Paternity leave

First published on Thursday, Apr 20, 2023

Last updated on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2024

Paternity leave remains a relatively underused benefit, despite its proven advantages for both fathers and children. More countries now offer such benefits to help fathers bond with their new children and engage in childcare. According to a recent report, 63% of countries worldwide have a statutory paternity leave policy.

But men who take paternity leave may face some stigma. This impacts fathers and contributes to gender inequality in the workplace and society at large.

Canada's parental benefits are among the most generous in the world. Eligible parents receive up to 18 months of combined leave. Specifically, fathers are entitled to take up to eight weeks of parental leave benefits.

Quebec is the only Canadian jurisdiction to have a specific paternity leave period. This time off can only be taken by the non-primary caregiver. This policy has increased the number of fathers taking paternity leave and promotes a more equal distribution of parental responsibilities.

How paternity leave works in Canada

While parental leave periods differ across Canada, the leave is available to all new parents and is a job-protected leave. This leave period can generally last between 52 to 78 weeks depending on the jurisdiction. Employers who fail to allow their staff parental leave could be liable for human rights and employment standards complaints.

It’s important to remember that all your employees are entitled to these benefits. As long as they are governed by the applicable employment standards legislation and meet the eligibility requirements.

Employers should also have the right internal policies to guide this period. Parental leave policies are important because they set the tone for how parental leave is carried out in your business.

Employers don’t have to pay staff during this time as it’s covered by paternity leave E.I. But some employers may pay their staff on parental leave a percentage of their salary.

In most cases, you must also keep paying employees benefits while they’re on parental leave. This includes health, pension and life insurance plans.

Who is eligible for maternity and paternity leave benefits in Canada?

To be eligible for parental leave benefits, employees must demonstrate that: * They’re pregnant or have recently given birth when requesting maternity benefits. * They’re a parent caring for a newborn or newly adopted child when requesting parental benefits. * Their regular weekly earnings from work have decreased by more than 40% for at least 1 week. * They’ve accumulated 600 insured work hours in the 52 weeks before or since the start of your claim, whichever is shorter.

Differences between pregnancy leave and paternity leave

Pregnancy leave, also called maternity leave, is only available to the parent carrying the child. Pregnancy leave can start between 13 and 17 weeks before the baby’s due date, depending on the jurisdiction. After the child is born or comes into their care, the employee may begin parental leave.

Both parents can’t share pregnancy leave, but they can share parental leave. It can also only start after the child is born or placed in their care in the case of adoption.

Who pays for paternity leave?

Parental benefits are paid through Employment Insurance (E.I.). There are two types of leave: standard and extended. The amount of time off and money the employee gets will depend on which option they choose.

Both parents must apply for E.I. separately. They must also choose the same type of leave and specify how many weeks they will take.

They can't change the terms of their leave once they submit the application. So, it's important to encourage employees to carefully consider their plans before they put in an application.

How long is paternity leave in Canada

Employees wondering how long paternity leave in Canada is should consider what kind of parental benefits they prefer.

Standard parental leave — lasts up to 40 weeks, and employees get 55% of their earnings up to $650 a week. And one parent can’t get more than 35 weeks to encourage fathers to take the remaining 5 weeks.

Extended parental leave — lasts up to 69 weeks. Employees get a benefit of 33% of earnings, up to a maximum of $390 a week. Both parents can share this leave but one parent can’t get more than 61 weeks of extended benefits. This leaves the 8 remaining weeks available to encourage fathers to use parental leave.

When to apply for paternity leave

Employees have a specific time frame where they must give notice for paternity leave. Informing employees of the time frame to apply for paternity leave also helps them prepare and submit their notice on time.

They must give you two weeks' written notice specifying how many weeks they'll take. If they don’t specify how long their leave will be, you can assume they’re taking the full 61 weeks.

If an employee wants to resume work before their paternity leave is up, they need to give you a four-week written notice. The notice should come in four weeks before their proposed start date. They may give their notice through email, verbally or in writing.

Depending on the jurisdiction, notice requirements vary from 2 weeks written notice to four months written notice.

This will help you prepare for their absence and hire temporary staff to cover the workload. It's also important to note that staff won’t lose the right to paternity leave if they don’t give notice.

Paternity leave in different provinces

Rules surrounding paternity leave in Canada are different in each province. Though the federal EI benefits for maternity and parental leave apply to all jurisdictions.

Paternity leave in Ontario and paternity leave in B.C are similar with most provinces. Here’s a quick look at the comparison between both provinces.

Paternity leave in Ontario

  • Pregnancy leave—17 weeks starting no earlier than 17 weeks before the due date.
  • Parental leave—Up to 63 weeks starting within the 78 week period following birth or child coming into parents care.
  • Notice—Two weeks written notice prior to pregnancy/parental leave (and medical documentation upon employer request.)
  • Eligibility—Must be employed for at least 13 weeks before the expected due date.

Paternity leave in B.C.

  • Pregnancy leave—17 weeks starting no earlier than 13 weeks before the due date
  • Parental leave—Up to 62 weeks starting within the 78 week period following birth or child coming into parents care
  • Notice—Four weeks written notice prior to pregnancy/parental leave (and medical documentation upon employer request)
  • Eligibility—None

Handling employee paternity leave with BrightHR

Employers in Canada are pioneering paternity leave. How you handle the subject in your workplace can be the difference between happy and disengaged employees.

Employers who don't allow their staff parental leave in Canada can face significant penalties and legal consequences.

Your employee’s health, work-life balance and productivity are also at risk, which can be bad for employee retention.

Having a comprehensive paternity leave policy in place can make the process easier. If you need help, speak with our highly trained HR experts. Our employment relations experts are available weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm.

We’ll answer any questions and address your concerns on paternity leave in your workplace.

Contact us on 1 888 220 4924 or

Lucy Cobb

Employment Law Specialist

Share this article

More on leave and absence

Late to work

Compassionate Care Leave

Employees in Canada have a right to take a job-protected leave when caring for gravely ill family members. Each province has their own employment ...

Read more about Compassionate Care Leave
Late to work

Lateness and Tardiness

Almost all employers deal with employees arriving late to work. Your employee may have been stuck in traffic or experienced delays on public transit. ...

Read more about Lateness and Tardiness

Sick Building Syndrome

Sick building syndrome describes the combination of symptoms that affects building occupants. Some people, when they are in a particular building or ...

Read more about Sick Building Syndrome

Absenteeism Rate

Absences in the workplace are normal and staff have a right to time off. But it’s key you understand the number of absences your company has ...

Read more about Absenteeism Rate

Time off work for stress

Stress and its effect on mental health is part of many peoples lives. Your employees most likely deal with different stresses daily, some of which ...

Read more about Time off work for stress
Sick employee blowing  their nose

Sick Leave

From time-to-time your employees will require sick leave from work. As an employer, you have a responsibility to manage sickness leave ...

Read more about Sick Leave

Return to Work

Staff may sometimes have long periods of absence from work. This could be due to illness, giving birth or taking a sabbatical. As an employer, you ...

Read more about Return to Work


Employee health and productivity go hand-in-hand. The healthier your employees feel, the more likely it is that they’ll be productive. However, ...

Read more about Presenteeism