A new addition to your family can create conflict between your work duties and your obligations as a parent. At Sultan Lawyers, our knowledgeable employment lawyers can advise you on the rights and entitlements available to you before, during, and after a pregnancy or adoption.
In Ontario, all birth mothers are entitled to take unpaid pregnancy leaves. If their employment falls under the Employment Standards Act, and they have worked for their employer for 13 weeks prior to the baby’s due date, a birth mother is entitled to a pregnancy leave of up to 17 weeks. In some circumstances, a birth mother can also take up to 12 weeks of leave after a birth, stillbirth, or miscarriage.
Any parent whose employment falls under the Employment Standards Act is entitled to parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child. As with pregnancy leave, an employee becomes eligible for parental leave after 13 weeks of employment. Birth mothers may take both pregnancy and parental leaves. A birth mother who took pregnancy leave is entitled to up to 61 weeks of parental leave, while all other new parents may take up to 63 weeks.
While Ontario’s Employment Standards Act does not require employers to pay employees while on pregnancy or parental leave, employees may still qualify for maternity and parental benefits under the federal Employment Insurance Act. Employment insurance payments under that legislation operate separately from the pregnancy and parental leaves under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act. It is therefore important that employees determine their eligibility for employment insurance benefits whenever they are considering a pregnancy or parental leave under the Employment Standards Act.
Under the Employment Insurance Act, maternity benefits are available to employees who take time off work because they are pregnant or have recently given birth. Employees who meet the federal employment insurance requirements can receive up to 15 weeks of maternity benefits at a rate of 55% of their average insurable income (to a maximum of $595 per week).
Parental benefits are available to the parents of a newborn or newly adopted child. Parents can choose between the standard or an extended benefit period, with rates dependent on whether the parents share the leave:
|Maximum Period if Parents Share Leave||Maximum Period if One Parent Takes Leave||Benefit Rate|
(Paid up to a maximum amount)
|Standard Parental Benefit||Up to 40 Weeks||Up to 35 Weeks||55%|
|Extended Parental Benefit||Up to 69 Weeks||Up to 61 Weeks||33%|
After pregnancy or parental leave, employees are generally entitled to return to their same role, or a comparable one if their original role was eliminated. When an employee returns to work, they are also guaranteed the right to earn the same salary they had when they went on leave. If the employee’s pay would have ordinarily increased had they not been on leave, they are entitled to that higher wage on their return. However, the right to reinstatement does not prevent employers from dismissing employees for legitimate reasons unrelated to pregnancy or parental leaves.
An employee cannot be penalized in any way because they took a pregnancy or parental leave. Penalization can include intimidation, dismissal, threats, discrimination, or any other form of reprisal or discipline. Employees are also protected from penalty if they are or will be eligible for pregnancy or parental leave, or plan on taking either leave.
While on pregnancy or parental leave, employees have the right to continue participating in particular employer benefit plans. So long as the employee intends to continue paying their portion of the plan’s premiums, their employer is required to continue paying its portion as well. Eligible benefit plans include:
Employees on pregnancy or parental leave who participate in other benefit plans may be able to continue doing so, depending on the terms of the plan.
Credits toward an employee’s length of employment, length of service, and seniority continue to be earned while the employee is on pregnancy or parental leave. This may include becoming eligible for an increase in vacation day accruement upon return to work, or an increase in seniority for consideration for promotions.
This guarantee of continued seniority does not, however, apply to probationary periods. An employee who is on probation at the time of their pregnancy or parental leave will continue their probation upon their return to work.
At Sultan Lawyers, our skilled employment lawyers can provide reliable advice at all stages of your pregnancy or parental leave. We are committed to advocating for your rights and entitlements during your leave so that you can focus on your family. Contact us online or at 416-214-5111.
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