What Kind of Maternity or Parental Leave am I Entitled to in BC?

Employment Law | December 17, 2020

Canadian law dictates that new parents are legally entitled to a certain amount of time off. In British Columbia, the Employment Standards Act ensures that most workers are entitled to a minimum leave from work, but certain factors can affect what this leave looks like. If you feel as though your employment contract does not meet the minimum requirements of the Employment Standards Act as it applies to maternity or parental leave or you simply want to learn more about what kind of maternity or parental leave you are entitled to in BC, it can help to contact an employment lawyer.

What to Expect from BC’s Parental and Maternity Leave

The Employment Standards Act sets out the minimum standards of what an employee can expect for time off due to the birth or adoption of a child in BC. Employers may offer more than the minimum as outlined in the Employment Standards Act, but they are not legally able to restrict maternity and parental leave to less than the law dictates. Leave for new parents is divided into two different categories: maternity leave and parental leave. The two types of leave are usually taken consecutively in order to give the new parent as much time with their child as possible.

Maternity Leave

Maternity leave, also known as pregnancy leave, is only available to biological mothers. Employers are required to offer a minimum of 17 weeks of unpaid time off to their employees without that employee needing to fear that their job might not be waiting for them when they return. This allows pregnant workers to prepare for and have their baby, and it can be started up to 13 weeks before an employee’s due date. Employers are not required to pay their employees during this time, but many offer this as part of an employment contract. If an employer does not offer this, employees are able to receive compensation through employment insurance.

Parental Leave

Parental leave is similar to maternity leave, but it can be applied to both parents, not just the biological mother. If a pregnant parent takes maternity leave, they can then take parental leave in addition to extend their time away from their job. New parents are able to share parental leave and all parents are entitled to this leave in order to make a successful adjustment, whether they are adopting or giving birth.

A birth mother is entitled to 61 consecutive weeks of leave when it is taken immediately after maternity leave. A birth mother who does not take maternity leave and all other parents, such as adopted parents, can take up to 62 consecutive weeks of leave.

What Pay Should be Expected While on Maternity or Parental Leave?

Although some employers may offer paid maternity or parental leave, this is not a legal requirement, and so most employees receive pay through employment insurance benefits. Not everyone is eligible for EI, as the requirements for how long one must work before receiving EI, the type of job one must work in, and many other factors are subject to change. The amount that can typically be expected from EI is 55% of an employee’s average weekly insurable earnings. The maximum and minimum amount that an employee is subject to receive can change depending on various factors.

If you would like to find out more about what kind of maternity or parental leave you are entitled to in BC, or if you would like to learn more about any of our legal services, please contact Linley Welwood at 604-850-6640 to find out more about how to deal with an unsafe workplace or by filling out a contact form on our website.

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