Maternity leave provisions under the Federal Employment Insurance (EI) program are paid to a maximum of 52 weeks. This includes the two-week waiting period, 15 weeks maternity leave, and 35 weeks parental leave that can be taken by either parent.

Biological mothers are entitled to the maternity benefits. Biological and adoptive parents are entitled to the parental benefits. An additional maximum of 15 weeks

EI sickness benefits can be taken in combination with maternity/parental benefits if a mother is incapable of doing any work and has a medical certificate saying how long she’ll be unable to work.

Many CUPE locals have successfully negotiated wage top-ups to supplement EI benefits. The EI legislation allows for a maximum wage top-up of 97 per cent, but this has to be negotiated or agreed to by the employer. Locals should strive to negotiate wage top-ups that cover the entire leave period. The agreement should also ensure the same benefits are extended to workers in same-sex relationships.

Provisions are negotiated to protect service and benefits for workers on maternity and parental leave. Employers are required to reinstate workers in their former job or comparable position upon return to work. It’s good practice to include such a provision in the collective agreement.

Additional negotiated safeguards are provided to pregnant workers and new mothers. Such safeguards include not having to work in front of video display terminals or lift heavy objects. Other provisions allow new mothers breaks for breastfeeding.