How Do You Manage Maternity Leave in Ontario?

Blog located in Culture, Small Business posted on August 6, 2015

Statistics Canada shows that 80% of Canadian mothers take paid leave after giving birth. Generally, you’re entitled to return to your original job or a comparable position with the same pay rate and level of responsibilities after you take maternity or parental leave. Nearly 80% of fathers took at least some leave to be with their new baby—up from 7% a decade earlier; though most of these fathers are in Quebec, the only jurisdiction to offer a paid leave specifically for dads.

General Practice

Maternity leave policies follow these general practices:

  • Maternity leave is 17 weeks
  • Parental leave is 37 weeks
  • Adoption leave is 37 weeks
  • Mandatory notice if employee does not intend to return to the position
  • Parental leave must begin no later than 35 weeks after birth or custody date.

The year-long mat leave is now standard practice, while parental perks such as salary top-ups, extra health benefits and flex time options have become commonplace expectations, especially among Generation Y. Many businesses struggle with the financial and efficiency burdens of filling temporary positions, especially if they’re senior or highly skilled roles.

While many bosses quietly grumble about the burden of accommodating new parents, strategic companies are focusing instead on finding ways to minimize the disruption and using family-oriented perks to clinch staff loyalty. Research shows, for example, that businesses that don’t offer top-ups are more likely to see their employees poached by others that do.


When Employees Qualify

To qualify for Employment Insurance (EI), employees must have worked 600 insurable hours (where contribution to EI has been made), over 52 weeks.

Though most provinces stipulate employees give their bosses a return date after parental leave, only Alberta and Ontario have legislated that employees give notice if they do not intend to return. It was an important victory for businesses because it allowed some insurance to the employer.

Employees in Alberta and Ontario must give four weeks written notice of their intention to return or not to return to work (not mandatory in Saskatchewan).Employees can change the date they decide to start parental or maternity leave, however, must provide their employer with at least two weeks written notice before the new, earlier or later date.


Employers Responsibilities

Maternity leave currently pays 55% of a mother’s salary up to a maximum of $40,000. It is not mandatory for employers to continue to pay benefits. If an employee requests their benefits continue, some employers offer to continue to pay their contribution while the employee continues to pay their contribution, or the employee pays for the benefits plan in its entirety.

However, as government policies adjust to accommodate changing social norms and demographics, employers will have little choice but to seek ways to proactively manage—and leverage—family-friendly benefits. It’s a question of branding and company culture.

Offensive behaviours towards pregnant women go rapidly viral. This results in placing employers under the radar as it pertains to how they manage maternity leave.


The Don’ts

There are fundamental behaviours to avoid as an employer towards your pregnant employee:

  1. Giving less work
  2. Cutting out the employee from important meetings
  3. Holding back on plans regarding career advancement
  4. Thinking that a future mom will not be committed to her job

Let’s face it. Despite new regulations and willingness to treat women equal to men, there’s still much improvement that has to be made. In fact, some companies have started creating programs to encourage new mothers to stay connected with the office.

Stay tuned for our next article on the do’s as an employer.