Maternity Leave In Ontario: A Comprehensive Overview

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Maternity leave in Ontario is similar to other provinces (except Quebec) and territories since it’s administered by the federal government. What makes maternity and parental benefits in Canada appealing is that you can still earn an income for up to 18 months while staying home to take care of your child.

When you’re on maternity leave in Ontario or parental leave, you’re on Employment Insurance (commonly known as EI) which pays up to 55% of your earnings, to a maximum of $638 a week (As of January 1, 2022). While these benefits are taxable, many Canadians feel less stress as they’re not worried about returning to work after just a few months because they lack an income.

Knowing how maternity leave works in Canada is vital since not everyone qualifies for EI benefits and it isn’t automatically given as soon as you have a child. Keep reading to understand everything there is about maternity leave in Ontario.

Maternity leave in Ontario vs. Parental leave in Ontario

One thing that confuses new parents is that maternity leave is different from parental leave. That’s right, there are two types of leave. They’re similar, but there are a few minor differences that you need to be aware of as they’ll affect how much money you’ll get.

Maternity leave in Ontario 

Maternity leave benefits only apply to people who are away from work because they’re pregnant or have just given birth. This is for birth mothers. That means if you’re adopting or you’ve used a surrogate, neither parent would qualify for maternity leave benefits.

You can claim up to 15 weeks of standard benefits for maternity leave, but parents cannot share these benefits. Since parental leave can follow maternity leave, you can apply for both benefits at the same time.

Parental leave in Ontario 

Parental leave (sometimes mistakenly referred to as paternity leave) in Ontario applies to both parents of a newborn or newly adopted child. These benefits can be shared, but you must choose between standard parental benefits or extended parental benefits. When sharing, parents must submit their own application and select the same option.

You also have the choice to take parental leave at the same time as your partner or one after another. Keep in mind that once you start getting your parental benefits, you can’t change options.

Standard parental leave in Ontario gives you up to 40 weeks of benefits. However, no parent can exceed 35 weeks of benefits. Note that new rules introduced in 2019 allows you to take 5 weeks of standard parental leave without affecting your spouse’s maximum of 35 weeks which is why there’s a limit of 40 weeks total.

When it comes to extended parental leave in Ontario, parents get up to 69 weeks of benefits, but no parent can exceed 61 weeks of benefits.

Note that maternity and parental leave are part of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act. Your employer can’t deny you these benefits. 

Maternity Leave in Ontario eligibility

To qualify for maternity leave and parental leave benefits in Ontario, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • You’re pregnant or have recently given birth when applying for maternity benefits
  • You’re a parent with a newborn or newly adopted child when applying for parental benefits
  • Your weekly earnings have decreased by more than 40% for at least one week
  • You have accumulated 600 insured hours of work in the 52 weeks before the start of your claim or since the start of your last claim (whichever is shorter)
    • Due to COVID-19, you currently only need 120 insured hours to qualify

While the above criteria are straightforward, you can always speak to a Service Canada representative to find out if you’re eligible. Part-time and full-time employees would qualify for maternity leave benefits as long as they meet the above criteria.

Once you come back from maternity leave, you would need to regain enough insured hours of work to go off on leave again. Similar to before, there’s no qualifying period. You could come back for six months and then go off again assuming you’ve met the eligibility obligations. 

Pregnant employees that have a miscarriage or stillbirth more than 17 weeks before the baby’s due date do not qualify for pregnancy leave. However, if happens after that time frame, you’re still able to claim EI maternity benefits while you take time off.

Maternity Leave in Ontario for self-employed individuals

If you’re self-employed, you can still qualify for maternity leave in Ontario, but you need to register for access to EI special benefits for self-employed people. In addition, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • A minimum of 12 months must have passed since your confirmed registration
  • The time you spend on your business has decreased by more than 40% for at least one week because you’re pregnant, have recently given birth, or you’re caring for your newborn or newly adopted child
  • You meet the minimum earned income amount during the previous calendar year before you apply for benefits. For 2020, you need to have earned at least $7,279 in 2019.

As long as you have a valid social insurance number, you may be eligible for maternity and parental benefits. This even applies to people who aren’t Canadian citizens.

Maternity leave pay in Ontario

As of January 1st, 2022, maternity leave pay in Ontario is 55% of your insurable earnings to a maximum salary of $60,300. That works out to a total of up to $638 a week.

For those who are taking parental leave, you have two options that pay different sums. Standard parental benefits will allow you to receive 55% of your insurable income for up to 40 weeks. Remember, no one parent can exceed 35 weeks of pregnancy leave pay in Ontario.

If you choose to take extended parental leave, your pay is 33% of your insurable income for up to 69 weeks. This gives you a weekly pay of up to $383. Again, no one parent can exceed 61 weeks of parental leave benefits.

The maximum amount of EI benefits you are entitled to is the same when it comes to standard and extended parental leave. It’s just paid out over 35 weeks or 61 weeks depending on your choice.

That said, those who take standard parental benefits and return to work after 12 months where they can earn their full salary, often come out with more money than those who take the extended leave.

Some employers offer maternity or parental leave top-up which can give you a nice boost to your income for a period of time. For example, your employer might top up your pay up to 80% of your income. That means they would give you an additional 25% of your pay on top of the 55% you’re getting from EI. Not every employer offers this, so check with yours to see what you’re entitled to.

Keep in mind that there is a one-week period where you won’t be paid which is referred to as the waiting period. The government likes to think of this as a deductible. Maternity and parental benefits are also fully taxable. How much you’ll pay depends on your household income, but for most people, it’ll be lower than their usual tax rate.

What you do with your benefits is up to you. Most people use it for regular bills and expenses, but there’s nothing stopping you from investing it in your high interest savings accountRRSPTFSA, or RESP. Some people even use the money to pay off their debt.

How to apply for maternity leave in Ontario

As soon as you stop working, you’ll want to apply for maternity leave in Ontario. Do not delay your application! If it takes you more than 4 weeks after your last day of work to apply, you could lose some of your benefits.

The actual process of applying for maternity leave is easy. Just follow these steps:

  • Choose your benefits
  • Complete the online application
  • Provide the required information
  • Wait for your benefit statement and access code to arrive by mail
  • Review your application

If your application is approved, you’ll get your first payment about four weeks after you applied. If your banking information is set up with your CRA account, then the money you’re entitled to will be directly deposited into your account. If not, you’ll get a physical cheque in the mail.

Unlike regular EI, you can still receive maternity and parental benefits while outside Canada. To find out when your EI payments end, check your My Service Canada Account.

Additional things to be aware of when going on maternity leave

Some of your employment benefits may include maternity leave top-up. That’s where your employer may pay the difference between what you get from EI and your regular wages. Since this is free money, it’s in the best interest of couples to take advantage of anything that’s offered.

While you’re out on your weeks of maternity leave, your regular benefits such as dental plans and contributions to pension plans won’t apply. However, some companies will let you buy into those perks when you’re off, which is likely worth it. Some employers may also offer unpaid time off if you need longer leave. Unpaid leave is not mandatory, so it’s up to the employer to decide.

Another expense you’ll want to factor in is life insurance. Now that you have a dependent, getting life insurance is the smart thing to do since it’ll protect your loved ones in case you were to suddenly pass. Term life insurance is relatively inexpensive, so it’s worth getting.

Final thoughts

The cost of raising a child in Canada is not cheap. Fortunately, there are government programs that provide financial assistance to people who qualify. Maternity and parental benefits will help, but be sure to get a hold of your finances as you’ll likely be spending a small fortune on your child for the next 20 years.

Maternity Leave In Ontario: A Comprehensive Overview

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi


  1. Ashley on September 24, 2020 at 12:19 PM

    Hey Barry! Question. If a mom decided to take 18 months maternity (extended) mat leave/ei paid only for 12 months? or paid up to the 18 month?

    • Barry Choi on September 24, 2020 at 12:24 PM


      You get 12 months of pay stretched out to 18months.

      • Nayan on April 19, 2022 at 12:55 PM

        Hi Barry,
        My wife left Job in January month when she got news of pregnancy ( within 1st month).
        But we have not specified reason of pregnancy when she left job.
        Her due date is 20 sept 2022.
        So In last one year period from this date she completed 500 insurable hrs. So if she applicable to get maternity benefit ?

  2. Nadine on January 4, 2021 at 12:52 PM

    Hi Barry,

    I am confused about the parental and maternity leave.

    How do you get the full 18 months off? Do you apply for the mat leave first, followed by parental? I am planning on working right up until a week before my due date.

    • Barry Choi on January 4, 2021 at 5:21 PM

      Hi Nadine,

      It’s technically done at the same time when you apply for EI. Maternity happens first which is followed by parental leave. If I recall correctly, you just need to designated which parent is off. You can change it later but I’m fairly positive that if you choose 12 months, you can’t go to 18 later.

  3. Candace on February 8, 2022 at 4:38 PM

    Will I qualify for maternity leave if I am currently/recently unemployed but did work at least 600 insured hours in the last 12 months before my due date?

    • Barry Choi on February 9, 2022 at 6:24 AM


      You should qualify still.

    • Caroline on March 8, 2022 at 11:09 AM

      Hello Barry!
      When is the earliest I can start my maternity leave and apply for maternity benefits? 17 weeks before due date?

      • Barry Choi on March 8, 2022 at 11:11 AM

        Hi Caroline.

        See here –

        Applying for EI maternity benefits
        You can apply for EI maternity benefits before you give birth. In fact, you can start receiving benefits as early as 12 weeks 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.

  4. Amanda on February 23, 2022 at 11:53 AM

    Hi Barry,

    I am in sales and make a base + commission how does this work for applying for maternity leave will the pay be based on my total income or just my base?

    • Barry Choi on February 23, 2022 at 12:52 PM


      It should be based on your total compensation (assuming you include your commission when filing your taxes).

  5. Yohannes Beyene on February 25, 2022 at 12:17 AM

    Hi Barry,

    My wife stopped working on December 10, 2021 due to health reason that resulted in a high risk pregnancy. Her family doctor advised (medical certificate) her to take a bed rest (unable to work) for the rest of her pregnancy time.

    Since we have been stressed out with her senior pregnancy for more than a month from that day and decided finally to apply for sickness Benefit and applied on February 8, 2022.

    She has more than 420 insurance hours. So, is it possible to request for a back sate approval from December 10, 21 and forwards to get her sickness benefits which then followed by maternity and parental benefits?

  6. Caroline on March 3, 2022 at 10:18 PM

    Hello Barry ! I’m self employee,I need to apply for a special EI,but I would need to know if my application for maternity leave benefit would be accepted as I’m expecting to have a baby in May 2022,
    Thank you

  7. Kristen on March 28, 2022 at 5:10 PM

    Hi Barry,
    I will be going on maternity leave in July 2022.
    My husband works in a trade and will be laid off from his job to go on EI. Does he get regular EI since he is laid off? Or does his EI still count as “parental leave” and come out of our 40 week allowance?

    Thank you!

    • Barry Choi on March 28, 2022 at 7:33 PM


      It would make more sense for your husband to just claim regular EI and you claim all the maternity benefits so you don’t lose out on anything.

  8. Sparkles on March 31, 2022 at 8:49 PM

    Hi Barry,

    Thank you for this article. If I choose to take a shorter maternity/parental leave, for example 6 or 9 months instead of the standard 12 months, do I get a higher EI pay per week?

    • Barry Choi on April 1, 2022 at 7:24 AM


      No, EI caps at the weekly limit regardless of how long you take off.

  9. KM on April 6, 2022 at 4:35 PM

    Hi Barry,

    From what I am seeing, maternity leave in Ontario is 17 weeks? Do you only receive the benefit for 15?

    Also, if sharing parental leave with my husband and going for the “Standard” parental leave, would the following be correct?

    Pregnancy/Maternity leave – 15 (or 17 weeks)
    Parental Leave – 5 weeks (as mom)
    Parental Leave – 35 weeks (as dad)

    For a total of 57 weeks? That equates to 14.5 months not 12, so I feel like I am adding something up incorrectly lol.


    • Barry Choi on April 6, 2022 at 7:13 PM


      You get up to 17 weeks of pregnancy leave in Ontario which is unpaid time off.

      MAternity leave is 15 weeks which qualifies for EI.
      Standard Parental leave is up to 40 weeks as long as one partner doesn’t exceed 35 weeks.

      Here’s a quick explainer:

      As for your original math, there are 52 weeks in a year. Looks like you were assuming 4 weeks a month.

      • KM on April 6, 2022 at 7:53 PM

        I definitely was lol! Thank you for the information!

  10. Yu on April 11, 2022 at 1:23 AM

    Hi Barry,
    My wife is pregnant but is not employed, so she would not be able to get mat leave or parental leave. I work full time, would I still be able to apply for Parental leave in this situation?

    • Barry Choi on April 11, 2022 at 6:13 AM

      Hi Yu,

      Yes, you would still qualify for paternity leave.

  11. Sarah on April 25, 2022 at 5:22 PM

    Hi there,

    I’m on long term disability, but have only been on it four months. Before this, I had a medical leave EI claim, so I don’t have my work hours to qualify for parental leave when I give birth in November. Can I take an unpaid (no EI) parental leave from my job so that I can be home with my baby for a year, and then go back to work, get my requisite hours in, and then apply for an EI paid parental leave for the same birth?

  12. Kasia on May 9, 2022 at 7:51 PM

    Hi Barry,

    Is it possible to take the 12 month EI payments but take the full 18 months from my employer and work a part-time job for the additional 6 months? I’m assuming this wouldnt impact my EI payments as long as I wasn’t making income during the 12 months of my EI payments?

    • Barry Choi on May 9, 2022 at 7:56 PM


      No, that’s not possible.

  13. Simone on May 16, 2022 at 12:43 PM

    Hi Barry,
    Am I eligible to get maternity/parental
    If I still receive previously earned commissions from my job? Ie am I eligible for Maternity ei
    If I still have other income?

  14. Stephanie on May 22, 2022 at 9:54 PM

    Hi Barry I am on maternity leave for 12 months. My daughter is almost 10 months old and I want to extend my leave to 18 months. I’m told that I will be unpaid for those extra 6 months. If that is so, am I able to work a part time job without getting my wages garnished?

    • Barry Choi on May 23, 2022 at 6:30 AM


      Since you won’t be on EI anymore, there’s no clawback. You’d just be earning regular income.

  15. Rebecca on May 24, 2022 at 4:05 PM

    Hi Barry,

    I am due to give birth in September 2022. I have been unable to work since March due to the physical nature of my job and issues with the pregnancy. I was previously on medical leave until January of 2022, and do not have the hours to qualify for maternity leave.
    Am I still eligible for unpaid pregnancy leave (up to 17 weeks prior to due date) and then unpaid parental leave (once the baby is born)?
    I am not concerned about compensation but, would like to ensure my job and benefits are secure, as I have high prescription drug costs and losing my benefits would be a severe financial hardship.

    • Barry Choi on May 24, 2022 at 7:59 PM


      From what I understand, authorized sick leave should not affect your maternity/parental benefits. YOu should call Service Canada to confirm.

      As for unpaid time off, you’d have to ask your employer if they can provide that to you. That said, many employers would require you to continue to pay into the drug plan if you’re off to continue to receive benefits. You may have to speak to your HR department about your situation.

  16. Rhea on June 6, 2022 at 9:49 AM

    Hi Barry.

    I’m due for June 15th and currently employed on Contract basis in Ontario. Is it possible I can go for parental leave after September once my contract ends or is there a time frame after delivery as to take the parental leave?

    • Barry Choi on June 6, 2022 at 5:27 PM


      I believe you can, but you’d have to contact Service Canada to confirm.

  17. Erica on June 16, 2022 at 6:06 PM


    It says that you can take maternity leave as early as up to 15 weeks. If I am due august 25 and planning to work till august 15. I am eligible for both maternity and parental leave. Will the parental leave kick in as soon as I deliver or I can max out the 15 weeks of maternity leave before the parental leave kicks in?


    • Barry Choi on June 16, 2022 at 6:33 PM


      You get all your weeks of maternity and parental regardless of when you started maternity and when your child is born.

      • Erica Tarnate on June 16, 2022 at 6:38 PM

        Thank you! One more thing. My husband wants to take a a month or 2 off after my 12 months of leave. Is that possible? Do we need to apply for that?

        • Barry Choi on June 16, 2022 at 7:46 PM


          You can split parental leave, so your husband wouldn’t be able to take two months off if you took the entire 12 months. The only exception is if you took extended leave where you split 18 months.

      • Bennie on June 17, 2022 at 6:43 PM

        Hi Barry,

        Can I attend full time online classes for college at the same time that I would be receiving my parental leave benefits? And do single parents qualify for a higher amount of ei benefits?

        • Barry Choi on June 19, 2022 at 8:30 PM

          Hi Bennie,

          Yes, you can attend school while on parental leave. You do not get any additional benefits as a single parent.

  18. Erica on June 17, 2022 at 1:08 PM

    Hi Barry,
    I just want to understand the leave is 18months in total with guarantee your job ?
    I am confused? I only knows then leave is for one year and half? Is it about payment or my securely job too?

    • Barry Choi on June 17, 2022 at 2:13 PM


      You get up to 12 months off if you can standard maternity / parental leave. If you choose extended parental leave, you get up to 18 months off. In both cases, there’s a maximum amount of $ from EI that you can receive. You don’t get more by choosing one over the other.

      Tehnically speaking, your employer needs to guarantee you a job when you return from your leave. That said, if your old position has been eliminated, your employer could offer you a similar job if available.

  19. Sean on June 21, 2022 at 9:15 PM

    Hi Barry,
    My wife is starting Maternity leave 2 weeks before her due date, can I start receiving parental benefits the day my baby is born?
    I’m pretty much asking can we both receive EI at the same time, her maternity and I parental?

    • Barry Choi on June 22, 2022 at 6:14 AM

      Hi Sean,

      I believe it’s possible, but once you start parental leave benefits, you can’t stop them. That would limit how much time your wife can take after her maternity leave benefits end.

      • Vanessa on June 24, 2022 at 8:19 PM

        Hi Barry,

        I am going on mat leave soon and plan to take maternity and extended parental leave. I’d like my husband to be off for the first 4 weeks once the baby is born. Is this possible without interfering with my extended parental leave allotment?

        • Barry Choi on June 24, 2022 at 8:23 PM


          In theory, parental leave can be taken at the same time, however, once it starts, it can’t be stopped. That means it would cut into the parental time you get after your maternity leave ends.

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