If you are a new parent or are considering taking your first parental leave in Ontario, the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the federal Employment Insurance Act protects your right to do so. Please note that parental leave has different protections than pregnancy leave in Ontario, entitling both mother and father to up to 63 weeks of unpaid leave from their workplace.

All new parents have the right to take parental leave. It is non-negotiable and also unpaid. Employers are not legally entitled to pay wages to someone who is on parental leave. A parent is defined as either a birth parent, an adoptive parent, or a person in a relationship with someone who is the parent of a child and who plans on treating their child as their own.

Here is all you need to know about parental leave in Ontario, Canada.

How to Qualify For Parental Leave

Whether you are full-time, part-time, permanent, or on a term contract, you qualify for parental leave so long as you are defined as an employee by the ESA. Also, you have been employed a minimum of 13 weeks before commencing the parental leave. Regarding these 13 weeks, an employee could be on layoff, vacation, sick leave, or pregnancy leave for all or part of that period. An employee does not need to have been actively working through the 13 weeks.

Birth mothers are entitled, if they wish, to take both up to 17 weeks of pregnancy leave and an additional 61 weeks of parental leave. The Employment Standards Act, 2000 states that a new parent can commence their parental leave up to 78 weeks after the child is born. A new father, for example, does not need to schedule their parental leave to be immediate. That said, depending on when it’s taken, employment insurance parental benefits may be restricted.

When Parental Leave Officially Starts

A parental leave starts on the day the employee stops working. As long as an employee provides the appropriate written notice, the start of one’s parental leave is typically clearly identified.

An employee cannot use part of their parental leave, return to work, and then go back on parental leave. Once a parental leave is started, it must be taken in full. Any return to work, even on a part-time basis, will end one’s parental leave and any rights entitled to an employee on parental leave.

You Must Be Give Your Old Job Back Upon Return

How parental leave in Ontario works is that you continue participating in benefit plans, and earning credit for length of employment, seniority, and the like. In almost all cases, employees must be provided with their old job back at the end of their parental leave.

An employer cannot punish an employee for taking parental leave. An employer cannot discriminate or refuse parental leave. If there are issues at any point in planning a parental leave or during, contacting an employment lawyer like ELT may be the recommended route to take to protect your rights as an employee fully.

Miscarriages and stillbirths do not qualify for parental leave. When an employee experiences a miscarriage or stillbirth, they are no longer eligible for parental leave.

How to Give Notice of a Parental Leave

An employee is required to give their employer at least two weeks’ written notice before beginning a parental leave. You do not need to take full parental leave. If you do not specify to your employer how many weeks you plan to take, an employer will likely assume you’ll be on parental leave for the full duration.

If an exact number of weeks is not identified, a worker on parental leave must provide four weeks’ written notice if they intend to return to work before the duration of their intended parental leave is over. If the notice is not given, this does not mean an employee loses their right to parental leave.

Some parents may choose at the end of their parental leave to not return to work. If an employee’s choice is to resign, they must provide their employer with a minimum of four weeks’ written notice.

Your Entitlement Upon Returning To Work

When parental leave is over, an employee is entitled to return to the same job they had before leaving or a comparable job if the employee’s old position no longer exists. Furthermore, an employee must be paid at least as much as they were earning before leaving. If wages increased while they were on parental leave, this increase also applies to the wages promised to the returning employee.

While an employer can technically dismiss an employee on parental leave or returning after parental leave, it must be unrelated to the fact that they took leave. The termination must be made for legitimate reasons. An employment lawyer can help if you’ve been unfairly dismissed.

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