Thanks to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA), all employees in Ontario are entitled to voluntary maternity and pregnancy leave, providing that their job is protected by the ESA.
Maternity leave provides guaranteed job security and benefit protection for pregnant birth mothers and new parents, allowing them to take time off of work without having to worry about losing their job.
Ontario’s maternity leave protections apply even if you’re receiving EI maternity benefits from the government. Below, I’ll give you a full breakdown of how maternity leave in Ontario works, what the rules are, and explain how it differs from the EI maternity benefit.
In addition to federal maternity leave benefits (discussed more below), each province offers its own separate benefits and protections for parents and mothers-to-be. Ontario’s Employment Standards Act allows for the following employees to take leave:
- Pregnant mothers and supporting fathers
- Mothers who’ve recently given birth
- Fathers of a recently born child
- Parents of a recently adopted child
Pregnant mothers are allowed to take up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave during their pregnancy and new mothers (and fathers) are allowed to take up to 63 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of their child or after adopting.
If the mother took advantage of pregnancy leave, then they’re only entitled to 61 weeks of unpaid leave.
One of the reasons why many parents don’t spend as much time with their newborn children as they’d like is that they’re afraid of losing their jobs, income, and the careers that they’ve worked so hard to build.
Thankfully, employees who are pregnant or have recently become parents are entitled to a certain period of unpaid leave from work without having to give up their careers.
After their period of leave is complete, the employees are able to return to their previous positions without having to worry about being demoted, having their employee benefits cut, or losing credit for their seniority or length of employment.
Essentially, it allows parents to go back to their careers without facing any ramifications for taking parental leave.
Employees don’t have to worry about losing their work-related benefits, don’t have to start back at a lower position or work for lower pay.
Employers who violate Ontario’s Employment Standards Act and fail to adhere to these rules can face serious consequences. There have been many cases where parents have been able to sue their employer for violating their parental leave rights in Ontario.
To be eligible for pregnancy leave, the employee must have started working for the company at least 13 weeks before the baby’s due date.
For example, if you started a new job 3 weeks ago and your baby is due in 4 weeks, then you won’t be allowed to take advantage of pregnancy leave protection.
If you choose to take pregnancy leave, then you’re entitled to up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave. You’re allowed to take your leave at any time during the course of your pregnancy and you aren’t required to take a full 17 weeks off. Many mothers may only choose to take the last month or two of their pregnancy off of work.
However, it’s important to note that once you begin your pregnancy leave, you must complete it. You aren’t allowed to take time off sporadically. Once the baby is born, the pregnancy leave period ends, and you officially begin your parental leave.
Note: Mothers often need additional assistance and care during their final weeks of pregnancy, and fathers-to-be may begin their parental leave early, while the mother is still pregnant.
According to the ESA’s guidelines, pregnant employees must give their employer at least a two week notice before they plan to take their leave. This gives the employer time to make arrangements within their business to accommodate the leave.
Sometimes, unexpected complications arise in pregnancy, though.
If you suddenly have to stop working due to complications with your pregnancy, you’re still entitled to your pregnancy leave. However, you will need to provide a retroactive notice of the pregnancy leave within two weeks after taking leave.
Employers reserve the right to request medical certification documents from employees who take pregnancy leave. If your employer asks, then you’ll need to provide the appropriate documentation given to you by your primary care doctor.
Unlike parental benefits paid by Employment Insurance, mothers do not need to apply for maternity leave. They only need to provide a two-week notice to their employer communicating the date that they plan on beginning their period of leave.
If you work for a larger company, this can typically be handled through the HR department. If you work for a smaller business, then you can handle the matter directly with your employer.
At this point, your employer or HR department may ask you to provide documentation proving that your pregnancy is legitimate (believe it or not, there are some who try to take advantage of the system).
The same rules also apply for fathers who are applying for paternity leave in Ontario.
Once the baby is born and the child is in the care of the parents, both the mother and the father are entitled to unpaid parental leave. Paternal leave provides job security protection for up to 63 weeks after the birth of the child and 61 weeks for mothers who’ve already taken time off for pregnancy leave.
Mothers who choose to take the maximum allowed pregnancy and maternity leave in Ontario are entitled to up to 78 weeks of unpaid time off work.
If the father has already started their paternal leave (while the mother was still pregnant), then their parental leave time will be slightly shorter than the mother’s, which doesn’t begin until after the baby is born.
Parental and pregnancy leave are two different protections that are provided to parents and parents-to-be in Ontario. If you’re a first-time parent and have never applied for leave, the rules can be a bit confusing. To make everything simpler, here’s a quick chart comparing the two:
|Pregnancy Leave||Parental Leave|
|Can only be applied for by mothers||Applies to both mothers and fathers|
|Provides up to 17 weeks of unpaid time off work||Provides up to 63 weeks of unpaid time off work after the birth of the child (61 weeks for mothers who’ve already taken pregnancy leave)|
|Must be taken all at once||Must be taken all at once|
|Only available to employees who’ve started work at least 13 weeks before their baby’s due date||Available to all employees who have recently become parents|
|Requires employees to provide a two week notice prior to leave or a retroactive notice within two weeks of an unexpected leave date||Requires employees to provide a two week notice prior to leave or a retroactive notice within two weeks of an unexpected leave date|
Can You Work While On Parental Leave In Ontario?
Often, parents taking advantage of pregnancy or paternal leave allowances may find the need to bring in extra income (albeit on a more flexible schedule). Returning to work with your former employer will automatically put an end to your leave, though.
Most parents on leave also aren’t in a position to commit to a position at another company either.
Freelancing online is an excellent solution for those on parental leave who want to bring in additional income. As a freelancer, you’ll be able to work whenever you want, which allows you to earn some extra money during the hours of the day that you feel up to working or when the baby’s taking a nap.
To see what your options are, take a look at my post detailing how to make money on maternity leave.
Although pregnancy leave is only available to mothers who are physically giving birth, parents who plan on adopting are allowed to take parental leave. After the date of adoption (or shortly before), both the mother and the father have the right to take a full 63 weeks of unpaid time off of work.
Ontario’s Employment Standards Act merely provides employment protection to new parents and pregnant mothers. It does not offer any form of benefit payment to the parents. This can pose a financial problem to parents who aren’t receiving compensation from work during their leave.
Thankfully, parents who are taking parental leave in Ontario are entitled to Employment Insurance benefit payments issued by the federal government. While EI payments don’t amount to much, they can provide a basic level of financial support to help families keep up with their bills and responsibilities.
All new mothers taking time off of work are entitled to EI maternity benefits. EI maternity benefits are paid for up to 15 weeks after the mother takes pregnancy leave in Ontario and may continue being paid after the birth of the child.
The EI maternity benefit typically pays 55% of the applicant’s former paycheque, up to $638, issued as a weekly payment.
After the initial EI maternity benefits stop, applicants will be able to choose between standard EI parental benefits and extended EI parental benefits. These provide continued support if the parents choose to take more time off of work to spend time with their child.
- Standard EI parental benefits provide up to 40 weeks worth of benefit payments to both parents or 35 weeks worth of benefit payments to a single parent
- Extended EI parental benefits provide up to 69 weeks worth of benefit payments to both parents or up to 61 weeks of benefit payments to a single parent (at a lower rate)
|EI Maternity Benefit||Up to 15 weeks||55% (up to $638 per week)|
|EI Parental Benefit (Standard)||Up to 40 weeks||55% (up to $638 per week)|
|EI Parental Benefit (Extended)||Up to 69 weeks||33% (up to $383 per week)|
All eligible parents and mothers-to-be can apply for EI parental benefits, providing that they meet the minimum income threshold and other requirements.
Parental EI benefits can be applied for through the My Service Canada portal. Both the maternity and parental benefits can be applied for at the same time and mothers are entitled to receive both benefits.
Maternity Leave for Self-Employed Individuals
Self-employed individuals are a bit of a unique situation. Here is what you need to know if you’re self employed and thinking of taking maternity leave:
- Eligibility through EI: In Canada, self-employed individuals can opt into the Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits program, which covers maternity and parental benefits. Once enrolled, they must complete a minimum amount of insurable self-employed earnings during the calendar year before their claim. This allows them to receive benefits similar to what an employed individual would receive.
- Duration of Benefits: The duration for which self-employed individuals can claim benefits mirrors that of employed workers. They can receive maternity benefits for up to 15 weeks and parental benefits for up to either 35 weeks (standard) or 61 weeks (extended). The choice between standard and extended will dictate the rate of weekly benefits.
- Flexibility in Claims: One of the advantages for self-employed individuals is the flexibility associated with claims. While they need to meet the minimum withdrawal period, they can choose to claim EI benefits more flexibly, catering to the needs of their business and their newborn.
- Opt-out Options: Self-employed individuals who have opted into the EI program can opt-out later, but only if they have never claimed benefits. Once they claim benefits, they are in the program and have to continue paying EI premiums on their self-employed earnings.
- Commitment to Premiums: Once a self-employed individual opts into the EI benefits program, they are committing to paying EI premiums on their taxable income from self-employment as long as they are self-employed.
To wrap things up, I’ll take a few minutes to quickly answer some of the most commonly asked questions about maternity leave in Ontario.
The province of Ontario does not offer paid benefits to parents who have taken maternity or paternity leave.
However, those on parental leave may apply to receive federal Employment Insurance benefits which can pay up to $638 per week to eligible parents. Certain employers may also offer some form of paid leave to their employers.
In Ontario, pregnant mothers are entitled to 17 weeks of unpaid time off work, providing that they started their job at least 13 weeks prior to the baby’s scheduled due date.
After the birth of the child, both the mother and father are allowed up to 63 weeks of unpaid parental leave from work. Parents who’ve recently adopted a child are also allowed to take parental leave.
Are EI Parental Benefits Taxable?
If your application is approved and you start receiving parental benefit payments from Employment Insurance, you do not have to report them on your taxes, as they don’t represent taxable income.
Yes, parental leave in Ontario is available to both mothers and fathers.
No parent is required to return to their job of unpaid maternity or paternity leave in Ontario. However, if the period of leave ends and the employee chooses not to return to work, then their position will not be protected and they may not be allowed to resume their previous position.
All new and expecting parents are entitled to unpaid parental leave in Ontario, which ensures that they’re able to return to their previous jobs and careers and receive the same level of pay and benefits that they were entitled to prior to taking leave.
During your parental leave period, you’re also entitled to receive EI parental benefit payments to account for lost income.
Once your child is born, you’ll also be entitled to receive the Canada Child Benefit along with any other applicable provincial child benefits in Ontario. Keep on reading to learn more about the CCB and how much you could receive!