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Are you planning to take leave from work to have a baby?

Having a baby is often a time of joyful expectation. Those early weeks after birth are critical. It is a time of bonding and adjustment, so you will probably be taking time off from your job. Under certain conditions, Ontario law allows you to take leave from work to welcome a new child, either by birth or adoption.

If the Employment Standards Act applies to your place of employment, you may qualify for pregnancy and parental leave. ESA leave includes up to 17 weeks for your pregnancy and another 61 weeks after the child is born. It is important that you check with your employer early to confirm that these rights apply to you or if there are other ways that you can get time off when your child comes.

Claiming leave and protecting your rights

The law states that at least two weeks before you plan to stop working, you must inform your employer by letter that you intend to take your leave. You should submit one letter for pregnancy leave and another for parental leave. Your employer may request a medical note confirming your due date. Of course, your health may change during the pregnancy, and this means keeping your employer informed and resubmitting your request letters.

Your employer does not have to pay you while you are on leave for pregnancy and parenting. However, you may qualify for other benefits to assist you financially during your leave. During your leave, the following rights apply:

  • Your employer may not ask you to do any work since doing so may cancel your leave.
  • Your employer must continue to supply any employment benefits you received prior to your leave, such as health insurance.
  • Your seniority in the company must continue to build while you are on leave.
  • Your vacation days must continue to accrue during your leave.
  • When your leave is over, your employer must take you back in your old position or a similar position with the same pay or a higher pay if the rate for that position went up while you were off.
  • Your employer may not fire you, demote you, discipline you, reduce your hours or harass you in any way because of your pregnancy or your request for leave.

An employer who violates any of the above rights or in other ways retaliates because you request leave may be discriminating against you. If this happens, you would be wise to reach out for advice and advocacy from a lawyer with experience in employment laws in Ontario.

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