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Questions about Parental Leave

What exactly does this provision do?

Employees will be entitled to a longer, job-protected parental leave of up to 61 weeks for employees who have taken pregnancy leave, or up to 63 weeks for employees who are eligible for or take only parental leave.

Why is this significant?

The new provisions in the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act extend the available period of parental leave and provide Part XIV leave general protections for employees who wish to use new federal Employment Insurance benefits that can be taken over a longer period of time (up to 18 months).

How is the new provision different from the existing provisions in the Employment Standards Act, 2000?

Previously, the longest parental leave available was up to 35 weeks for employees who took pregnancy leave, and up to 37 weeks for all other new parents.

Why have these changes been made?

On December 3, 2017, federal Employment Insurance (EI) benefits became available to employees taking pregnancy or parental leave in a different way. Employees have the choice to take either EI benefits that represent 55 per cent of their income (up to a maximum benefit) over a 52-week period, or 33 per cent of their income over an 18-month period. The new, longer parental leave will allow employees the flexibility to take the EI benefit either way.

When must the leave begin?

Employees must start the leave within 78 weeks of the employee’s child coming into their care, custody or control for the first time. In the case of an employee who has taken pregnancy leave, parental leave must begin as soon as pregnancy leave has ended unless the child has not yet come into her care, custody and control.

Does an employee have to take 61 or 63 weeks of parental leave?

No. As before, an employee can take any amount of parental leave up to 61 or 63 weeks.

What happens if an employee does not specify a return date when he or she gives notice to the employer that they will be starting a parental leave?

Employees are not required to state when they plan to return to work when they provide notice to an employer of an intention to take parental leave. However, if they do not, an employer will assume that the employee will not return until the end of the maximum period of leave, which is 63 weeks for an employee taking parental leave only and 78 weeks for an employee taking a combination of pregnancy and parental leave.

Therefore, if an employee gives notice, but does not specify a return date (or does not give notice at all), and, for example, wanted to return after 52 weeks of leave, they would be required to give the employer four weeks’ written notice of intention to return to work “early.”

Has anything else about parental leave changed?

No. Notice to the employer and eligibility requirements for the leave, for example, remain the same.

What happens to employees who are already on parental leave?

Employees are only entitled to the new, longer period of leave if their child comes into their custody, care or control for the first time on or after December 3, 2017. If the child came into their custody, care or control prior to that date, the maximum entitlement is either 35 or 37 weeks and the leave must be started within 52 weeks of the child coming into their custody, care or control.

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