Parental Leave in Canada

Christopher Rootham

Canadian Employment Lawyers Ensure Fair Parental Leave

Employment Lawyers Help You Understand Your Parental Leave Rights

Pregnancy and parental leave regulations vary according to which province you live in. Employment Lawyers are aware of these strict standards and understand that they may sometimes be confusing. Accordingly, Christopher Rootham states that many people in Canada are not aware of their exact pregnancy and parental leave rights. However, through consulting a Canadian Employment Lawyer, you can usually avoid any surprises and receive what is rightfully yours, especially during parental leave.

Experienced Employment Lawyers help guide you through parental leave. Typically, Employment Lawyers familiarize you with your rights. For instance, if you or your spouse become pregnant and unfortunately miscarry your Canadian Employment Lawyer will advise you if you are entitled to a pregnancy leave in your province. For more information about what rights you have during any type of leave and circumstance, contact your local Employment Lawyer. Not only will Employment Lawyers help you understand your pregnancy and parental leave rights, they can also clearly define your Employment Insurance benefits.

Employment Insurance Benefits Are Important to Your Growing Family

Canadian Employment Lawyers understand that Employment Insurance benefits are important to have, especially as your family continues to grow. However, if your employer fires you without a legitimate reason and while you are on parental leave, then you should contact Canadian Employment Lawyer who can facilitate an investigation thus minimizing stress during these trying times. With the assistance of a Canadian Employment Lawyer you will normally receive what you are rightfully entitled to, including your Employment Insurance benefits.

Parental leave in Canada is designed to allow new parents to take the necessary time off work to care for their newborn children without jeopardizing their careers. The maximum period of leave, applicability to adoption and other issues may vary from province-to-province; therefore, it is important to find out your precise rights in your province of work, with the help of a Canadian Labour and Employment lawyer.

Two kinds of leave in Canada

New parents in Canada are actually entitled to two kinds of leave: "pregnancy leave" and "parental leave."

"Pregnancy" leave (also sometimes called "maternity leave") is designed to provide a period of leave for women who have been pregnant, in order to allow them to recover from the physical consequences of the birthing process. In Canada, pregnant women are eligible for pregnancy leave. All of the provinces and territories provide for a pregnancy leave of 17 weeks, except for Saskatchewan (18 weeks) and Alberta (15 weeks). You may start your pregnancy leave before your due date (anywhere from 11 - 17 weeks prior to your due date, depending upon your province). Finally, in the unfortunate event of a miscarriage and stillbirth, four provinces explicitly state that women are still entitled to pregnancy leave (B.C., Newfoundland, Ontario, and Saskatchewan) - the other provincial statutes, while silent, would likely allow it as well.

"Parental leave" is designed to provide a period of leave for a parent of either gender to allow them to bond with their new child and begin the child-rearing process. Parental leave in Canada ranges from between 35-37 weeks and, in some provinces, may be shared between two parents.

Pay during Pregnancy and Parental Leave

A new parent in Canada is not entitled to be paid during his or her pregnancy or Ontario parental leave of absence. Some Ontario Canadian employers have agreed to pay part of an employee's salary during pregnancy or parental leave, but there is no obligation on the employer to do so. Some provinces (B.C. and Ontario) require the employer to continue paying its share of contributions to health and other benefit plans during pregnancy or parental leave. In other provinces, employees may continue to participate in benefit plans only if they pay the entire cost of the premiums. This may be of some small benefit to Ontario employees if the cost of replacement benefits is higher than paying for the employer's benefit plan.

However, new parents are entitled to Employment Insurance during pregnancy and parental leave. New Canadian parents must have worked a minimum of 600 hours of "insurable employment" in the last 52 weeks prior to the claim for benefits. Pregnant women in Canada are entitled to 15 weeks of benefits, and parents of either gender are entitled to up to an additional 35 weeks of EI benefits. If you include the two-week waiting period, this means that a new mother is entitled to one full year on EI benefits.

Rights when returning from pregnancy and parental leave

All provinces in Canada prohibit employers from dismissing, laying off, suspending, disciplining or otherwise penalizing employees because they take pregnancy or parental leave. Employers in Canada are allowed to dismiss an employee for reasons unrelated to the leave (i.e. a plant shutdown or general downsizing); however, when an employee is dismissed during their leave, it raises a suspicion that the dismissal was related to the leave, and the Canadian employer's actions will be subject to intense scrutiny.

When an employee in Canada returns from pregnancy or parental leave, he or she is entitled to return to work. In Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, an employee is entitled to return to his or her pre-leave position, unless the position no longer exists. In other Canadian provinces, the employee must be reinstated to the position they held prior to taking leave, or to a "comparable" position. A "comparable" position is one that involves work of a comparable nature when considering: the location of the job, hours of work, quality of working environment, degree of responsibility, the pay, job security, possibility of advancement, and prestige.

Finally, employees on pregnancy and parental leave may continue to accrue seniority or service during their leave, as well as other employment benefits. The precise rights vary significantly from province to province. Most provinces in Canada allow employees to continue to accrue service during their leave periods for pension and other benefit purposes. Some provinces also allow employees to continue to accrue seniority while on leave. Finally, a number of provinces (including Ontario and B.C.) state that employees must be reinstated from their leave at a wage rate that is equal to the rate they would have received had they not been on leave. This means that, in some provinces in Canada, employees on leave receive annual increases or even merit increases while on leave.

Christopher Rootham is a labour and employment lawyer at Nelligan O’Brien Payne in Ottawa.

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