Changes to the Employment Insurance Maternity and Parental Benefits

The 2017 federal budget contained some minor improvements to EI benefits for new parents. The changes will affect related benefits included in Collective Agreement of PSAC members working in the Core Public Administration and Separate Agencies.

As of December 3, 2017, the following changes to the Employment Insurance Act (EI) will take effect:

  1. Under the new EI rules, Maternity Leave will remain 15 weeks at 55 per cent of insurable earnings, regardless of how parental leave is taken. However, mothers may start maternity leave up to 12 weeks (formerly 8 weeks) before the baby is born. The maximum duration of the EI maternity benefits remains at 15 weeks.

There will be no impact to the maternity allowance top-up contained within the collective agreements. Employee will still receive a top-up based on the difference between the EI maternity benefits and 93% of the employee’s weekly rate of pay.

  1. Regarding Parental Leave, there are now two options:
  • Parents can choose to receive EI benefits over the current 35 weeks at the existing 55 per cent of their insurable earnings or;
  • Parents can opt to receive EI benefits over a 61 weeks period at 33 per cent of their insurable earnings.

Once the change in legislation takes effect, all workers residing outside of Québec will have access to the new EI benefits. As Québec runs its own parental insurance program, the EI changes will not apply to parents residing the province.

Members should review their options carefully and choose the option that best suits their needs.

Parents need to select their option for EI parental benefits (standard or extended) at the time of applying for EI benefits. Parents will not be able to combine these two options; they must select one or the other.

Those parents already receiving Employment Insurance benefits at the time the law comes into effect (December 3, 2017) will not be able to convert their leave.

The parental leave top-up provision language in the collective agreements will continue to apply. If employees elect to receive the lower replacement benefits over a 61 weeks’ period:

  • They will remain entitled to the difference between EI parental benefits and 93% of their weekly rate of pay.
  • However, under the current collective agreement, the maximum shared maternity and parental allowances payable is 52 weeks, which included 35 weeks of parental allowance.
  • Until we renegotiate the collective agreement, at the end of the 52 weeks’ period, the top-up allowance will cease and employees will only be entitled to receive 33% EI parental benefits for the remainder of the extended parental leave without pay period.

Also, the current collective agreement does not allow for parental LWOP in excess of 37 weeks in the 52-week period beginning on the day on which the child is born (or the day on which the child comes into the employee’s care),

For the moment, members wishing to choose the extended parental leave option will have to take care and nurturing leave for the additional weeks.

While the changes to parental benefits are an improvement, many parents cannot afford to live off only 33% of their income. This would certainly be difficult, if not impossible, for single parents or parents whose partner does not have a high enough income to support the family. This 18 month leave at 33% of income for parents is also not a substitute for a high quality, accessible child care system.

For these reasons, PSAC is looking to negotiate further improvements for our members on this issue. Our objective is to extend the current 12 months Maternity and Parental leave top up to the full 18-month period.

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December 2, 2017
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