Pregnancy and Parental Leave

What is Pregnancy Leave?

Pregnancy leave is governed by Section 46 of the Employment Standards Act, 2000, S.O. 2000, c. 41, as amended (ESA), and states that a pregnant employee is entitled to a leave of absence without pay for a maximum of seventeen (17) weeks.  An employee can begin her pregnancy leave at any time within the seventeen weeks (up to and including the due date).

If an employee is both employed by an ESA-governed employer and began her employment at least thirteen (13) weeks before her due date, then she is entitled to pregnancy leave regardless of whether she is a full-time, part-time, permanent, or term contract employee.

An employee is not required to actively work for the thirteen weeks prior to her due date to be entitled to pregnancy leave.  An employee is only required to have started her employment at least thirteen weeks before the due date.

What is Parental Leave?

Parental leave is governed by Section 48 of the ESA and states that an employee who is both employed for at least thirteen (13) weeks and is the parent of a child is entitled to a leave of absence without pay.  If an employee took pregnancy leave, then the maximum length of parental leave is thirty-five (35) weeks and thirty-seven (37) weeks otherwise (Section 49).

    Who Qualifies for Parental Leave?

The qualification requirements for parental leave are the same as those for pregnancy leave and an employee is not required to actively work for the thirteen weeks prior to commencing the parental leave.  As stated by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the ESA only requires an employee to have been employed for thirteen weeks before taking the parental leave.

“Parent” is defined by Section 45 of the ESA and includes:

    •    A birth parent;
    •    An adoptive parent (adoption does not need to be legally finalized); and
    •    An individual who is in a relationship of some permanence with a parent of a child and who plans to treat the child as their own.

When Does Parental Leave Begin?

For the birth mother, parental leave typically begins as soon as her pregnancy leave concludes.  However, in cases where a baby has been hospitalized since birth and remains in the hospital’s care when the pregnancy ends, the birth mother can either: (1) commence her parental leave when the pregnancy leave ends; or, (2) choose to return to work and commence her parental leave at a later date (any time within the fifty-two (52) weeks of the birth or the date on which the baby was released from hospital – Section 48(2)).

For all other parents, the parental leave must commence no later than fifty-two (52) weeks after either the date of birth or the date the child came into their care, custody, and control.  It is not necessary to complete the parental leave within this fifty-two-week period.

Employment and Labour Laws are not always straightforward, but whether you are an employee or an employer, understanding your rights and duties will only stand to benefit you. Reach out to an employment lawyer or labour lawyer today if you have any questions and be sure to get what you deserve and safeguard yourself for the future. The lawyers at Vey Willetts LLP have a proven track record and are happy to assist.  

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