Students with Children

Students with Children

Financial Support from the School of Graduate Studies for parenting leave

The “Parenting grant” must be taken in the first term of a parenting leave and cannot be deferred. Birth mothers may be eligible for an additional instalment in the second term of a parenting leave for up to $4000 for parenting leaves of two terms (8 months) or more in duration. The instalment must be taken in the second term of a parenting leave and cannot be deferred. The total amount of the grant will be calculated based on McMaster Graduate Scholarship funds the student is currently receiving for the academic year, divided by twelve and multiplied by four.

Eligibility. Students who do not receive McMaster Graduate Scholarship Funds will not be eligible for the grant. They will remain eligible for a parenting leave, in accordance with the policy outlined in the Graduate Calendar.

Students are eligible to receive a Parenting Grant if they meet the following criteria:

  • Completed one term of graduate studies at McMaster
  • In receipt of McMaster Graduate Scholarship Funds
  • Registered full-time in a doctoral program at McMaster and have been approved for a parenting leave of at least one academic session (or 4 months). Birth mothers requesting a second instalment must be approved for at least 8 months of parenting leave
  • Received their regular base graduate scholarship funding package prior to the parenting leave;
  • Provided a medical note for the pregnancy from a licenced Canadian healthcare provider (i.e., the physician, midwife or nurse practitioner that is providing pregnancy care) or an adoption certificate issued from the Canadian government.  Applying for the second instalment of the grant by a birth mother requires submission of a second medical note after the birth.
  • Is the primary caregiver for the duration of the Parenting leave; and
  • Receiving less than $4,000 in pregnancy/parenting leave benefits from external sources for the same child (including multiple births) within the 12 month period after birth or adoption

Please complete the Parenting Leave form (including the section regarding the Parenting Grant) to be considered for the Grant.

Please note:

  • Students receiving Tri-Agency scholarships or research grant stipends are eligible for Tri-Agency Paid Parenting Leave supplements and will receive benefits that normally exceed the value of the Grant; such students are ineligible;
  • Benefits from employment income through the University may be received in addition to the SGS Parenting Grant, and would not impact the student’s eligibility to receive the full Grant value;
  • Grant recipients who return to their program prior to the approved leave of absence end date, may be required to return a portion of the Grant for the incomplete session;
  • Students who do not return to their studies after their leave must repay the Grant in full;
  • Multiple births on the same occasion (e.g., twins) do not increase the duration or the value of the Grant;
  • Students may apply for a Parenting Grant for a birth and/or adoption only twice while at McMaster University (and affiliated institutions).


“McMaster Graduate Scholarship Funds”: The sum total of departmental and graduate scholarships as well as research account support committed to the student. It does not include funding from external sources; funding from employment such as Teaching Assistantships or Research Assistantships in lieu, or most scholarships held in trust.

Combination with other forms of financial support: To maximize flexibility, the financial support available under the Policy can be combined with stipends from sources, excluding those from the Tri-Agencies (noted below) and can be spread over a period of between 4 and 8 months at the discretion of the student. However, in no case will funding for Parenting Leave from the School of Graduate Studies exceed a total of $4,000.

If the parent of the child for whom the Parenting Leave is being taken is eligible to receive parenting support from CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC or another agency that provides parenting support for the leave at any time during the Parenting leave, the parent is not eligible for financial support under McMaster’s Parenting Leave Policy.

Financial support during Parenting Leave for students who are also employees of the university, provided as part of their terms and conditions of employment, are distinct and separate from the financial support available under this policy. Other financial benefits, except as specifically excluded herein, can be taken concurrently with the financial support provided under this policy provided that the individual meets the eligibility requirements for those plans for the duration for which they are accessing financial support under those plans.

The financial support provided under this policy is not considered an approved Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Plan for the purposes of receiving Employment Insurance. Therefore, students wishing to access financial support under this policy in addition to Employment Insurance (“EI”) benefits should be aware that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (“HRSDC”) may consider financial support under this policy to be earnings and could therefore require repayment of some of all EI benefits received. It is incumbent upon the student accessing financial support under this policy to contact HRSDC if they have questions in this regard.

For questions on the administration of the policy, contact the School of Graduate Studies.


Pregnancy and Parental Leave for Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Research Assistants in lieu of Teaching Assistants (RAs in lieu)

TAs and RAs in lieu may access up to 17 weeks of paid pregnancy leave (for birth parents) and up to 13 weeks of paid parental leave (for birth parents and non-birth parents) with Supplemental Unemployment Benefits (“SUB”).  “SUB” refers to a wage top-up from the Employer, which can be:

  • up to 95% of your regular TA or RA in lieu wages for the duration of pregnancy leave; or
  • up to 95% of your regular TA or RA in lieu wages for 13 weeks of a parental Leave, or up to 100% of your regular TA or RA in lieu wages for the first 6 weeks of a parental leave).

Subsequent unpaid leave for a longer period may also be possible as per the Employment Standards Act.  More information about these leaves is available starting in Article 19 (page 36) of the CUPE 3906 Unit 1 Collective Agreement:

There are a few very important things to think about if you are considering going on a pregnancy or parental leave as a TA or RA in lieu. We encourage anyone who is planning on taking pregnancy and/or parental leave to contact us ( to help walk you though this complicated process. Here are a few important points to consider:

  • This leave is an employment leave that is separate and distinct from any leave you take as a student.  Just because you go on a leave as a student, you are not automatically on leave as an employee, and vice versa.  You are not obligated to go on leave as a student just because you are going on a leave as an employee, and vice versa.  You can also take leave as a student at a different time than you take leave as an employee – these leaves do not need to overlap.

To access leave as an employee, you must fill out an employee leave of absence form in addition to any leave forms that you may elect to fill out as a student.

  • You can only receive a wage top up (SUB) for TA and RA in lieu hours that you are contracted to work.  In other words, you can only take an employment leave and receive a wage top up (SUB) from a job that have been contracted to do.  (In other words, you can’t take an employment leave from a job that you don’t have.)  For example, if you normally work as a TA for 260 hours across the fall and winter terms, do not work in the spring/summer term, and elect to go on parental leave in March, you will not receive a wage top up (SUB) after the end of the winter term.  In this example, to receive a top up during the spring/summer term, you would have to obtain a contract or clear offer to work as a TA or RA in lieu for the spring/summer term to receive the SUB benefits in the spring/summer.
  • To receive any SUB payments, you will need to accept work and then take leave from it. Even if you are planning on taking leave, you cannot do so without first accepting the work. You can then indicate immediately after that you are taking leave from that work.
  • Your department cannot deny you work, or rearrange when is if offered to you, simply because you are expected to take leave. For example, if you are normally given work during the fall and winter semesters but are having a baby in September, your department cannot simply assign you a TA position in the spring/summer to avoid you being able to take leave the in fall.
  • Timing matters. Because TAs/RAs in lieu do not work throughout the year, when you elect to take leave is important in order to maximize your benefits. You cannot be compelled to take paid parental leave at a specific time – when you elect to take the leave is up to you. It is worth speaking to your union to ensure that your entitlement is maximized.

Maternity and parental Employment Insurance (EI)

You are expected to apply for maternity and parental Employment Insurance (EI) to receive SUB benefits from McMaster, even if you do not expect to qualify for government benefits.  McMaster will insist on seeing  proof that you attempted to obtain government benefits.  It’s a good idea to make a Service Canada profile long before you go on leave, as the government may have to mail you your password via standard (not electronic) post.  For more information, please visit the Service Canada website:

SUB payments through McMaster are available to all TAs, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, even if paid parental leave through the government is not available to you.


You have to work as an employee for 13 weeks at McMaster University before you qualify for pregnancy and parental leave. These weeks do not have to be for work completed solely as a TA or RA in lieu.  For example, if you worked as a food service worker at McMaster in 2018 for 6 months, and began graduate school this past September, you would have already completed this 13 week period in 2018 working in another role at McMaster.  (Please note that having a been a student only at McMaster does not count as working as an employee at McMaster for employment leave purposes.)

You should not avoid applying to work (including TA or RA in lieu work) that you would otherwise want to do just because you intend to go on leave. McMaster University and the Union agree about this! Not hiring someone because they are on a protected leave or intend to go on a protected leave is discriminatory, so you are expected to apply and accept any work that you would normally want to do even if you intend to go on leave.  If you avoid applying and accepting jobs at McMaster simply because you are (or will be) on a protected leave, you will not only miss out on income, your CV will suffer.  McMaster would prefer to honour protected leaves than be accused of discrimination.

Finally, this description should not be considered as comprehensive advice about employee pregnancy and parental leaves.  When in doubt, ask for help!  There are many factors involved in TA and RA in lieu leaves, and it’s best not to assume anything.  Reach out to CUPE 3906 for advice about TA and RA in lieu employment leaves!  Please contact,, or for more information.