Maternity Leave and Your Employment
Congratulations, you’re planning a family! If you or your partner is pregnant, or you are thinking about becoming a parent, you are probably wondering what maternity leave, pregnancy leave and parental leave mean and how your employment may be affected.
In Ontario, your employment rights are protected through the Employment Standards Act, the ESA. If you work for the federal government or a federally regulated company, your employment rights are protected through the Canada Labour Code, which is not covered in this article.
Time away from work New parents are entitled to these unpaid leaves from work:
- Pregnancy leave (often referred to as maternity leave) – Women who become pregnant are entitled to unpaid leave from work. Pregnancy leave is 17 weeks and can start as early as 17 weeks before the baby’s due date but must start at the latest on the day the baby is born. You may be asked by your employer to provide a medical note of the baby’s due date.
- Parental leave – New parents are entitled to unpaid leave from work. This includes mothers, fathers, adoptive parents, and those in a relationship with a new parent who intend to treat the child as their own. Parental leave is 37 weeks for everyone, except birth mothers who have already taken a pregnancy leave. They are entitled to 35 weeks of parental leave.
Typically, you are entitled to return to your old job or a comparable job for the same or more pay.
In addition to time off work, you have the right to continuation of your benefit plans and the right to earn credit towards your length of employment service or seniority.
For either pregnancy or parental leave, you must have been hired at least 13 weeks prior to starting the pregnancy or parental leave. You are still eligible if you were off sick or took a vacation during those 13 weeks. You are entitled to the leave even if you work part-time or on contract.
For both pregnancy and parental leave, the employee must give two weeks written notice to his or her employer of the start date of the leave. In the case of birth mothers, notice must be provided for both pregnancy and parental leave. Your employer cannot tell you when you should start your leave. You can take a shorter leave, but if you return to work during pregnancy leave, you give up the right to that leave.
You do not have to tell your employer the date that you will return to work. If you would like to change your return date from either pregnancy or parental leave or resign from your job, four weeks of notice must be given.
Freedom from discrimination
The Ontario Human Rights Code, protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sex. This includes pregnancy, having had a baby, or pregnancy-related events such as miscarriage or breast-feeding.
Your employer cannot fire you or lay you off because you are pregnant. Your employer cannot deny you opportunities at work because you are, or may become, pregnant. This includes training, promotion or receiving certain projects.
Employers have a duty to accommodate the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women, up to the point of undue hardship. Your employer should adjust or modify your job duties if they affect your health or that of your child. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has stated that accommodation could include establishing a flexible work schedule, temporary reassignment or providing a quiet area for rest during breaks.
If you have been terminated while pregnant or on parental leave, or if you think you have been discriminated against because of a pregnancy related situation, and you want to speak with an employment lawyer with experience in this area, contact us at [email protected] or 647-633-9894.
For more information about maternity leave, human rights and employment, read here.
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