Pregnancy and parental leave

Pregnancy and parental leave Ontario

Expecting a child can be an extremely exciting and important time in any person’s life. Many parents will feel the excitement in the air as they prepare for the arrival of a new baby, and along with the excitement may also come dread. How will you tell your boss that you are expecting a child? Will you be able to get parental leave? How will you pay for all the expenses that come with a baby?


Fortunately, the government of Ontario has laid out rules and rights for expectant parents. Employers are obligated to honour these rules, so employees can count on the standards set out.


This article will give an overview of Ontario’s rules for pregnancy and parental leave, and let you know what you can anticipate as you near the due date.


Pregnancy Leave Ontario


Any pregnant employee can choose to take up to 17 weeks of unpaid time off from work. For some cases, the leave may be longer, but employees should know that employers are not obligated to pay regular wages during pregnancy leave. 


Any pregnant employee can claim this time off, whether they are full-time, part-time, or on a work contract. The employee can claim the leave as long as the employee is employed by someone who is covered by the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), and employment starts at least 13 weeks before the baby’s expected due date. 

If the employee has already taken 17 weeks of leave but hasn’t given birth yet, that employee can continue to take leave. The pregnancy leave will end when the employee gives birth, at which point parental leave can start. 


Pregnancy leave is separate from parental leave. Thus, mothers may choose to take both types of leave back-to-back or with some time between them. 


Miscarriages and Stillbirths


Unfortunately, employees who have a miscarriage or a stillbirth more than 17 weeks before the baby’s due date are not entitled to pregnancy leave. However, employees who have a miscarriage or stillbirth within the 17-week window are still eligible for pregnancy leave in ontario. The latest date to begin that leave is the date of the miscarriage or stillbirth. The leave must end 17 weeks after it began or 12 weeks after the stillbirth or miscarriage, whichever is later. 


Parental Leave Ontario


Any new parent, father or mother, can take parental leave, including parents who are adopting or taking children into their care. It also includes people who are in a relationship with a parent of the child who plans to treat the child as their own. 


Birth mothers are entitled to up to 61 total weeks of parental leave if they also take pregnancy leave. If they don’t, they can take up to 63 weeks of parental leave, as can all other new parents.


That might mean that two parents could be on parental leave at the same time, or they may choose to take them at staggered times.


Will My Leave Affect My Job?


The short answer is no. Employers cannot penalize employees in any way for taking, being eligible for, or planning to take a parental or pregnancy leave. That means that employers cannot fire, demote, cut the pay of, or otherwise affect the job security of employees who take parental leave. 


In the majority of cases, employees who take a pregnancy or parental leave must be given their old job back when they return, even if they take the full 63 weeks of leave. While an employee is on leave, they can continue to count that time toward their total time spent at the company and earn credit for seniority, service, and total employment time. Employees can also collect benefits from their job, such as life insurance, pension plans, healthcare and dental coverage, and more. 


If, after the leave is over, the employee’s job no longer exists for some reason, they will need to be given a comparable position in the company. They must be paid the same amount that they were before they leave, or if they would have received a raise during their time off, their pay should reflect that. 


Letting Your Employer Know About Your Leave


In general, if you are planning to go on leave, you should plan to give your employer at least two weeks’ written notice beforehand. Employers can request a certificate confirming the baby’s due date from a medical practitioner if needed. 


In some cases, an employee may have to stop working suddenly due to complications with the pregnancy or a miscarriage, in which case they will have two weeks from the point of stopping work to give their employer retroactive written notice. 


If an employee stopped working due to pregnancy complications, they may choose to take some of that time as sick leave rather than pregnancy leave. Again, the employee will have two weeks to give written notice, and the employer can request medical documents if necessary.


If an employee wants to change the starting date of their leave, they will need to give notice of the change two weeks before the leave is supposed to begin. 


An employee does not have to tell their employer when they plan to return to work. If they do not give an end date, then it will be assumed that the leave will end when the maximum length of leave time has been reached (i.e. 17 or 63 weeks). If the employee wants to return to work early, they will need to give four weeks of written notice prior to the date they want to return.


Employment Insurance


Maternity benefits under the federal Employment Insurance program are available to employees who are taking an unpaid pregnancy or parental leave. For more information about how to claim employment insurance, check out the EI page here. 




Taking a pregnancy or a parental leave can be a nervous time if you don’t know what’s ahead of you. It is important to know your rights and what the employer owes you in terms of time off and job security when you return. If you have questions about taking a pregnancy or parental leave, be sure to reach out to the qualified team at Achkar Law. 


Contact Us


If you are an employee or an employer with questions about pregnancy or parental leaves, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist. 


If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support with a same-day response, visit our Chief Legal Officer Program page for our strategic solutions.