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Monday, January 6, 2014

FYI: Maternity Leave

So you've found out you're pregnant. Congratulations! You have a year of maternity leave to look forward to spending time and bonding with this new addition. While it' nice to think that you won't have to work for a year, it's surprising how many ladies are unsure what to expect financially, how long they receive compensation, and how the process works in general. Not only can it be confusing to figure out, it can be frustrating when something goes wrong; most women I know have had some confusion or problem with their mat leave, myself included. Since this has been such a topic of discussion among my friends and fellow Moms, I thought it may be an opportunity to help some up- and- coming Moms navigate these waters. I will say this: I don't have all the answers or pretend to understand every quirk of the process. I can however speak from my experience and the experience of those I know to hopefully help some of you get the ball rolling.

You are going to need to do the following:
- Determine if you qualify for and can afford to take mat leave and/ or parental leave (see below)
- Decide who will take the leave? Just you, or will you share leave with your partner?
- Speak with your employer(s) re. taking leave and request the necessary info/ help
- Once you have the necessary info, apply for leave & benefits

- When the baby is born, you will need to register the birth (in BC you do this via Vital Statistics) and you have the opportunity to fill out the necessary info for the following:

  • Birth certificate
  • SIN card
  • Care card
  • Government grants/ child & family benefits- click here to see those available in Canada

Determine if you qualify for and can afford to take mat leave and/ or parental leave & 
decide who will take the leave- Just you, or will you share leave with your partner? 

To start, you'll need to decide how you want to take your leave. This may be different depending where you live, but here in BC you get 17 weeks pregnancy leave as the mother and then you can choose to use the remaining time as either maternity leave or paternity leave (collectively referred to as parental leave). Consider what your income was/ is compared to your hubby's to see if this is financially feasible for you; this time is special, and if this is something you would like for your family, you need to plan for the decrease in income for yourself and/ or your partner (in Canada, you will receive 55% of your average income from the previous 52 weeks, up to a maximum of $501/ week; for more on this, go to the Service Canada website). The following information about pregnancy leave  and parental leave is from Workrights.ca.

Pregnancy Leave
For Canadian residents, here is some important information on qualifying for EI benefits from the Service Canada website:
Are you eligible for EI maternity or parental benefits?

You may be eligible to receive EI maternity or parental benefits if:

  • you have paid EI premiums;
  • you meet the specific criteria for receiving EI maternity or parental benefits;
  • your normal weekly earnings are reduced by more than 40%; and
  • you have accumulated at least 600 hours of insurable employment during the qualifying period or, if you are a self-employed fisher, you have earned enough money during the qualifying period.

How much leave can I take?

You can take up to 17 weeks.  You may extend your leave by up to six weeks if you're unable to return to work for health reasons. 

When can I take my leave?

You can start your leave 11 weeks before your estimated due date but no later than the actual birth date of your child. You have to stay on leave until at least six weeks after your baby is born, unless you ask for a shorter period. You need to request this in writing at least one week before you want to return to work. The employer can insist on a medical certificate stating that you're able to work. Leave can end no later than 17 weeks after actual birth.

What must I do to get leave?

You must give written notice to your employer at least four weeks before you want your leave to start. Your notice should include the start and finish date of your leave. Your employer can also make you provide a medical certificate giving the expected due date.

Note: You don't lose your right to maternity leave if you fail to give written notice, as long as the employer acknowledges receipt of a verbal notice.

If you don't make the request until after your baby is born or after your pregnancy ends, you can get up to 6 consecutive weeks of leave beginning the date of birth.

Parental Leave 

How do I qualify for Parental Leave?

Mother or father of a newborn child, or the adopting parent of a child are eligible to apply for parental leave. One period of parental leave is available for each parent. Both parents are entitled to take the full leave allowed under this section.

How much leave can I take?

  • Birth mother - up to 35 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave beginning immediately after the end of the Pregnacy Leave unless the employer and employee agree otherwise.
  • Birth mother who does not take pregnancy leave - up to 37 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave beginning within 52 weeks after the child's birth.
  • Birth father - up to 37 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave beginning within 52 weeks after the child's birth.
  • Adopting parent - up to 37 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave beginning within 52 weeks after the child's birth.

If the child has a physical, psychological or emotional condition requiring an additional period of parental care, the employee is entitled to up to an additional 5 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave, beginning immediately after the end of the Parental Leave.

Speak with your employer(s) re. taking leave and request the necessary info/ help
Working for my family business, we didn't have an HR department with someone who knew all the ins and outs of EI and mat leave. If you happen to work for an organization that does, use it to your advantage and find out who might be able to help you. Since this individual is familiar with your workplace's policies and should be knowledgeable in the process, they may be able to answer some questions for you and help you get the process started. They will also likely be the person responsible for sending in your ROE (record of employment) so you can claim compensation. Remember you'll need the following info:
  • You will need to know how many hours you have worked in the past 52 weeks (you need at least 600 in Canada to qualify for EI maternity/ parental benefits)
  • You and/ or your employer need to complete your ROE (record of employment) and submit it (you can mail a physical copy or complete it online) *I recommend completing it online- I sent mine via mail and it was a disaster
  • Determine when you plan to start taking leave (you can take leave prior to the birth or starting no later than the date of birth)
Also ask about additional things you need to know/ consider that are specific to your employer. This can include items such as additional top- ups, combining accumulated holiday/ sick days with your leave, how your position will be protected/ held until your return. Also try and talk to others you work with who have taken mat/ pat leave; do they have any advice? Were there any challenges? Extra benefits? Etc. 

Apply for leave/ benefits
The following information is from the Service Canada website
Do I need to apply to receive EI maternity or parental benefits?
Yes. You need to apply for EI benefits, since Service Canada first needs to determine whether you are entitled to receive them. Benefits are not paid to you automatically, even if you have received a Record of Employment (ROE) from your employer.

When should I apply?

You should apply as soon as possible after you stop working, even if your employer has not issued your ROE yet. If you delay applying for benefits later than four weeks after your last day of work, you risk losing benefits.

Applying for EI maternity benefits

You can apply for EI maternity benefits before you give birth. In fact, you can start receiving benefits during the eighth week before your due date or before the actual week you give birth. You cannot receive EI maternity benefits more than 17 weeks after the week you were expected to give birth or the week you actually gave birth, whichever is later. When the actual date of birth is different from the expected date of birth, you must let us know the child's actual date of birth as soon as possible by calling 1-800-206-7218 (TTY: 1-800-529-3742) or by visiting a Service Canada Centre.
The date you submit your application is very important, since it affects the amount of maternity benefits you are entitled to receive. If you have difficulty determining which maternity benefit period works best for you, call us at 1-800-206-7218 (TTY: 1-800-529-3742).





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