Maternity Leave (Pregnancy Leave) and Parental Leave

Maternity refers to the period during pregnancy and shortly after giving birth. The Employment Standards Act (ESA) states the terms and conditions for maternity, under the definitions for pregnancy leave and parental leave. Leave is the legal right for new parents to take unpaid time off work and return to the same job once their leave of absence is over.

Maternity leave or pregnancy leave, allows pregnant employees up to 17 weeks of unpaid time off work. In some circumstances, the length of absence may be extended. This type of leave is an employee right that is applicable to all positions whether full-time, part-time, casual, permanent, or contracted. However, maternity leave does not apply to employees whose due date falls fewer than 13 weeks from their employment start date.

It is not a legal requirement that you pay your employees who are on pregnancy leave. For employees, the Government of Canada provides benefits to those eligible while on leave.

Bill 148: Pregnancy Leave and Parental Leave

The Government of Canada provides new and expecting parents with the option to take a leave of absence for family care purposes or health-related concerns. Maternity or parental leave provides time off work, as follows:

  • Maternity or Pregnancy Leave: for eligible employees in respect to pregnancy, childbirth, post-childbirth recuperation, adoption and childcare.
  • Parental Leave: for male or female employees for the purpose of caring for their newborn or adopted child.

As of December 3, 2017, Ontario has increased the amount of time that employers must provide for parental leave. A birth mother can take both leaves of absence, since parental leave does not account for pregnancy leave. With pregnancy leave, the entitlement has increased up to 61 weeks’ leave; without and for new parents, the allowance is up to 63 weeks off. Both types of absences are unpaid leaves from employment.

Under Bill 148, pregnancy leave has also increased for employees who suffer a pregnancy loss, up to 12 weeks. This came into effect on January 1, 2018.

Quick Facts for Employers

Here are a few key employer need-to-knows around pregnancy leave.

Fact Length
Eligibility 17 weeks, or longer in certain circumstances, of unpaid time off work
Start Date 17 weeks before the due date, or on the date of birth if earlier
Amount of Time Off 17 weeks, or up to the date of birth; this begins parental leave
Notice Period Minimum two weeks prior to the leave

Do you have questions about maternity leave or parental leave?

If you’re unsure about your responsibilities as an employer, call our free helpline to speak with an HR specialist. We’re available to answer your questions to help your business make the necessary arrangements for pregnancy or parental leaves of absence. Call Employer Line for support, at 1(833) 247-3650.