Calgary & Strathmore Employment Lawyers Advising on Maternity & Parental Leaves

In Alberta, employees are eligible for both maternity leave and parental leave. Determining eligibility, length of leave, and your rights before, during, and after a leave can be complicated. At Getz Collins and Associates, our knowledgeable employment lawyers advise employees across Alberta on their rights and obligations regarding parental leaves and advocate on their behalf in disputes with their employers.

What’s the Difference Between Maternity Leave and Parental Leave in Alberta?

In Alberta, employees are eligible for both maternity leave and parental leave. Although these terms tend to be used interchangeably, there are differences between the two types of leaves.

Maternity leave is reserved exclusively for birth mothers. It is 16 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave designed to help mothers deal with the physical and medical stress of giving birth. Women can access maternity leave at any point within the 13 weeks before their due date but no later than the date of birth. Birth mothers may take six weeks of leave following birth for health reasons unless the employer agrees to an early return to duties and there is medical clearance from a physician.

In contrast, parental leave is a leave of absence for either birth parents or adoptive parents to take up to 62 weeks of unpaid leave. In contrast to maternity leave, parental leave can start any time after the birth or adoption of a child. However, parental leave must be completed within 78 weeks of the birth or the day the baby was placed into the adoptive home. The purpose of parental care is focused on providing time for parents to bond with and care for their new child.

It is worth quickly noting that there is also leave for lost pregnancies. The mother can take maternity leave if the pregnancy is lost within sixteen weeks of the due date. However, parental leave is not permitted.

Who Is Eligible for Parental Leave?

There are specific eligibility requirements you must meet before you are eligible for maternity leave or parental leave. The first is that you must meet the employment requirement and the second pertains to your relationship to the child.

As an employee, you are eligible for parental leave if you have been working for the same employer for at least three months (90 days). However, this isn’t necessarily always the case. An employer may choose to grant you parental leave, despite the fact that you have been with the company for less than ninety days. This a choice by that employer, though; nothing requires them to do so legally.

If you are the birth mother, the other parent, or an adoptive parent, you can access parental leave. One or both parents may share the leave between them. However, these are the only relationships that are recognized. You can’t take parental leave to help a friend with their newborn. You must be a parental figure for the new child, either biologically or legally.

While both parents can take parental leave, this may prove an issue in cases where both parents work for the same employer. In this case, the parents may combine parental leave for a maximum of 62 weeks, but an employer is not required to grant the leave for both parents at the same time.

How Much Notice Are Employees Required to Give Their Employers of an Upcoming Maternity or Parental Leave?

The rules for giving notice are pretty similar for both maternity leave and parental leave. The basic rule of thumb is to provide your employers at least six weeks’ notice prior to starting either maternity or parental leave.

While it can be nice to let your employer know when you expect to be back, you are not required until at least four weeks prior to your anticipated return date or to provide notice that you will not return.

You don’t have to return to work; that is a personal decision you will have to make. But if you want to return to work, then you must give your employer four weeks’ notice. If you fail to give notice then you could find yourself without a job to return to.

Can I Be Fired for Taking Parental Leave?

Employers can’t lay off or terminate an employee or require them to resign because of pregnancy or childbirth. There is an exception to this rule in the circumstance where the business suspends operations or ceases operations permanently. Other than this specific situation, you are legally protected from being fired for taking parental leave.

However, as noted above, you can lose your job for failing to communicate properly with your employer to let them know that you are returning to work. However, if the failure to get into contact was due to unpreventable circumstances, you may be able to salvage the situation. It is also worth noting that some employers are easier to work with than others and may even offer you an extension of your leave.

What if My Employment Was Terminated for Taking Parental Leave?

If you believe that you were fired because of your choice to take parental leave, you should speak to an experienced employment lawyer to learn more about what options are available. Your lawyer can gather evidence needed to prove the reasons behind the leave and negotiate a reasonable settlement (or prepare your case for litigation, if necessary).

Getz Collins and Associates: Advising Employees on Maternity & Parental Leaves in Calgary, Strathmore, and Across Alberta

At Getz Collins and Associates, our experienced employment lawyers understand the intricacies of Alberta employment law with respect to maternity and parental leaves. We ensure employees understand their rights and obligations before, during, and after a leave and advocate for their interests if a dispute with their employer arises. Our employment law team creates innovative legal solutions to put employees’ minds at ease while they embark on a new stage of life as parents.

With a big-firm level of professionalism and a community-minded approach, Getz Collins and Associates is committed to providing exceptional client service to employees across Alberta. Conveniently based in Calgary and Strathmore, we proudly serve all surrounding areas, including Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks, Drumheller, Chestermere, and Hussar. To schedule a confidential consultation, please contact us online or call 587-391-5600.