Legal Guide

What You Need to Know About Parental Leave in Ontario, Canada

The birth of a child is a major milestone in anyone’s life. It should also mean that employees have time to be with their significant other and care for their new child. Ideally, this can all be done without the intervention of an employment lawyer.

When it comes to parental leave in Ontario, Canada, there are more than a few things to know. With this guide, you will have a better understanding of parental leave, the qualifications needed, when it can begin, and so much more.

  1. Qualifications for Parental Leave

It is first important to declare that both new parents, not just the mom, have the right to take up to 61 or 63 weeks of unpaid time off from their place of employment. Whether full-time, part-time, term or permanent, an employee is entitled to parental leave. That is so long as the employee is employed for at least 13 weeks prior to parental leave and the employer is covered by the ESA.

It is also important to declare what qualifies a “parent.” The parent can either be the birth parent, an adoptive parent whether the adoption has legally been finalized or not, or a person is in a relationship with the parent of a child and plans on treating that child as if it were their own.

  1. When Parental Leave Begins

This differs depending on the parent. For the birth mother who has taken pregnancy leave, the parental leave generally starts when the pregnancy leave ends. That said, if the baby is hospitalized after birth and is still in care of the hospital after pregnancy leave ends, the parental leave may not begin until the child goes home.

Parental leave can be taken any time within a 78-week period after the baby is born or the date in which the child first came into the custody, control, and care of those parents. It is important to note that parental leave doesn’t have to be completed within that 78-week time period, it just has to be started in that time frame.

There is one caveat: if a child was born or came into the employee’s custody, control, and care prior to December 3, 2017, the employee must begin their parental leave within 52 weeks of that date. If an employer is denying this leave or implying that it is lesser, contact an employment lawyer like ELT immediately.

  1. The Length of Parental Leave

Any birth mother who takes pregnancy leave is entitled to take as many as 61 weeks of parental leave in Ontario. Any other new parents are entitled up to 63 weeks of parental leave. If a child was born or came into the care, custody, and control of an employee prior to that December 3, 2017, date, and also took pregnancy leave, that parental leave is 35 weeks while other new parents get 37 weeks of parental leave.

That said, employees can take a shorter leave if they are so inclined. It is important to remember that once parental leave has been started, it has to be taken continuously. The employee is not able to use part, return, then leave again to use the rest.

Any employee who has had a stillbirth or a miscarriage, or who has a same-sex partner or spouse that has had a miscarriage or stillbirth, would not be eligible for the aforementioned parental leave. If there are questions about parental leave, it is important to get in touch with your organization’s human resources department.

  1. Notice Requirements

When requesting parental leave, an employee must give their employer written notice of at least two weeks. It is also strongly advised that an employee tell their employer just how many weeks they plan on giving at the time of providing notice.

In the event that an employee does not disclose their intended period of parental leave, the employer will then be under the assumption that it will be for the full 61 or 63 week period. Should the employee want to return to work prior to the end of that leave, they would be required to give written notice of at least four weeks to the employer.

Should the child birth come earlier than expected, there are instances of retroactive notice. The employee has two weeks from the date they stopped working to provide written notice to their employer that they are taking parental leave with the leave beginning on the day that the employee stops working.

Failing to give notice of parental leave, however, does not mean that the right to parental leave is lost. The guidelines for providing notice, as there are more than a few different potential circumstances, can become muddied. Having an employment attorney to guide you through the process may be for the best.

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