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Employment Insurance Benefits for Adoptive Parents

Employment Insurance Benefits for Adoptive Parents

By Patricia Paul-Carson for The Adoption Council of Canada

Here are some of the issues we’ve been involved with on behalf of Canada’s adoption community.

Executive Summary

Please See the Attached Document for a Complete Analysis

September, 2011

Adoptive parents need additional Employment Insurance (EI) parental benefits in order that they may stay at home to care for their adopted children.

Currently adoptive parents are entitled to receive 35 weeks of EI parental benefits (for use by either parent or shared between them) for child care purposes.  Biological parents are entitled to receive 15 weeks of maternity leave benefits (for use by the mother alone) to recuperate from the stresses of pregnancy and childbirth plus an additional 35 weeks of benefits for parental leave (for use by either parent or shared between them) to care for the new child for a total of 50 weeks of EI benefits.

Adoptive parents require an additional 15 weeks to accommodate for the stresses specific to the adoption process and for the added difficulties in integrating an adopted child into a new family.

Legislative History:

Employment Insurance Benefits for Adoptive ParentsCanadian courts have consistently found that it is not discriminatory to provide EI benefits for biological mothers for the purposes of recovering from pregnancy and childbirth and not provide them for adoptive mothers as they do not experience pregnancy and childbirth.  However, the courts have also recognized that there are concerns specific to adoptive families.


Financial Implications:

The maximum cost to the federal government would be $30,186,000 per year. 

Federal-Provincial-Territorial Implications:

To ensure all Canadian adoptive parents can take advantage of extended EI benefits proposed for them in this document, the federal government and eight of the provincial/territorial jurisdictions will need to adapt their labour legislation.

Rationale for Providing Additional EI Benefits for Adoptive Parents:

Just like biological parents, adoptive parents have their own special set of circumstances to deal with while becoming parents.  These circumstances are equally and sometimes more difficult than the biological difficulties associated with pregnancy and birth.  Therefore adoptive parents should be provided with time to cope with these circumstances just as birth mothers are provided with time to deal with the effects of pregnancy and childbirth.

The issues and concerns that adoptive parents face that are distinct to them are described below. Not all adoptive parents must deal with all the issues listed below; however all adoptive parents face some of them.  They include:

  • Extra time needed to bond with an adopted child and for the adopted child to bond with the adoptive parents;
  • Dealing with expected and unexpected health issues of the child;
  • Establishing a relationship with the birth parents;
  • Post Adoption Depression;
  • Dealing with Grief and Depression Regarding the Ability to Give Birth;
  • Helping the Child Adapt to a New Culture;
  • Time to Travel Abroad for International Adoptions; and
  • Breastfeeding of an Adopted Baby.


It is timely to change the EI legislation to provide adoptive parents with an additional 15 weeks of parental leave for the following reasons:

  • The current government has a particular interest in families and this proposal would fit in with its policies on strengthening families.
  • All federal parties have recently outlined strategies to support families and it is likely that this policy would receive all party support.
  • Provincial and territorial governments would likely be supportive of such as policy as it would be an additional incentive to adopt children in the child welfare system under the care of the provinces and territories.
  • The Canadian public would likely support such a change.  Until recently adoption was shrouded in secrecy but it s now seen as a legitimate way of forming a family.
  • Infertility rates are increasing and adoption is being considered by large numbers of Canadians.


Given the legal history, the minor financial implications for the Canadian taxpayer, the simplicity of extending EI benefits to adoptive parents, the considerable number of reasons why adoptive parents need additional leave to look after their newly adopted child, and the timeliness of such a change to the EI legislation, the Adoption Council of Canada strongly recommends that the Canadian Government:

  1. change the Canadian Labour Code to allow for an additional 17 weeks of parental leave for adoptive parents to look after their newly adopted child;
  2. change the Employment Insurance Act to allow for an additional 15 weeks of parental leave for new adoptive parents;
  3. encourage those provinces and territories whose labour legislation does not currently allow adoptive parents to take advantage of an extended EI benefit period, to extend parental leave for adoptive parents to a total minimum of 52 weeks.