Maternity Leave

Employment Law Services

Pregnancy, Paternal and Maternity Leave

Nobody understands just how precarious job security can feel more than a woman who is pregnant and contemplating her maternity leave. Our laws were written especially to protect you from the time you announce your pregnancy or start showing.  Canadians enjoy some of the most progressive laws in the world in this regard.  Provincial employment laws as well as Federal Employment Insurance Benefits allow birth mothers, the other parent as well as adoptive parents time off with some income.

They can bond with their newly arrived infant in peace, knowing their jobs are secure when they return.


Your Top 10 Questions

If you are a pregnant woman or new parent, here is what you need to know:

1. What happens if I am too sick to work while I am pregnant?

You may take time off during your pregnancy if you are medically unable to work. This is true for miscarriages and other pregnancy related illnesses. This rule also applies to surrogate mothers. Our laws specifically protect you from being unfairly treated simply because you are pregnant. You cannot be demoted or fired. You can request special workplace accommodations if you feel you cannot safely perform your regular duties while carrying a child.

Examples include:

  • modified duties to allow you to continue to work until you go on leave;
  • temporary flexible hours;
  • time off for valid health reasons and to attend medical appointments.

If your employer makes any of this difficult, recognize that your rights are being violated. Some unscrupulous employers may try to frustrate you into quitting, knowing that you will be going on extended leave. This specifically is against the law and classic grounds for a constructive dismissal case.  Contact us before it gets out of hand.

2. Can my boss fire me because I am pregnant?

Pregnant women can rest assured that our laws protect them to a far greater degree than other workers. Your employer cannot fire you because you are pregnant and intend on taking maternity leave. This protection begins when you announce your pregnancy or when your bump starts showing.

If you were fired while pregnant and for no tangible reason other than your pregnancy, the legal repercussions are severe. This is as bad as it can get for your employer. When wrongful dismissal cases are intertwined with pregnancy or paternal leave there are many avenues to fight this grievance. Ensure you have the most experienced employment lawyer on your side to fight this battle to your benefit.

3. How long is my parental leave?

Starting December 3, 2017, if you are a new parent and have not previously taken parental leave, then you are eligible to take up to 63 weeks off from work. If you have previously taken parental leave, then you can take up to 61 weeks off. Once you start your leave, it must be taken all at once. This is unpaid time off from work, unless your employer offers private parental leave benefits.

4. Who is entitled to take pregnancy leave?

Pregnancy leave is a separate entitlement from parental leave. Birth mothers as well as surrogate mothers can take pregnancy leave of up to 17 weeks. Just like parental leave above, this time off is unpaid unless your employer offers private coverage.

Expectant parents can now opt for 12 or 18 months of combined parental and pregnancy leave.

5. Who is entitled to take parental leave?

Both the birth mother and all other new parents can take parental leave once your baby is born. You qualify for this leave as long as you started your job at least 13 weeks prior. This applies to full-time, part-time, permanent and even term contract employee

6. Will I get paid while I am on this leave?

This is considered unpaid time off unless your employer offers special benefits for parental and maternity leave. However, you may qualify for Federal Employment Insurance (EI).  These benefits also cover you if you are unable to work while you are pregnant. Further to that, EI parental benefits coverage is also available for parents to care for a newly adopted child.

If you are considering pregnancy or parental leave, you should contact your local EI office to establish your specific qualification criteria. While expectant parents do have a choice of taking 12 or 18 months off to spend with their new child, the total EI benefit has limitations. Parents opting to take advantage of the 18 month leave will only receive their 12 month entitlement. The parental leave equivalent will be stretched and paid out over the extra 6 months.

7. What happens to my health benefits while I am on parental or maternity leave?

You are entitled to all earned benefits, including vacation, sick leave, seniority, and raises.

8. When can I start my leave?

As the birth mother, it is you, and not your employer who decides when your leave starts. It can begin as early as 17 weeks before your due date or on the day you give birth.

If you also intend to take parental leave, you must do so immediately after your pregnancy leave ends. An exception is made to this rule if your baby requires hospitalization right after birth. In this case, you can return to work after your pregnancy leave; your parental leave can begin when your baby comes home. This must take place within 52 weeks of the birth.  If you are the other parent, your parental leave can begin no later than 52 weeks after the day the child was born or came into the your custody, care and control for the first time.

9. Can my employer fire me during my parental or maternity leave?

Employers can fire their employees for many reasons but not specifically because you are on legal leave for being a parent. You are entitled to your job when you return. If you face a job layoff during or right after your return, contact us to examine the circumstances. Your employer would need to prove that the layoff was for reasons other than your leave, and the courts set this bar very high, indeed.

10. I don’t feel welcome back after my parental or maternity leave. What should I do?

In our experience, employees returning from maternity leave or an illness are most susceptible to workplace harassment. This is when some employers start comparing you to the person who filled in for you. Perhaps they will decide that you are less-than-productive?

New parents frequently require time off to care for sick infants. And they also fall ill more often from viruses their kids bring home from daycare and school.  Your manager may unnecessarily scrutinize you for not being fully productive.  When your employer starts looking at you through a productivity lens, you will most likely be subjected to a demotion, an unreasonable workload or underhanded harassment. You may be excluded from team meetings on purpose and actively set up to fail. Employees in this situation expect to be fired at any moment. This is harassment and it is completely illegal. Consulting with us early in the process will allow us to manage your case properly.

Lecker & Associates are Employment & Disability Benefits Lawyers.  We provide employment law services exclusively to employees of Ontario.  Our team of Toronto Employment Lawyers are among the most experienced in the country.

Read our blogs on the topic of work and parenthood, here

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Maternity Leave - Toronto Employment Law Services