Under the current Employment Insurance (EI) system, birth mothers get 15 weeks of maternity leave, plus an additional 35 weeks of parental leave to split between parents however they like. In both cases, parents can get 55 per cent of their usual earnings, up to a maximum of $543 per week — but only if they qualify for EI. Many people who haven’t worked enough hours or who have opted out of EI because they’re self-employed can’t access the benefit. Right now, these benefits can be collected up to one year after baby’s birth. Starting Dec. 3, some parents will have the option to spread them out over 18 months instead. The changes only apply to employees in federally regulated sectors such as public service, telecommunications and banking. Ontario plans to offer the extension to all workers. Other provinces have yet to follow suit. Quebec has its own system, with up to 55 weeks of partially paid leave, as well as three to five weeks of “use it or lose it,” nontransferable paternity leave for fathers.