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Maternity and parental leave: Things every resident should know

mother kissing newborn baby

Whether you’re thinking of starting a family during residency or have just found out you’re expecting, figuring out how you’re going to make it all work can be enough to make your head spin.

Taking parental and/or maternity leave during residency can be challenging. You may feel pressure to return to work quickly for financial reasons. Some residents also worry about the stigma of taking time off, especially in surgical specialties. But there are pluses to having a baby in residency. For instance, this may be the only time in your career that you are able to enjoy paid time off, thanks to EI and top-up benefits.

The good news is that a little planning will go a long way in helping you be financially — and mentally — prepared for maternity/parental leave.  Here are some of the details to think about.

Understand how it impacts your residency

A clear understanding of how time off impacts your residency is important when planning your leave.

Speak to your residency director about department policies regarding pregnancy during residency. For instance, night call is not expected past a certain point in a pregnancy in some departments. Also, be aware that maternity and/or parental leave will extend your residency: you’ll have to make up the time off to complete your residency’s educational and training requirements. You should also know that licensing certification exams only happen once or twice a year.

Understand your maternity/parental leave benefits

You may be eligible for a combination of benefits to help you fund your time away from your residency program, including government-provided Employment Insurance (EI) benefits and benefits from your residents’ association.

EI benefits

In recognition of the pandemic, there are temporary measures to help Canadians access EI. They’re effective as of September 27, 2020, for one year.

Normally, to qualify for EI, you need to have accumulated 600 hours in the last 52 weeks before the start of your claim or since the start of your last claim, whichever is shorter. Under the temporary measures, you need only 120 hours of work to qualify.

EI maternity and parental benefits cover up to 55% of your pay (up to a set maximum) when you’re on leave from work. Use this calculator to estimate your benefits.

Note: If you are a resident of Quebec, it’s the province that provides maternity, paternity, parental and adoption benefits. You can find information on maternity/parental leave in our article Physicians in Quebec: Parental leave and benefits.

The following are the 2021 EI benefits figures:

  • Maternity leave benefits: Up to 15 weeks for the person giving birth, including surrogates; can be followed by parental leave.
  • Parental leave standard benefits: Up to 40 weeks and can be shared between parents, but one parent cannot receive more than 35 weeks. Maximum payment is $595 per week.
  • Parental leave extended benefits. Up to 69 weeks and can be shared between parents, but one parent cannot receive more than 61 weeks. Maximum is $357 per week.

Residents’ association benefits

You may be entitled to a top-up of your EI benefits through your residents’ association. For instance, in Ontario, the PARO-CAHO agreement provides up to 27 weeks of top-up (15 pregnancy + 12 parental ) for women who are taking pregnancy and parental leave. Residents who take only parental leave — fathers and adoptive parents, for instance — receive 12 weeks of top-up. The benefit tops your weekly earnings up to 84% of your regular pay.

Check your residents’ association agreement for more information on maternity/paternal leave benefits in your province or territory.

Look into your life and disability insurance

Contact your provincial or territorial medical association (PTMA) to learn more about your insurance coverage and how being on leave may affect it — this varies between PTMAs.

For instance, residents in Ontario who have signed up for life and/or disability insurance through the Ontario Medical Association still have these benefits if they take pregnancy leave, as well as their PARO benefits.

Find out what child care benefits are available

You may be entitled to government-provided child care benefits, such as the Canada Child Benefit (CCB).

The CCB is a tax-free monthly payment to help with the cost of raising a child (until they are 18). CCB is available in all provinces and in the Northwest Territories.

Most provinces also offer child-care benefits on top of the CCB for eligible families.

Start looking into child-care options early

Child care is costly and not always easy to come by. Looking into your options as soon as possible can help you find the best solution so you’re not scrambling when it’s time to return to work.

Monthly child-care costs range from $200 to as much as $1,900 across Canada, according to a 2021 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Remember to think outside the box when planning child care. You might find a combination of options works best for your situation, such as splitting days between daycare and a nearby relative, or nanny-sharing with another family. Or perhaps your spouse or partner will stay at home.

Start an RESP

It’s never too early to start investing in your child’s education. A registered education savings plan (RESP) is a tax-deferred savings plan offered by the federal government. It allows you to invest up to $50,000 per child without paying tax on the gains until the money is withdrawn.

The federal government adds to your child’s RESP every year that you contribute, helping to grow your savings even faster. This government portion, called the Canada Education Savings Grant, can amount to as much as $7,200 per child by the time they reach 18.

You’ll need a social insurance number for your child to start an RESP, so be sure to get one right away.

Talk to an MD Advisor* to learn more about planning for your planning for your maternity and parental leave.

*MD Advisor refers to an MD Management Limited Financial Consultant or Investment Advisor (in Quebec), or an MD Private Investment Counsel Portfolio Manager.

The above information should not be construed as offering specific financial, investment, foreign or domestic taxation, legal, accounting or similar professional advice, nor is it intended to replace the advice of independent tax, accounting or legal professionals.