Preparing for the birth or adoption of a child is an exciting time. You may have many questions about your employment. You must consider your leave of absence, your benefits, your pension… the list seems endless. It is important for you to know your rights and responsibilities during this important time.
Taking a Leave of Absence
To qualify for a pregnancy and/or parental leave, you must have at least 13 weeks of employment with your school board before the expected date of birth or adoption.
In Ontario, the Employment Standards Act defines the leave period as 17 weeks for pregnancy leave and 35 weeks for parental leave. You may begin a pregnancy leave no earlier than 17 weeks before the expected birth date. The parental leave may begin when the pregnancy leave ends, or no later than 52 weeks from the time the child is born or comes into custody, care, and control for the first time.
Notifying Your School Board
You are required to provide a minimum of two weeks written notice of the date your pregnancy leave will begin. The written notification must include a certificate from a legally qualified medical practitioner stating the expected date of birth. This minimum notice does not apply if the birth occurs earlier than the expected date of birth.
In the case of a parental leave, you must provide at least two weeks written notice of the date the leave is to begin. This does not apply if the child comes into custody, care, and control for the first time sooner than expected.
Qualifying for Employment Insurance (EI) Benefits
To qualify for EI benefits, the Employment Insurance Act requires at least 600 hours of insurable employment in the 52-week period preceding the claim.
You may begin a claim for maternity benefits up to eight weeks before a child is born but not later than the birth of the child. A claim for parental benefits must start no later than 52 weeks after the baby is born or comes into your care.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) will provide maternity benefits for a period of 15 weeks after a two-week waiting period. Parental benefits are available to the birth or adoptive mother or spouse for a period of 35 weeks. These benefits can be accessed by one parent or shared at the same time, consecutively or on alternating weeks.
For information about EI benefits or to apply on-line, visit the HRSDC website at www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca.
Supplemental Employment Benefit Plan (SEB)
Our collective agreement includes provisions affecting pregnancy and parental leave. The SEB Plan provides additional compensation and/or top-up during the two-week EI waiting period. A top-up to EI benefits may be available during the leave period as well. Check the collective agreement for more information.
Review Article 14.03 of our collective agreement for other benefits, such as extended leaves of absence, which may be of interest to you.
Accessing Board Sick Leave Before or After Pregnancy
You may be entitled to access sick leave before or after the delivery of your baby. With evidence from a medical practitioner, you are entitled to sick leave with pay prior to delivery if you are unable to work for health reasons, whether or not the reason is related to the pregnancy.
Recent court rulings support your entitlement to sick leave with pay following delivery for a period of generally six weeks when you are unable to work for health reasons.
Depending upon the length of your recovery period, the school board may request a medical certificate. You may only access the number of sick days available to you under the board’s sick leave plan. For more information regarding post-partum sick leave, contact your local office.
Pension Plan Contributions
The Employment Standards Act requires that your employer continue to make your pension contributions during your statutory pregnancy and/or parental leave, unless you waive this benefit. Waiving the right to contribute may postpone the date you can retire with an unreduced pension.
Teachers must complete an Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) application and arrange a payment schedule with the board prior to taking the leave.
Non-teaching members must complete a Pregnancy/Parental Leave Election form for Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) pension plan contributions. If you take an extended leave of absence, you may continue making your pension contributions. However, you must make your contributions directly with OTPP rather than through your employer.
ETFO’s resource A Member’s Guide to Pregnancy and Parental Leave provides more detailed information.