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Pregnancy and parental leave

The Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) provides pregnancy leave for birth mothers and parental leave for new parents.

This section describes pregnancy and parental leave and your rights while on leave.


Table of Contents
  1. What is pregnancy leave?
  2. What is parental leave?
  3. Who is considered to be a parent?
  4. Can a part time employee take pregnancy and parental leave?
  5. Can I be fired or let go if I am eligible to take pregnancy or parental leave?
  6. Do I get paid when I'm away on leave?
  7. When do I qualify for pregnancy and parental leave?
  8. When can I begin pregnancy leave?
  9. When can I begin parental leave?
  10. Do I have to notify my employer when I go on pregnancy or parental leave?
  11. Can I still go on leave if I do not give my employer notice?
  12. What if I don't return to work after pregnancy or parental leave?
  13. What rights will I have when I return from pregnancy or parental leave?
  14. What do I earn in the way of credits during pregnancy and parental leave?
  15. What if I think my employer is not following the ESA?
  16. Can I see the ESA?

What is pregnancy leave? Top

Pregnant employees who began employment with the employer at least 13 weeks before the baby's expected birth date (the "due date") have the right to take up to 17 weeks of unpaid time off work. In some cases the leave may be longer. Contact us

What is parental leave? Top

New parents who have been employed for at least 13 weeks have the right to take unpaid time off work.

A birth mother can take both pregnancy and parental leave.

Birth mothers who took pregnancy leave are entitled to up to 35 weeks of parental leave. Employees who didn't take pregnancy leave are entitled to up to 37 weeks' parental leave.

Both parents can be on leave at the same time. For example, as soon as the baby is born or comes into the custody, care and control of the parents for the first time, the father can take parental leave even though the mother is on pregnancy or parental leave.

Who is considered to be a parent? Top

A "parent" includes:

  • a birth parent
  • an adoptive parent (whether or not the adoption has been legally finalized)
  • a person who is in a relationship of some permanence with a parent of the child and who plans on treating the child as his or her own.
Can a part time employee take pregnancy and parental leave? Top

Full-time, part-time, permanent and term contract employees are entitled to pregnancy and parental leave.

Can I be fired or let go if I am eligible to take pregnancy or parental leave? Top

You can't be penalized in any way because you are or will become eligible to take a pregnancy or parental leave, or for taking or intending to take a pregnancy or parental leave. See Reprisals

Do I get paid when I'm away on leave? Top

The ESA leave provisions allow an employee to take time off work and to be reinstated when the leave ends. Under the ESA an employer is not required to pay an employee who is on pregnancy or parental leave although the employer must continue to pay the employer's share of the premiums for certain benefit plans (i.e., pension plans, life insurance, accidental death, extended health insurance and dental plans).

However, employees who are on leave may qualify for employment insurance maternity or parental benefits through the federal government's employment insurance program. The rules regarding entitlement to these benefits are different from the rules regarding entitlement to pregnancy and parental leave under the ESA.

You should contact your nearest federal government Service Canada Centre for information about employment insurance benefits.

When do I qualify for pregnancy and parental leave? Top

A pregnant employee is entitled to pregnancy leave if she was hired at least 13 weeks before the date her baby is expected to be born (called the "due date").

To qualify for parental leave, as a new parent, you must have been hired at least 13 weeks before the leave begins.

When can I begin pregnancy leave? Top

Usually, the earliest a pregnancy leave can begin is 17 weeks before the baby's due date. However, if an employee has a live birth more than 17 weeks before the due date, she is entitled to a pregnancy leave although it must commence on the date of the birth.

Otherwise, a pregnant employee may commence a pregnancy leave at any time within the 17-week period prior to the baby's due date, with the following restrictions:

The leave must be commenced no later than the due date

or

the date the baby is born,

whichever is earlier.

So, if an employee was planning to commence her pregnancy leave on the due date but the baby was born sooner, she would have to start the leave on the date of the birth.

When can I begin parental leave? Top

Birth mothers who took a pregnancy leave must usually begin parental leave as soon as the pregnancy leave ends. All other parents must begin their parental leave no later than 52 weeks after the date the baby was born or the date the child first came into their custody, care and control.

Do I have to notify my employer when I go on pregnancy or parental leave? Top

You must give your employer at least two weeks' written notice before beginning your pregnancy leave. Also, if the employer requests it, you must provide a certificate from a legally qualified medical practitioner that sets out the baby's due date.

You are also required to give your employer at least two weeks' notice before beginning a parental leave.

If you change the date that you will begin pregnancy or parental leave, you can begin the leave earlier than the original date if you give your employer a new written notice at least two weeks before the new earlier date.

Can I still go on leave if I do not give my employer notice? Top

If you fail to give the required notice, it is the ministry's view that you don't lose your right to a pregnancy or parental leave.

What if I don't return to work after pregnancy or parental leave? Top

If you want to resign before the end of your pregnancy or parental leave, or at the end of the leave, you must give your employer at least four weeks' written notice of your resignation.

What rights will I have when I return from pregnancy or parental leave? Top

Generally, an employee who takes a pregnancy or parental leave is entitled to:

  • the same job he or she had before the leave began
  • OR

  • a comparable job, if his or her old job no longer exists.

In either case the employee must be paid at least as much as he or she was earning before the leave.

However, if his or her wages would have gone up had he or she not gone on leave then he or she is entitled to the higher rate.

Note that an employer does not have to give an employee his or her job back or a comparable job if its reasons for ending the employment are totally unrelated to the leave.

What do I earn in the way of credits during pregnancy and parental leave? Top

Although you don't have to be paid during a pregnancy or parental leave, you continue to earn credits toward seniority, length of service and length of employment.

What if I think my employer is not following the ESA? Top

What if I think my employer is not following the ESA?

Can I see the ESA? Top

Employment Standards Act, 2000

Resources Top

Government:
Ontario Ministry of Labour
Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000: Pregnancy and Parental Leave




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