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Paternity Leave in Canada: A Guide for Employers

June 12, 2023

If you’re hiring employees in Canada, you’ll need to know about the rules around paternity leave in the country. Additionally, offering extra paternity perks can make you a more competitive employer and help you attract top talent from Canada. 

The Government of Canada has a comprehensive set of regulations around parental leave and maternity benefits, and some provinces, such as Quebec and Ontario, have their own legal frameworks, so you’ll need to check the rules depending on where your employees live. 

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the paternity leave laws in Canada that all employers need to know.

How Does Paternity Leave Work in Canada?

In Canada, there are two types of leave for new parents — maternity and parental leave. Maternity leave is available to birth-giving while parental benefits are available to non-birth-giving parents of a new baby. Adoptive parents can apply for either maternity or parental leave benefits. 

Parental leave and benefits can be split between both parents, giving more flexibility to families and covering all types of families, including LGBTQ+ couples and people who are adopting. New parents can choose from two options: standard or extended parental leave.

Standard Parental Leave

In 2019, the federal government made some key changes to the rules governing parental and maternity leave in Canada. Before, parents got 35 weeks of parental leave to split between them. Now, there is an additional five weeks for a total of 40 weeks of standard parental leave. 

Parents can choose to split their parental leave however they want, as long as one parent does not receive more than 35 weeks. A minimum of five weeks are reserved for “daddy days” to encourage fathers to use parental leave. If the father or parent does not take this leave, the family will lose the time and benefits allotted to them. Parents can choose to take their maternity and parental leave simultaneously or one after the other. 

Extended Parental Leave

With extended parental leave, parents can take shared leave and benefits for up to 69 weeks — 61 shared weeks plus eight weeks of “daddy days.”


All fathers and non-birth-giving parents are eligible for parental leave as long as they have contributed at least 600 hours of work towards Employment Insurance (EI) in the past year (52 weeks).

Parental Leave Benefits in Canada

Parental leave in Canada is paid for through the EI program as follows.

Standard Parental Benefits

With standard parental leave, parents share 40 weeks of paid parental leave, with a limit of 35 weeks per parent. The weekly benefit rate is 55% of the parent’s average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum of $650 per week, and the benefits must be paid within 52 weeks of the birth or adoption of the child. 

Extended Parental Benefits

With extended parental benefits, parents receive 69 shared weeks of paid parental leave, with a limit of 61 weeks per parent. The benefit rate is 33% of the parent’s average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum of $390 per week, and the benefits must be paid within 78 weeks after the child is born or adopted.

Important to Note

There is a two-week “waiting period” before benefits kick in — make sure you inform your employees of this so that new parents can factor it into their budgeting.

Some employers also provide a parental leave “top-up” program that makes up the remainder of their employees’ salaries not covered by EI. Although this is optional, it can boost your employer brand and help with employee retention.

Bear in mind that, in most cases, employers must also keep paying employees’ benefits while they’re on leave. This includes health, pension, and life insurance plans.

How to Apply for Parental Leave in Canada

To apply for parental leave in Canada, parents must bear the following in mind:

  • The employee must apply for parental leave separately from their partner. 
  • The employee must choose the same type of leave as their partner and give two weeks’ written notice, specifying the number of weeks’ leave they intend to take. If they don’t specify how long their leave will be, the employer can assume they’re taking the full 69 weeks.
  • If an employee wants to resume work before their parental leave is up, they need to give you a written notice four weeks before their proposed start date. This notice can be given through email, verbally, or in writing.

Regional Variations in Parental Leave

Although the federal EI benefits for maternity and parental leave apply to all jurisdictions, rules surrounding parental leave in Canada vary by province. For example: 

- In Ontario: Parents get parental leave of up to 63 weeks starting within the 78-week period following birth or adoption date.

  • Written notice (and medical documentation upon employer request) must be provided two weeks prior to beginning parental leave. 
  • To be eligible, the employee must be employed for at least 13 weeks before the expected due date.

- In British Columbia: Parents get parental leave of up to 62 weeks starting within the 78-week period following birth or adoption date.

  • Written notice (and medical documentation upon employer request) must be provided four weeks prior to paternity leave.
  • There are no eligibility requirements for employees.

- For employees in Québec, parental benefits don’t come from EI but via the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP). 

Staying Compliant With Canada’s Paternity Leave Policies 

All Canadian parents are entitled to parental leave benefits as long as they are governed by the applicable employment standards legislation and meet the eligibility requirements. 

Employers who fail to grant their employees parental leave and benefits could be liable for human rights and employment standards complaints, as well as hefty fines, penalties, and legal consequences. 

Managing comprehensive maternity and paternity leave policies across multiple jurisdictions and countries can quickly become a compliance nightmare, which is why many remote and international employers partner with employer of record service providers like Remofirst. To learn more about how we can help you hire and manage employees in Canada, check out our Canada country guide.