thalken
Focus on Adoption magazine

Under current Employment Insurance legislation, women who give birth are entitled to 15 weeks of maternity leave and 35 weeks of parental leave. Adoptive parents only qualify for parental leave. So far, the Canadian government has chosen to ignore protests from the adoption community that this discriminates against adoptive families.

Current Employment Insurance regulations attempt, through maternity leave, to ensure that biological mothers have time to physically recover from the birth of their children. While adoptive mothers do not give birth, there are several reasons why they too would benefit from more time to recover from the stresses of adoptive placements and to bond with their children.

Many children who join their families through adoption have special needs that place extra demands on the new parents. Some are entering a new culture with a different language, which can mean that they need as much time as possible to adjust to their new family and environment. Though research is inconclusive as to the age that a child can develop attachment issues, it is very clear that attachment to a parent or parents can present extra complications in the case of adoption - particularly in cases where a child has been institutionalized, has been in multiple foster homes, or is adopted as an older child.

Even if a child arrives as a healthy infant, AFABC believes that that child should have the right to as much time with their parents as other children, and that the legislation should be amended to include adoption benefits that recognize that benefits should be awarded, not because a child has been born into a family, but because a family has been formed.

Parental Benefit Basics
Should parents choose to share parental benefits, both individuals must meet the qualifying criteria—they must have a minimum of 600 insured employment hours in the year preceding a claim for benefits. A claim requires that a two-week waiting period be served. When parents decide to share parental benefits the parent filing the second claim is not required to serve the two-week waiting period.

Parents receive parental benefits up to a maximum of 35 weeks and must use the benefits within a 52-week period. They can share the entire 35 weeks of parental benefits. Both parents may take a portion of the available parental benefits either at the same time, consecutively or on alternating weeks.

The maximum of 35 weeks of parental leave also applies in cases of multiple birth or adoption. For example, the mother may be paid 30 weeks of parental benefits and then return to work. The father may claim the remaining five weeks, provided he does so within 52 weeks of the child’s placement in the parent’s care. Only one two-week waiting period may be served. The child’s date of birth or placement date is used to determine when the benefits are payable. Parental benefits for adoptive parents are payable from the date the child is placed in the parent’s home.

Important Facts about EI:

• The basic benefit rate is 55% of your average insured earnings up to a maximum of $413 per week. 

• Your EI payment is a taxable income, meaning provincial (if it applies) and federal taxes will be deducted.

• If you qualify for benefits, your payment will usually be issued within 28 days of the start date of your claim.

• If you work while on parental benefits, you can earn $50 or 25% of your weekly benefits, whichever is higher. Any monies earned above will be deducted dollar for dollar from your benefits.

• If you are adopting internationally, your benefits can start from the time the child comes into your care. You can be out of Canada and still receive parental benefits: You have to apply for benefits before you leave the country.

• If your child is hospitalized, you can claim parental benefits immediately following the child’s placement or when he or she leaves the hospital. Each week your child is hospitalized extends the period in which you can claim parental benefits, up to a maximum of 104 weeks.

For more information on EI visit www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca