This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared in Focus on Adoption several years ago. It explains parental benefits in Canada and why adoptive families currently don’t qualify for maternity leave.
Under the current Employment Insurance (EI) legislation, biological mothers are entitled to 15 weeks of maternity leave and either 35 weeks of standard parental leave or 61 weeks of extended parental leave. Adoptive parents only qualify for the parental leave portion. For years, the Canadian government has ignored protests from the adoption community that this discriminates against adoptive families.
Current EI regulations attempt, through maternity leave, to ensure that biological mothers have time to physically recover from pregnancy and the birth of their children. While adoptive parents do not give birth, they would also 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 at which a child can develop attachment issues, it is very clear that attachment to an adoptive parent or parents can be a complicated process—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, they should have the right to as much time with their parents as other children.
Parental benefit basics
If you qualify for parental benefits (learn more at www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-maternity-parental/eligibility....), there are two options available to you: standard and extended leave.
- Standard parental benefits can be paid for a maximum of 35 weeks and must be claimed within a 52 week period (12 months) after the week the child was born or placed for the purpose of adoption. The weekly benefit rate is 55% of the claimant’s average weekly insurable earnings up to a maximum amount. The two parents can share these 35 weeks of standard parental benefits.
- Extended parental benefits can be paid for a maximum of 61 weeks and must be claimed within a 78-week period (18 months) after the week the child was born or placed for the purpose of adoption. The benefit rate is 33% of the claimant’s average weekly insurable earnings up to a maximum amount. The two parents can share these 61 weeks of extended parental benefits.
Parents who choose to share their leave may take their portion of the parental benefits at the same time, consecutively, or on alternating weeks.
Important facts about EI
- 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 adopt internationally, your benefits can start from the time the child enters your care. You can receive parental benefits while outside of Canada; however, you have to apply 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 parental benefits visit www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-maternity-parental.html.