Extended Parental Leave Is Coming Into Effect On December 3

New parents will now be able to spread their EI benefits over a period of up to 18 months

Returning to work after maternity leave is never easy. And we bet we're not the only ones who wished they had just a month or two (or six) longer to spend with our little ones. 

Well, now you can. The federal government's long-awaited changes are finally coming into effect. Here's what that could mean for families:

What you need to know:

- Employment Insurance (EI) maternity benefits provide up to 15 weeks of benefits for birth mothers and surrogates. 

 - Currently, pregnant women can claim benefits up to eight weeks before their expected due date. When the changes come into effect, the benefits can be claimed up to 12 weeks prior. 

 - It's important to note that as of December 3, parents (biological and adoptive) will be able to choose between two options for parental benefits. 

 - They can stick with the standard plan, which gives up to 35 weeks of EI benefit over a period of 12 months at 55% of the average weekly earnings (up to a maximum of $543 per week).

 - Alternatively, the new extended plan will allow parents to opt for up to 61 weeks of EI benefits over a period of 18 months at 33% of the average weekly earnings (up to a maximum of $326 per week).

 - However, the overall value of the benefits is not changing. Parents will simply be given the option to spread their payments out over a larger period of time. 

 - Also, important to note; only parents who plan to begin their parental leave on or after December 3 will benefit from these changes. Sorry, moms and dads, it isn't retroactive.

 - Parents must have accumulated 600 hours of insurable employment in the previous year in order to be eligible for the changes. 

 - Self-employed workers who have opted into the EI system will need to have earned $6,888 in the last year.

 - None of the changes will affect Quebec, who have their own parental leave program for residents. 

Changes to the Employment Insurance program will also be affecting caregivers benefits from December 3. The new legislation includes 15 weeks of leave for family caregivers who care for a critically ill or injured adult and a 35-week benefit for those caring for an ill or injured child.

For more information and FAQs, check out the federal government's website here. 

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