COVID-19 disruption worried some parents about losing maternity benefits


When Alicia Taylor was laid off the week of March 20, she was concerned that EI would eat away at the maternity leave she planned to take in May.

“My biggest concern (was) am I losing my maternity leave because I was fired because of this pandemic? ” she says.

However, on March 25, the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit was announced and Taylor is now receiving CERB pending the request for maternity leave.

It worked well for Taylor because she was laid off after March 15. If Taylor had been laid off a week earlier and had applied for employment insurance, she would receive that benefit instead of CERB and her concerns would be justified.

Receiving CERB does not affect entitlement to maternity and parental benefits, but EI does, said a spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada in an email.

Lara Speirs, Executive Vice-President, General Counsel, Legal and Public Affairs, Human Resources Consulting Firm Randstad Canada, said that the new combination of worker benefit programs may leave some pregnant parents out alongside the benefits of parental leave.

Employment experts say navigating this new combination of benefits programs could leave some pregnant parents in the cracks.

Lara Speirs, Executive Vice-President of Human Resources Consulting Firm Randstad Canada, and Employment Lawyer Madeleine Loewenberg are just two experts who hope the government can work out the details so that Canadians’ expectations for EI or CERB don’t have to worry about receiving their full maternity and parental benefits when the time comes.

They identified two ways in which the pandemic could throw a key to maternity and parental leave plans.


The first problem, says Speirs, is one that Taylor narrowly avoided.

Employment Insurance, maternity and parental benefits are all administered through the same program. A person is entitled to a total of 50 weeks, regardless of the combination – which means that for each week of EI they take, they will get one week of maternity or parental leave.

“When a person combines regular benefits, maternity benefits and standard parental benefits in one application, there is a limit of 50 weeks in total,” said the government spokesperson.

The spokesman also noted that there are options for extended parental benefits. However, Loewenberg pointed out that if you can extend parental leave to get up to 18 months off, you’re going to run out of money – you just get less per week.

Regular maternity or parental leave is calculated as EI – 55 percent of insurable earnings, up to $ 573 per week, said Loewenberg. If you extend this leave, which can last up to an additional six months, you will get 33% of insurable earnings, up to $ 344 per week.

So if someone has lost their job due to the pandemic, applied for employment insurance before March 15, and later applied for maternity leave, they will be entitled to fewer weeks of maternity leave. / parental and less money even if she extends her leave.

Speirs thinks that this discrepancy could be corrected either by removing the arbitrary date of March 15, or by allowing future parents of EI to switch to CERB.

You are effectively penalized for your pregnancy and for the time of your layoff, she said.

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Loewenberg understands that the government had to set a deadline, but believes that expecting Canadians in this situation not to lose their benefits because of this.

The second problem, said Speirs, is that depending on a person’s previous employment situation and when they were laid off, they could lose their entitlement to maternity or parental leave.

“You have to accumulate 600 hours of insured work within 52 weeks before you start your maternity or paternity claim,” she said.

So while someone may have CERB to repel them after losing their income, they may not be eligible for maternity or parental leave when they apply.

The more a person is on CERB and the fewer working hours in 2019, the more it will affect their maternity claim, said Loewenberg.

“The weeks of insurable earnings start to decrease the more you expect to lose your job on the date of your claim,” she said, adding that she sees a “hole” that has not yet been filled by the government. .

There are a few other things that Canadians expect to know if they plan to take maternity or parental leave or just get out, said Speirs and Loewenberg.

Canadians have the option of requesting maternity leave early, within 12 weeks of the expected date of birth.

Madeleine Loewenberg, co-founder of Loewenberg Psarris Workplace Law, has identified ways in which the pandemic could throw a key to maternity and parental leave plans.

If you were temporarily laid off first and then found yourself permanently laid off during your maternity or parental leave, you are entitled to severance pay, said Speirs.

And, if you have just left maternity or parental leave and are now unemployed because of COVID-19, you are eligible for CERB, she said.

Speirs noted that in Quebec – a leader in parental leave – a parent can suspend maternity or parental leave to return to work for a short time.

Loewenberg and Speirs recommend that people awaiting maternity leave take CERB in the meantime, although there are a few unanswered questions.

Rosa Saba


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