Understanding Parental and Maternity Leave Top-Up Benefits

Parental and Maternity Leave Top-Up Benefits

Having a child can be one of life’s most joyous milestones, yet for some, this anticipation is accompanied by feelings of financial stress and uncertainty of employment. Having a baby inevitably means time out of the workforce and many added expenses. Ensuring you are fully aware of your rights and understanding the support available to you is essential for a smooth transition to and from maternity leave and can help alleviate the financial pressures faced by many families. On the flip side, it is also crucial for employers to evaluate or reevaluate their leave policies that support new parents and female workers. Having competitive pregnancy and parental leave policies can help companies attract and retain top talent.

What Is the Difference Between Maternity And Parental Leave?

Maternity leave, also known as pregnancy leave, is available to pregnant parents and it allows them time off during pregnancy, childbirth, and recuperation. Eligible Ontario employees are entitled to a maximum of 17 weeks of maternity leave. Parental leave is available to all parents for up to a maximum of 63 weeks. Mothers can add parental leave onto their maternity for a maximum of 78 weeks between maternity and parental leave. This allows parents to care for and bond with their new child. Employers are not obligated to pay employees while they are on maternity or parental leave, which is why top-up benefits play such an important role in family planning.

The Importance of Top-Up Benefits

Top-up benefits are additional payments made by employers to supplement the standard benefits provided by Employment Insurance (EI) during pregnancy and parental leaves. These top-ups can significantly alleviate the financial strain on families, allowing parents to focus on nurturing their newborns without the added stress of financial instability. However, a recent report by Maturn highlights the reality that nearly 40% of Canadian mothers did not receive any employer financial top-up during their maternity leave. Of those who did, 59% were not offered additional support such as coaching programs, counseling, or childcare assistance.

Employers who offer comprehensive top-up benefits and support programs not only help their employees but also enhance their company culture and reputation through greater employee retention and morale. This can save time and resources in training new employees and build a culture of reciprocal loyalty. It’s a win-win.

Key Considerations When Seeking New Employment.

If you plan to start a family one day, it is worth paying close attention to a potential employer’s maternity and parental leave policy, specifically any provisions regarding what top-up benefits are offered, how top-up is calculated, and which employees are eligible to receive these benefits. For example, some employers may require an employee to have a minimum amount of continuous service before they are eligible to take advantage of the benefits.

Job Security During Maternity Leave

Another source of worry for pregnant employees is job security while they are on leave. This worry is well founded because despite having laws that prohibit discrimination against pregnant employees, women continue to find their jobs eliminated during or upon return from their maternity leaves. This often occurs under the guise of “restructuring”. Maternity leave is protected, meaning employees should return to the job they had before they started their leave.


The findings from Maturn’s report and the reality faced by mothers in the workplace underscore the need for systemic change in how Canadian workplaces support working parents.

Employers can create more inclusive and supportive environments that recognize the unique needs of modern families by creating competitive parental and maternity policies. This will promote long-term success for employees thereby contributing to the success of the company. If you are an employer considering creating or updating your workplace policies, consulting with an employment lawyer will ensure your policies work for you and your employees, while complying with employment and human rights laws.

If you are an employee and you feel like you are being treated unfairly because of your role as a parent, it is important to seek legal advice. Whitten & Lublin is here to help you understand your situation, what recourse is available to you, and how you can best look after yourself and your family.

If you need assistance, reach out to Whitten & Lublin online or by phone at (416) 640-2667.