Maternity Leave

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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta.  This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.

This topic will discuss your rights to maternity leave during your employment.

To be entitled to maternity leave, you must have been employed with the same employer for 12 consecutive months and be pregnant.  At least 6 weeks of the maternity leave must be taken after the date of delivery unless a medical certificate is provided for a longer period. The entitled maternity leave for the mother is 15 weeks beginning within 12 weeks of the estimated day of delivery.  In addition to maternity leave, an employee is entitled to parental leave.  A parent is entitled to 37 consecutive week’s parental leave.

An employer may not terminate or lay off an employee who has started her maternity leave or is entitled to or has started parental leave.  One exception is when the employer suspends or discontinues the entire business or an entire part of the business.  Even in these cases, however, there are reinstatement provisions to protect the employee.

You must give your employer at least 6 weeks written notice when you intend to begin your leave.  If you do not give your employer notice, you are still entitled to maternity leave if a medical certificate is provided within 2 weeks of the actual date of delivery. If your pregnancy interferes with the performance of your duties in the 12 weeks immediately before the estimate date of delivery, your employer may give you written notice to start your maternity leave.  Where possible, however, your employer should try to modify the work place so the employee can work without harming herself or the baby.

If you are the mother who is taking maternity leave and wish to take all the parental leave then you must begin your parental leave immediately following the last day of maternity leave.  A father who has been employed by the employer for at least 12 months is also entitled to take all or part of the parental leave.  The father may take 37 consecutive weeks within 1 year after the child has been born.  Adoptive parents may also take parental leave if they worked for the employer for 12 months. The adoptive parents are entitled to 37 consecutive weeks within 1 year after the child is placed with the adoptive parents for the purpose of adoption.

Parental leave can be taken wholly by 1 parent or split between the 2 parents.  Each parent is not entitled to 37 weeks. Both parents are entitled to a total of 37 weeks.  If the employees work for the same employer then the employer is not required to grant parental leave to both employees at the same time.

If both parents intend to share parental leave, then you must notify your employers of your intention.  Employees must give the employer at least 6 weeks written notice of the date that they will start the parental leave unless there is a medical condition that makes it impossible to comply with the notice provision or the child’s placement in adoption was not foreseeable.

In Alberta, employers are legally required to continue paying the health related part of maternity leave benefit premiums if they pay for employee benefit premiums when their employees are sick.  An employer can ask a pregnant employee to provide information on her medical condition, as in any other health related absence.  A woman may begin maternity leave without health-related problems, but encounter them later during the leave.  If so, the health related part of the benefit plan from work can be used as it would not apply from the start of a maternity leave.

If you have any health related benefits with your employment, you may be entitled to Employment Insurance benefits.  You should contact your nearest Employment Insurance office for more information.  The Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act makes it illegal to discriminate against women because of pregnancy.  Pregnancy is protected under the ground of gender.  In Alberta, women are protected against:

  • Being asked on a job application or in interviews if they are pregnant or plan to have children
  • Being fired, laid off, or demoted because they are pregnant.
  • Not being allowed to use their benefit plans for health related part of their maternity leaves
  • Having to pre-pay their benefit premiums or to have their employers’ share of premiums for the health related part of their maternity leaves.
  • Not being allowed to rent an apartment or house because they are pregnant, except in the case of buildings which are designated for seniors or adults only.
  • Being refused use of, or access to, any type of public service such as hotels, restaurants, retail stores, schools, hospitals, and so on because of pregnancy.