Begin planning your leave: (1) as soon as you learn that you are pregnant or (2) initiate the process of adopting a child and you think that you want to return to your present job after the baby is born/adopted.
It is important to plan early so that you may obtain the maximum leave available to you. It is also important to know whether federal or provincial law governs your job, since the maternity, paternity and adoption provisions under each are different. Also, if you belong to a union, be sure to check your collective agreement, since it may have provisions, which lengthen the period of leave you may take.
Maternity leave in Alberta consists of fifteen weeks’ unpaid leave under the Code, at least six weeks of which must occur after the baby is born. An additional thirty-seven weeks’ of unpaid parental leave is permitted under the Code. The thirty-seven weeks’ of parental leave may be taken by the mother or the father, or divided between the two parents. Although maternity and parental leave are unpaid, certain benefits are available under the Employment Insurance (EI) Act of Canada (see below for more information).
Can I Lose My Job If I Become Pregnant or Adopt a Child?
No. If you have worked twelve consecutive months for your employer, the Code provides that you are entitled to maternity leave and parental leave whether or not your employer consents to it. This benefit applies to both full-time and part-time employees. In addition, your employer is required by law to reinstate you in the same or similar position that you had before taking leave. You must give at least four weeks written notice of your intention to return to work.
What If There Is No Job to Return To?
If your employer has shut down during the time when you are on maternity leave (but starts operations again within twelve months of the end of your leave) you are protected. In this case, your employer is required to reinstate you in your former position or provide you with alternative work if this is not possible. If operations do not reopen, you are entitled to the severance pay provided for under the Employment Standards Code. You should consult a lawyer or the Employment Standards Office if this happens.
Can I Collect Employment Insurance While I Am on Maternity/Parental Leave?
Yes. To be eligible for maternity, parental, or sickness benefits under EI you must show that:
- Your regular weekly earnings have been decreased by more than forty percent; and
- You have accumulated 600 insured hours in the last fifty-two weeks or since your last claim, (this period is the qualifying period).
The qualifying period is the shorter of: the fifty-two-week period immediately before the start date of a claim, or the period since the start of a previous EI claim if that claim had started during the fifty-two-week period.
If you meet the requirements and you apply at the right time, you are eligible for fifteen weeks of maternity benefits (for a total of seventeen weeks’ benefit period, of which two weeks are a waiting period without benefits). As well, an additional thirty five weeks of parental benefits that are available to either the mother or the father of the baby or benefits can be split between them. This means that you could qualify for a maximum of fifty weeks of employment benefits. Parental benefits are normally only available within the first fifty-two weeks following the child’s birth. In certain circumstances, such as hospitalization of the baby, these benefits may be extended up to a maximum of 104 weeks.
In some instances, the two-week waiting period may be waived or deferred. For example: if you receive paid sick leave from your employer following your last day worked, the waiting period may be waived. If parental benefits are being shared by both parents, only one waiting period need be served. For example, if a two-week waiting period has already been served for maternity benefits by the first parent, the second parent claiming parental benefits can have the waiting period deferred. In the event that the second parent subsequently claims regular or sickness benefits after parental benefits, the two-week waiting period would then need to be served. If you receive group insurance payments, you can serve the two-week waiting period during the last two weeks that these payments are being paid. At the same time you are applying for maternity benefits, you and your partner can also apply for parental benefits. Delaying in filing your claim for benefits beyond four weeks from the time your earnings have decreased by more than forty percent may cause loss of benefits.
Try to arrange both your maternity leave and Employment Insurance benefits to start at the same time. The maximum amount of Employment Insurance benefits payable is fifty-two weeks. Your local Human Resources Development of Canada (HRDC) office will be able to answer any other questions you have about these benefits.
Can I Collect Disability Premiums While I Am on Maternity Leave?
Yes, you could receive up to a maximum of sixty-five weeks of combined sickness, maternity, and parental benefits instead of the normal combined maximum of fifty weeks. In order to be eligible for the increased number of weeks, the following conditions must be met during your benefit period: you have not been paid regular benefits; you have been paid sickness, maternity, and parental benefits; and you have been paid less than the maximum of fifteen weeks of sickness benefits or less than thirty-five weeks of parental benefits.
If you work while on maternity or sickness benefits, your earnings will be deducted dollar for dollar from your benefits. While on the other hand, if you work while on parental benefits you can earn $50 or twenty-five percent of your weekly benefits; whichever is higher.
How Can I Collect Employment Insurance Benefits If I Lose My Job?
Employment Insurance is provided by a Federal Government program. In order to qualify you must meet two criteria. First, you must have suffered an “interruption of earnings.” Second, you must have worked a certain number of insurable hours of employment in a period preceding your claim. The number of required hours varies from province to province. In provinces where the unemployment rate is high, fewer qualifying hours are required.
You can collect Employment benefits for a maximum of fifty-two weeks. There are exceptions for work-sharing benefits and maternity or parental benefits. You should file your claim for employment benefits as soon as your job ends. A delay in filing your claim will result in a delay of payment of benefits. Be sure to call your local Canada Employment Insurance office. The number can be found in the Blue Pages of the Telephone Directory.