Pregnancy, Maternity, Parental and Other Leaves

Ontario law provides that employee are entitled to different periods of absence for different types of workplace leaves. These workplace leaves are all set out in the Ontario Employment Standards Act. Employees who take specified, protected leaves of absence are entitled to return to work following their leave of absence. Employers who take any kind of “reprisal” measures against employees who have taken a leave can be penalized.

1. Workplace Leaves: Pregnancy Leaves

An employee who has been with an employer for at least 13 weeks is entitled to 17 weeks of pregnancy leave. The specific requirements are set out in the Ontario Employment Standards Act.

2. Workplace Leaves: Parental Leave

A parent of a newborn child or a newly adopted child can generally take 35 weeks of unpaid parental leave.

During both pregnancy leave and parental leave, employees can apply for and receive Employment Insurance benefits while they are off on leave. At the end of the leave, employers must reinstate the employee who was off “to the position the employee most recently held with the employer, if it still exists, or to a comparable position if it does not.”

This can often be the source of litigation as there are many situations in which a person has been replaced while off on a Pregnancy or Parental Leave. The Ontario Labour Relations Board takes these complaints very seriously and places a significant onus on employers to demonstrate that the loss of a job after a leave had absolutely nothing to do with the person taking the leave in the first place. If the Board finds that there has been a violation of the Act, it can order the employee to be reinstated to her or his position with full back pay, damages for emotional distress, and other compensation.

3. Workplace Leaves: Other Leaves

The Ontario Employment Standards Act also provides for leaves for Organ Donors, Family Medical Emergencies, Personal Emergencies and Reservist Duties. Each type of leave has its own specific requirements that must be met. These are all unpaid leaves of absence. Employers are also required to provide leaves for Jury Duty.

Some employers may provide other types of leave on a discretionary basis, for example leaves for educational purposes or to attend important family events. Some leaves may be more complicated, for example leave to complete a prison sentence or leave to attend a drug or alcohol rehabilitation facility.

Ken Krupat regularly meets with employees and employers to review and discuss these different types of leaves and to assist clients who face a legal difficulty as a result of a leave.