It’s Mat Leave Monday! After Maria from Conversations with Moms pointed out that maternity benefits are different in Quebec, I decided to research what parents are getting in la belle province for myself. Thanks to Maria for giving this oblivious British Columbian the low down. And to everyone else, go check out her site, it’s great!
Off the top I wondered why Quebec’s plan is different than the federally-administered plan that exists everywhere else in Canada. After all, the Employment Insurance (EI) system is the same there, and they’re part of the same country. The Quebec government says their plan “is designed to financially support new parents, encourage them to have children and help them spend more time with their children”. So, Quebec implemented the QPIP in order to offer their citizens more flexibility and better benefits, and in the process to increase the birth rate.
Quebec first decided it would like its own maternity leave plan in 1996, and informed the federal government of its intentions. The big issue was the money, as it often is. Quebecers were already paying into the EI system, and were covered by its maternity and parental plan. In order to implement a separate plan, the government of Quebec would need funding. And Quebecers would not want to pay for federal maternity benefits that they would not, or could not, use. After a decade of court cases and negotiations, the QPIP came into effect on January 1, 2006.
So, what does the QPIP offer that the regular EI system does not? Here are a few key differences:
1. Maximum insurable earnings of $62000 instead of $42300, so your maximum weekly benefits are higher.
2. Self-employed workers are eligible to receive benefits under QPIP.
3. Partners are eligible for dedicated paternity leave of 3 or 5 weeks, in addition to being eligible to share parental benefits.
4. There are two different plans available, the basic plan and the special plan.
5. The benefits are paid out at a higher percentage of your income, in addition to having higher insurable income.
So, what’s the skinny? There are two plans, the basic and the special. Both parents must collect benefits under the same plan, with the first person who collects (generally the mother) deciding which plan to use.
Under the basic plan, the birth mother is eligible for 18 weeks of maternity leave at 70% of her regular earnings, up to a maximum of $834.61 per week. Her partner is eligible for 5 weeks of paternity leave at the same rate. Parental leave, which may be shared in whole or part, is paid in two increments. The first 7 weeks are paid at 70%, and then an additional 25 weeks are paid at 55% of regular earnings, up to a maximum of $655.76 per week.
Under the special plan, the birth mother is eligible for 15 weeks of maternity leave at 75% of her regular earnings, up to a maximum of $894.23 per week. Her partner is eligible for 3 weeks of paternity leave at the same rate. Parental leave, which may be shared in whole or part, is available for 25 weeks and is also paid at 75% of regular earnings.
Adoptive parents in Quebec, like in the rest of Canada, are not eligible for maternity leave. Under the basic plan in Quebec they receive 12 weeks of benefits at 70% of earnings, and 25 weeks at 55% of earnings. Under the special plan they receive 28 weeks at 75% of earnings. Adoption benefits may be shared in whole or in part between parents.
Eligibility for QPIP is also different than eligibility for EI. To qualify for QPIP parents must reside in Quebec, have seen a reduction in their income of at least 40%, and have at least $2000 of insurable income during the past 52 weeks. Like the EI plan, there are provisions for how any income you earn while you are on benefits is handled. You can read more about that for yourself here.
I still believe that I’m very lucky to receive the maternity benefits that I do. However, after waxing poetic about how great they are I’m a little humbled to learn that some new parents have it much better than others. Under the Quebec plan my income on maternity leave would be much higher, and Jon would be eligible to receive benefits of his own. So kudos to the government of Quebec for giving new families the best start possible.