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Legal & Practical Issues

Leave of Absence

The Employment Standards Act 2000 is the law that sets minimum standards for fair workplace practices in Ontario.

Employment Insurance (EI) Maternity Benefits

EI maternity benefits are offered to biological mothers, including surrogate mothers, who cannot work because they are pregnant or have recently given birth. A maximum of 15 weeks of EI maternity benefits is available. The 15 weeks can start as early as eight weeks before the expected date of birth, and can end as late as 17 weeks after the actual date of birth. To qualify, you must have worked at least 600 hours in insurable employment during the qualifying period.

Employment Insurance (EI) Parental Benefits

EI parental benefits are offered to parents who are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child. A maximum of 35 weeks of parental benefits is available  to biological, adoptive, or legally recognized parents.  The two parents can share these 35 weeks and they do not have to take their leave at the same time.

Employment Insurance (EI) and Maternity and Parental Benefits

You must apply for EI maternity or parental benefits. You can do this on-line or in person at your Service Canada Centre. Usually, EI maternity and parental benefits add up to 50 weeks. For more information on Employment Insurance benefits (i.e. how much money you will receive) go to or call 1-800-022-6232 (1-800-0-Canada).

Registering the Birth of the Baby

By law your child’s birth must be registered with the province. Once the baby is registered, you can apply for a birth certificate. This is issued by the province or territory where your child was born. You should apply as soon as possible after your child is born.

Residents of Ontario can use the Newborn Registration Service to complete their child’s Birth Registration. At the same time, they can apply for their child’s Birth Certificate and Social Insurance Number. For more information call 1-800-022-6232  (1-800-O-Canada)  or go to

Applying for the Canada Child Benefit

The Canada Child Benefit is a monthly payment made to families who are eligible. It is tax free. It helps families with the cost of raising children under age 18.

The amount of the Canada Child Benefit is calculated according to the information you gave on your income tax returns. The amount can be adjusted during the year if there is a change to family size or marital status.

All parents should send in an income tax return, even if they had no income.

For more information call 1-800-022-6232 (1-800-0-Canada) or go to

Medical Coverage for the Baby-Obtaining a Health Card

You will get a temporary Health Card for your baby at the hospital. You will get information about how to obtain a permanent card. (You will need to get a permanent one as soon as possible.)
For a home birth please speak to your health-care provider. For more information call 1-888-376-5197 (between 8:30 am – 5 pm) or go to

Social Insurance Number (SIN)

A social insurance number is required to work in Canada and for opening a Registered Education Saving Plan for your child. If you have completed the birth registration on-line at you can apply for a SIN for your child as well, quite quickly. It is free and it saves you having to apply for one at a later date.

If you are not applying on-line, contact Service Canada at 1-800-022-6232 (1-800-O-Canada).

Rights of Breastfeeding Mothers

The Ontario Human Rights Commission protects your right to breastfeed anywhere, at any time. No one can ask you to move to a more private place or ask you to cover up.

Pregnancy includes the post-natal period, which includes breastfeeding. Numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of breastfeeding for mothers, children, and their communities, in terms of physical and emotional health and development.

Women should not be disadvantaged in services, accommodation or employment because they have chosen to breastfeed their children. Nor should women be harassed or subjected to negative treatment because they have chosen not to breastfeed their children. When this Policy refers to discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, it includes discrimination on the basis of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding includes pumping or expressing milk, as well as nursing directly from the breast. Women choose to breastfeed their children for varying lengths of time, and should not be exposed to negative comments or treatment because, for example, they continue to breastfeed their toddlers.

Sometimes women are discouraged by others from breastfeeding in public places because of concerns that it is indecent. Breastfeeding is really a health issue, and not one of public decency. Women should have the choice to feed their babies in the way that they feel is most dignified, comfortable and healthy.

For more information refer to Ontario Human Rights Commission at

Breastfeeding and Returning to Work

If you are going back to work and still want to breastfeed, the Ontario Human Rights Commission says that your job has to help you do this. There are a few ways to make this happen:

If your daycare is close to work, try to work out a schedule that lets you go and breastfeed.

If you have a private childcare provider, you might have your child brought to you to breastfeed.

You may want to hand express or pump and have your breastmilk fed to your child while you’re at work. Your job should work out a schedule that lets you hand express and/or pump at work. They should also have a clean and comfortable room where you won’t be disturbed (with outlets, if you are using an electric pump), and a place to store your milk.

Let your manager know that if you breastfeed, you will miss less work because your baby won’t get sick as much. If you are not being supported at work, call the Ontario Human Rights Commission at 416-326-1312 or 1-866-598-0322.

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