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What employment rights do new parents have in Ontario?

If you’re expecting a new child, you may have questions about what rights you have with respect to your job. Will you be allowed to take time off when your baby arrives? What types of benefits can you expect while you’re away from work? What assurances do you have that you’ll still have a job when you return?

To answer these questions, you’ll need to understand the provincial and federal laws that affect you. In Ontario, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act outlines the rights provided to Ontario employees. At the national level, the Employment Insurance Act offers additional protections to new parents.

Ontario: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act

This law provides for two kinds of leave to Ontario employees: pregnancy leave and parental leave.

Under this act, employees who are pregnant are allowed to take up to 17 weeks of unpaid pregnancy leave. In addition, any parent is entitled to take unpaid parental leave after their child is born or otherwise joins the family. This leave can last for:

  • 61 weeks – for birth mothers who also took pregnancy leave
  • 63 weeks – for all other parents

Parents may go on leave at the same time, and they cannot be penalized by their employer for taking this time off. Although the leave provided under this law is unpaid, employees who use it still have rights to:

  • Take part in employer benefits plans
  • Accrue other benefits associated with duration of continued employment and seniority within the company
  • Return to the same job they had before, following leave (in most cases)

Federal: Employment Insurance Act

At the national level, this law provides two types of paid benefits to new parents: maternity benefits and parental benefits.

Similar to pregnancy leave listed above, maternity benefits are only available to employees who are pregnant or have recently given birth. Such employees can receive 55% of their original income (with a maximum of $573 per week) for up to 15 weeks.

Eligibility for parental benefits is similar to that of parental leave listed above. Any new parent may receive parental benefits, and they must choose between one of the following options:

  • Standard parental benefits: Parents can receive 55% of their original income (maximum $573 per week). One parent can receive up to 35 weeks of standard parental benefits; both parents can receive a combined total of 40 weeks of benefits.
  • Extended parental benefits: Parents can receive 33% of their original income (maximum $344 per week). One parent can receive up to 61 weeks of extended parental benefits; both parents can receive a combined total of 69 weeks of benefits.

Preparing for a new life as a parent can be overwhelming. But understanding the rights and benefits provided to you under the law can help to alleviate some of the stress.

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