Maternity Leave

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Friday, Jun 14, 2024

When one of your employees is expecting, you have a legal requirement to provide them with maternity leave. This is a key part in retaining your best staff, ensuring a happy workforce and more importantly, the health and wellbeing of your staff.

You need to get the basics right by granting the correct amount of leave. If you don’t allow your staff maternity leave in Canada, you could be hit with a heavy fine.

In this guide, we’ll explain what maternity leave is, how much leave your employees are entitled to and the pay implications.

What is maternity leave?

Maternity leave or pregnancy leave is a job-protected leave available to pregnant women before and after giving birth to care for their new-born. This type of leave is a legal requirement, which you must grant to your employees.

Do you get paid for maternity leave?

There is no legal requirement to provide your employees with maternity leave pay in Canada. This is also the same for parental leave, where employees can apply for a further unpaid leave of up to 63 weeks, depending on your provincial employment standards legislation.

Parental leave is extended maternity leave in essence, although this is not the case with an adoptive parent.

While the leaves are unpaid, your employees may be eligible for financial assistance through the Employment Insurance (EI) maternity and parental benefits. They can receive 55% of their weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $595 per week.

While maternity benefits can be received up to a maximum of 15 weeks. Parental benefits are either paid over a 35-week period or over 61 weeks depending on whether your employee chooses standard parental benefits (up to $595 a week) or extended parental benefits (up to $357 a week).

How long is maternity leave in Canada?

The length of maternity leave varies across provinces in Canada. While federal employees can take up to 17 weeks of maternity leave and up to 63 weeks of parental leave, that is not the case for provincially regulated employees.

How to apply for maternity leave benefits

Your employees must check their maternity leave eligibility before applying for their

EI maternity leave benefits. The following criteria must be met:

  • They’re employed in insurable employment.
  • Their weekly earnings are reduced by more than 40% for at least one week once maternity leave has started.
  • They must have accumulated at least 600 hours of insurable employment. Due to COVID-19, until September 24, 2022, this requirement has been temporarily reduced to 420 insured hours of work in the 52 weeks before the start of the claim.

This application can be made online, and you need to make sure you have the correct documentation (records of employments).

Can I be punished for not allowing leave?

Employees have a right to maternity leave. To avoid confusion, you should have a clear and concise policy for maternity and parental leave.

Included in this policy should be the leave entitlements, how to apply for the leave and how you’ll support your staff once they return to work.

Failing to provide your staff with their leave entitlements can result in a breach of contract and your employee could take you to an employment tribunal.

Violating a provision of the employment standards or not complying with an enforcement directive could lead to a range of penalties and even prosecution.

In Ontario, an individual violating the ESA, or its regulations may receive a fine of $50,000 and or 12 months of jail time. A corporation could be fined $100,000 for the first ESA offence, $250,000 for the second and $500,000 thereafter.

BC imposes a range of fines on employers not following the ESA, starting with $500 for the first offence. In Alberta, you could receive a fine of up to $6000 for a level three offence for violating the Employment Standards Code.

Get help with your absence management today with BrightHR

Your staff has a right to unpaid time-off when they require it. So, it’s important that you get your unpaid leave policy right. Not managing leaves correctly can lead to unhappy employees, and/or expensive fines.

If you need assistance with your leave management, BrightHR has a tool which will make the whole process easier and quicker for you.

Our sick leave and lateness tools allow you to manage leave for your employees as and when they require it.

Contact us on 18882204924 or book a demo today.

Lucy Cobb

Employment Law Specialist

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