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Maternity Leave in Canada: 11 Rights You Need to Know

May 4, 2011 at 2:34 PM Chime in now

Maternity Leave Rights in Canada



Knowing is half the battle: plan ahead for your pending maternity leave!

Are you about to take maternity leave? On top of all the things flooding your new baby brain, you have to think about what that means in terms of your career, too. Here are 11 things to know about maternity rights in Canada.

1) Job Security
First and foremost, know that no employee may be laid off, terminated, dismissed, demoted, suspended, disciplined, or refused for hire, promotion or training because of pregnancy. In addition, no employee shall be required to take a leave of absence or have her job duties or working conditions altered without her consent because of pregnancy.

2) Regional Differences
Each province has its own legislation or code governing your parental and pregnancy rights, which include maternity, parental, and adoption leave. While they are similar, make sure the information you read pertains to you and the province you live in.

3) Doing Your Time Before Taking Your Leave
In all provinces—except British Columbia, Quebec, and New Brunswick—you need to have to worked with a company for a minimum amount of time before you are entitled to maternity or parental leave (find out what this minimum is from your employer). In addition, to be eligible for employment insurance (EI) maternity benefits, in most cases, you must have worked a minimum number of insurable hours (600 hours is the norm and this is paid into EI). This time should have been worked 52 weeks prior to your leave.

4) The Top-Up
Some companies will also “top up” some of the difference (usually less than 100 per cent) between employment insurance maternity benefits and your salary. Make sure you speak to your human resources department about these supplementary unemployment benefit (SUB) plans as they can be key in helping you replace lost earnings.

5) The Doctor’s Note
If your employer requests a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy or birth, don’t be offended—they are permitted to do so by law (not because they think you’re faking it!). Before returning to work, some companies may also require that you obtain a medical certificate stating that you are capable of working without any risk to your health.

6) Tell Them in Writing
This may seem obvious, but don’t forget to notify your employer, in writing, of your intent to take maternity leave. In some provinces, there is a specific time requirement to satisfy this notification; in Alberta, for example, you must give your employer a six-week notice of your intent to take maternity leave. When returning to work, you may also be asked to provide your company with advance notice, if your maternity leave end date has not been predetermined.

7) Read the Fine Print
Most employment contracts will include a clause regarding the start and end dates of your maternity leave. Read these carefully: while all Canadian jurisdictions (except Yukon) specify that your leave is not to commence more than 17 weeks (11 in some provinces) prior to the expected date of birth, your company may have more specific parameters regarding when the leave may (or, in some cases, must) take place, and for how long.

8) Working While On Leave
If you are receiving benefits, there are strict rules re: how much you can earn while still receiving money from the government. During Maternity Leave (the first 15 weeks of receiving benefits) anything you earn will be deducted from your benefits. During Parental Leave (the following 35 weeks) you can earn up to $50 per week or 25% of your weekly benefits, whichever is higher.

9) Paternity Leave
Many companies will also grant “paternity leave,” or parental leave for male employees as an extension of or in addition to maternity leave. In some cases (normally in special circumstances), you may also request an extension to your maternity leave, which may be granted without pay or paid using your vacation credits or sick leave.

10) Keeping Seniority
Although seniority retention and accrual clauses are still not a part of the majority of maternity leave agreements in Canada, there has been a small shift in the last 10 years. Most companies will at minimum, provide seniority retention; some also offer partial seniority accumulation during your maternity leave.

11) About That Raise…
You are entitled to return to your former position or, if your company is restructured while you are on leave, a comparable one, with equivalent wages and benefits when you get back. In some provinces, you may also receive any wage or benefit increases you would have been entitled to if you had remained at work.

Check out this link from HRDSC: “Work and Family Provisions in Canadian Collective Agreements”


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