Pregnancy and Parental Leave during the COVID-19 Pandemic
March 30, 2020 Read Time: 2 minutes
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During this unprecedented pandemic, many Canadians are facing reduced hours, lay-offs, and even job loss.

Nelligan Law gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Melanie Sutton, Student-at-law, in writing this blog post.

On March 25, 2020, the federal government announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

On March 25, 2020, the federal government announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This program is intended to provide $2,000 per month for up to 4 months to anyone who is unable to work for at least 14 consecutive days because of COVID-19. The federal government has indicated this program will include people who are required to self-quarantine or to self-isolate, people who have to care for children or other family members, as well as those who are laid-off or who lose their job as a result of the pandemic.

However, for those who are pregnant and looking ahead to their maternity and/or parental leaves, these periods of work interruption will undoubtedly raise the question: If you are laid off or lose your job for a reason related to COVID-19, how will your entitlement to maternity or parental leave benefits be affected?

To be eligible for maternity and parental leave benefits, you must have worked at least 600 hours in the 52 weeks prior to your claim. However, receiving Employment Insurance (EI) benefits during that prior 52-week period may impact the maternity or parental benefits to which you are entitled.

If you have received EI benefits within the 52-week period before the start of your claim for maternity or parental benefits and have not worked 600 hours since receiving EI before the start of your claim, you may not be eligible for the maximum number of weeks of maternity or parental benefits. At this time, the federal government has not clarified whether receiving the CERB will impact an individual’s eligibility for the maximum number of weeks of maternity and parental leaves.

If you or your spouse is pregnant and are facing a lay-off or job loss, you may want to speak with your employer about keeping you on at least part-time so that you can accumulate your 600 hours before you go on maternity or parental leave.

If you had only recently returned to work following your maternity or parental leave and are now unable to work for a reason related to COVID-19, you will likely qualify for the CERB. If you received at least $5,000 in income from either employment, self-employment, or EI maternity or parental benefits either in 2019 or in the past 12 months and are off work for at least 14 consecutive days, you will qualify for the federal government’s new CERB.

The situation is fluid and new measures may be announced to assist new parents and expecting parents during this difficult time. We encourage you to check our blog and website for more information as it becomes available. We also encourage you to consult the Service Canada website on Employment Insurance benefits and leave. For more information about how your circumstances will affect your entitlement to maternity and parental leave, you can also contact Service Canada. You may also benefit from speaking with a lawyer from our employment group.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2020 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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