How to Become Eligible for Maternity Benefits

In Canada, maternity benefits are offered to mothers for up to 15 weeks, ranging from 8 weeks prior to giving birth to 17 weeks after. Not every biological or surrogate mother gets the full 15 weeks, irrespective of the number of children you have. You may have triplets and still not get 15 weeks of benefits.

If you have made employment insurance payments, you meet the specific requirements for receiving benefits, and your weekly income is lowered by over 40 percent, then you are eligible to receive benefits. However, you should also have at least 600 hours of employment, subject to insurance benefits during the respective period.
Employment insurance payments or premiums are sums of money that are deducted from your salary by your employer. Your age is irrelevant to the amount of insurance premiums you make. This amount is fixed it is $1.78 per every one hundred dollars you earn this year up to the annual maximum insurable amount of $44,200. Therefore, the maximum amount of insurance payments you are subject to would be $786.76. This is valid for every Canadian province except Quebec, where the premium is $1.41 per $100 of earnings, up to a maximum annual amount. The rates are revised each year.

What are the specific requirements for receiving benefits? Maternity benefits are available only to biological mothers who cannot work because they are pregnant or have recently given birth. This means that adoptive mothers cannot receive maternity benefits. Adoptive parents are eligible for parental benefits in some cases.
What is meant by the qualifying period, mentioned earlier? This is either the 52-week period prior to the start date of the employment insurance period or the period following the beginning of a previous EI benefit period, if this term began in the last year, whichever is the shorter of the two. You need to have at least 600 hours of insurable employment in this period. This probably will not apply to you, but self-employed fishers also qualify if they have made at least $3,760 during the 31-week qualifying period before the period, during which they are entitled to receive benefits.

You should apply for maternity benefits as soon as possible after you stop working. You may lose them if you postpone your application for more than four weeks after your last day of work. It is possible to apply before you give birth as well. You cannot receive maternity benefits after 17 weeks after you have given birth or you were expecting to give birth, and these have passed, whichever is later.

Keep in mind that leave entitlements may differ from one province to another. The province of Quebec, for example, has adopted the program Quebec Parental Insurance Plan, through which it provides adoption, parental, paternity, and maternity benefits to residents. The Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity of Quebec offers this program since 2006. Other types of benefits, including compassionate care and sickness benefits, offered by Employment Insurance, remain available.

Some parents live outside of Canada and want to receive maternity and parental benefits in their country of residence. This is possible, but you should inform Service Canada.

When filing your report, it is possible that you make mistakes. So, it is important to know what this means in this context. A mistake is to estimate your weekly earnings rather than write the actual amount earned. Another common mistake is to enter a wrong number when you are reporting earnings. Other mistakes include not declaring the earnings received and incorrectly adding the amount of earnings or number of hours. Keep in mind that mistakes of this kind may delay benefit payments, or you may not be paid the amount you are entitled to. If there are changes in your circumstances, or you notice a mistake, it is important to notify Service Canada as soon as possible. This helps avoid persecution, penalties, and future problems.