What is Parental Leave?
Parental leave is time off work for when a baby or child is born or first comes into their care (i.e. through adoption). All new parents have the right to take unpaid time off.
Pregnancy leave is different from parental leave. Pregnant employees also have the right to take unpaid time off that is separate from their right to parental leave.
How Long is Parental Leave in Ontario?
Pregnant employees have the right to take pregnancy leave of up to 17 weeks of unpaid time off (or in some cases even longer). If a birth parent takes pregnancy leave, they are still entitled to up to 61 weeks’ of leave. Birth parents that do no take pregnancy leave and all other new parents are entitled to up to 63 weeks’ of parental leave.
Can Both Parents Take Parental Leave?
Both new parents have the right to take parental leave of up to 61 or 63 weeks of unpaid time off work.
Do I Qualify for Parental Leave?
A new parent is entitled to parental leave whether they are a full-time, part-time, permanent or term contract employee provided that the employee:
- is employed by an employer that is covered by the Employment Standards Act (ESA), and
- was employed for at least 13 weeks before commencing the parental leave.
The ESA only requires the employee to have been employed by the employer for 13 weeks before they may commence a parental leave—this does not mean the employee must be actively working. An employee can be on vacation, layoff, sick leave or pregnancy leave for all or part of the 13-week qualifying period and still be entitled to parental leave.
Do I Have to Notify My Employer in Advance?
An employee must give their employer at least two weeks’ written notice before beginning a parental leave. It is strongly advised that employees tell the employer exactly how many weeks they plan to take as parental leave when they give notice. If an employee does not tell an employer how much leave they plan to take, the employer should assume that the employee will be on leave for the full 61 or 63 weeks.
Does Parental Leave Have to Be Continuous?
Once an employee has started parental leave, they must take it all at once. The employee cannot start the leave, return to work, and then continue parental leave for the unused portion.
Can I Work While on Paid Parental Leave?
Under the Employment Standards Act (ESA), returning to work, even on a part-time basis, will end the parental leave.
However, this is not the case if you are taking leave under the federal Employment Insurance Program. Employees under this program are able to return to work and earn a certain amount of wages without having their employment insurance (EI) benefits reduced.
Can My Employer Discipline Me for Taking Parental Leave?
An employer cannot penalize an employee in any way because the employee is or will be eligible to take a pregnancy or parental leave, or for taking or planning to take a pregnancy or parental leave.
Employees have four central rights when taking pregnancy or parental leave:
- The right to be reinstated upon completion of the leave
- The right to be free from penalty for taking the leave
- The right to continue to participate in benefit plans
- The right to earn credit for towards the employee’s length of employment, length of service, and seniority
Please note that this article is only to be used as general information and it does not constitute legal advice. We encourage employers and employees to contact Levitt Sheikh directly to better understand vaccination-related issues and seek legal advice to their questions.