In what has been called a “take it or lose it” policy, a new paternity benefit comes into effect March 24, 2019 —allowing for five additional weeks of leave for 12-month parental leave situations, or eight weeks for the new 18-month leave option. There’s a condition: both parents have to agree to split the time off for child care. The policy is designed to encourage non-birthing parents to participate in childcare to allow the mother to return to the workforce as soon as possible.
Parents are only eligible if they qualify for employment insurance benefits. In managing these programs and teams, payroll managers and teams should work together to make sure the parents work sufficient hours worked to qualify, although clearly, the strict onus is on the employee.
According to estimates, 97,000 families will take advantage of the new policies. Some countries, such as the United States, do not have a statutory entitlement at all.
The federal benefit covers up to 55 percent of earnings for those taking 12 months leave, but 33 percent for those who opt for longer 18-month leave.
In Canada, 85 percent of parental leave claims are still from women — not always the mothers, as the policy covers same-sex couples. The reality, of course, is that not all parents are in a position to benefit from these programs, as they may have less stable work or insufficient work hours.
Contact employees may also not qualify, depending on the terms of employment. Employees are encouraged to check with their Payroll Managers and HR Managers prior to making any plans.
Do you have questions about managing the new parental leave policies as an employer? Contact the Payroll Management experts at Pivotal HR Solutions>>
New Guidelines for Parental leave
(As at March 2019. Check latest rules before planning.)
Both new parents have the right to take parental leave of up to 61 or 63 weeks of unpaid time off work.
Qualifying for parental leave
A new parent is entitled to parental leave whether they are a full-time, part-time, permanent or term contract employee provided that the employee:
- is employed by an employer that is covered by the ESA, and
- was employed for at least 13 weeks before commencing the parental leave.
An employee does not have to actively work in the 13- week period preceding the start of the parental leave. For example, the employee could be on layoff, vacation, sick leave or pregnancy leave for all or part of the 13-week qualifying period and still be entitled to parental leave. The ESA only requires the employee to have been employed by the employer for 13 weeks before they may commence a parental leave.
A “parent” includes:
- a birth parent;
- an adoptive parent (whether or not the adoption has been legally finalized); or
- a person who is in a relationship of some permanence with a parent of the child and who plans on treating the child as their own. This includes same-sex couples.
When a parental leave can begin
A birth mother who takes pregnancy leave must ordinarily begin her parental leave as soon as her pregnancy leave ends. However, an employee’s baby may not yet have come into her care for the first time when the pregnancy leave ends. For example, perhaps her baby has been hospitalized since birth and is still in the hospital’s care when the pregnancy leave ends.
In this case, the employee can either commence her leave when the pregnancy leave ends or choose to return to work and start her parental leave later. If she chooses to return to work, she will be able to start her parental leave anytime within 78 weeks of the birth or the date the baby first came home from the hospital.
All other parents must begin their parental leave no later than 78 weeks after:
- the date their baby is born; or
- the date their child first came into their care, custody and control.
The parental leave does not have to be completed within this 78-week period. It just has to be started. Also note that if the child was born, or came into the employee’s care, custody and control before December 3, 2017, an employee who is only entitled to take parental leave must start the leave within 52 weeks.
Length of a parental leave
Birth mothers who take pregnancy leave are entitled to take up to 61 weeks of parental leave. All other new parents are entitled to take up to 63 weeks of parental leave.
Giving notice about starting a pregnancy leave
An employee must give her employer at least two weeks’ written notice before beginning her pregnancy leave. Also, if the employer requests it, she must provide a certificate from a medical practitioner (which may include a medical doctor, a midwife or a nurse practitioner) stating the baby’s due date.
Sometimes an employee has to stop working earlier than expected (for example, because of complications caused by the pregnancy). In that case, the employee has two weeks after she stops working to give the employer written notice of the day the pregnancy leave began or will begin.
An employee does not have to start her pregnancy leave at the time she stops working if she has stopped work due to illness or a complication caused by her pregnancy. She may choose instead to treat the time off as sick time and plan to commence the pregnancy leave later (but no later than the earlier of the birth date or due date). In that case, she has two weeks after she stops working to give the employer written notice of the day the leave will begin. If the employer requests it, the employee has to provide a medical certificate issued by a medical doctor, a midwife or a nurse practitioner stating the baby’s due date and stating that she was unable to perform the duties of her position because of the complication.
If an employee stops working earlier than expected because of a birth, stillbirth or miscarriage, she has two weeks after she stops working to give the employer written notice of the day the leave began. The pregnancy leave begins no later than the date of the birth, stillbirth or miscarriage. If the employer requests it, the employee has to provide a medical certificate issued by a medical doctor, a midwife or a nurse practitioner stating the due date and the date of birth, stillbirth or miscarriage.
Disclaimer: Do not act on this information without checking with the latest rules on the Ontario website (or your local area — Quebec has different rules, for example). Also check with your Payroll Manager or Payroll Management Team.
Do you have questions about managing the new parental leave policies as an employer? Contact the Payroll Management experts at Pivotal HR Solutions: