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Maternity and Parental Leave

DBM Law Blog

Congratulations on the new member of your family. Here are 4 things every employee (and employer) should know about maternity and parental Leave.

You are about to welcome the arrival of your new baby girl or boy. This is an exciting time! Although full of excitement and new beginnings, regardless of whether you are a mother or a father, you will probably need to think about taking time off from work.

There are a lot of questions, and perhaps even some confusion about how maternity and parental leave work. DBM believes the sooner you know what you are entitled to, the better.

Here are 4 frequently asked questions that you should definitely know the answers to:

  1. What is the difference between maternity leave and parental leave?

According to the BC Employment Standards Act, a pregnant employee is entitled to maternity leave, also known as pregnancy leave. This allows a mother to receive up to 17 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave from work . Maternity leave can commence no earlier than 11 weeks prior to the expected birth date, and no later than the actual birth date.

If an employee does not provide her employer with a minimum of four weeks’ notice of her intention to begin her maternity leave, or for an employee who requests maternity leave following the termination of a pregnancy, she is entitled to 6 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave, with an optional 6 week extension, if for reasons related to the birth termination of the pregnancy she is unable to return to work.

Parental leave is available to any biological or adoptive parent after the birth or arrival of their child. Birth mothers are entitled to 35 weeks of leave, usually started after the end of their 17-week maternity leave.
A father or non-biological parent is entitled to 37 weeks of leave.

This is COMBINED leave. While maternity leave can only be taken by the biological mother, parental leave can be taken by either parent or divided between parents. For example, the non-biological parent may take two weeks of parental leave, while the birth mother still has two weeks left of maternity leave. Then the mother may start taking the rest of the parental leave. Parents may choose whichever parental leave split they see fit, however, they must remember that this is a shared leave, therefore, in total is, at most, 37 weeks shared between both parents.

  1. Do employers have to allow parents to take this leave?

Yes. Under BC law, employers must provide their employees with 17 weeks of maternity leave and/or 35-37 weeks of parental leave. It is important to know that they are only obligated to give you UNPAID leave. Employers are not required to pay you or pay any benefits while you are on either leave. If you have a health benefits package at your work, you should review it to see what, if any, benefits you be entitled to.

  1. So how do we get income during maternity and parental leave?

During maternity and parental leave, parents can apply for EI Benefits for the duration of their leave. This is not automatic, you must apply for it. In order to qualify for EI benefits,, you must be eligible for EI Benefits, which means:

a) you must be employed in insurable employment;

b) you meet the specific criteria for receiving EI maternity or parental benefits;

c) your normal weekly earnings are reduced by more than 40%; and,

d) you have accumulated at least 600 hours of insurable employment during the qualifying period

For complete information, you can visit the Service Canada website, here.

  1. What happens when I return to work? Do I get my old job back?

Yes. Employers must give you the same or a comparable position with earnings and other benefits equal to what you had when you started your maternity or parental leave. Your employment cannot be terminated while you are on maternity or parental leave unless your employer goes out of business.

If your employer is not following these rules, or if you have any questions or concerns about your maternity or parental leave, you should contact an Employment Lawyer so you are full aware of your rights and your employer’s obligations.









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