Ontario Parental Leave Guidelines

Des Shaw

May 24 2019

In Ontario, all eligible new parents are entitled to parental leave as outlined in the Employment Standards Act. Here are some key takeaways that employers should know.  

What is Parental Leave?

As outlined in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA), parental leave is unpaid time off work for new parents. Parental leave is different from maternity leave, although birth mothers are entitled to take both. Employees can take up to 63 weeks of parental leave if they did not take maternity leave. Pregnant employees that take maternity leave can take up to 61 weeks of parental leave.  Both new parents are entitled to take parental leave, and leave can be taken at the same time.  

Eligibility for Parental Leave in Ontario

New birth and adoptive parents in Ontario are entitled to take parental leave, regardless of whether they work full-time, part-time, permanently or on a term contract. In order to be eligible for parental leave, employees must be employed by an employer covered by the ESA, and be employed for at least 13 weeks before taking leave. This leave also applies to any person who is in a relationship with the parent of the new child and plans on taking a parental role.  

Starting and Ending Parental Leave

Typically, parental leave begins after the child is born. Birth mothers can begin parental leave as soon as maternity leave ends; however they may also start it later. Employees must begin parental leave within 78 weeks of the birth or placement of the child. They do not have to take the full parental leave that they’re entitled too, but they must take it all at once. Employees must give employers written notice at least two weeks before beginning parental leave. However, if an employee fails to notify an employer they do not lose their rights to take parental leave. Employees do not have to provide a specific date for when they will return to work after leave. If employees do not notify how long they intend to take parental leave, employers should assume they are taking the full time. In this case, employees must give their employer written notice four weeks before returning to work.  

ESA and the Employment Insurance Act

Many new parents confuse Ontario’s Employment Standards Act and the federal Employment Insurance Act. Both discuss maternity and parental leave but cover very different things. The ESA provides eligible employees who are new parents with the right to take unpaid time off work. The Employment Insurance Act provides eligible employees with parental benefits that may be payable to employees who are taking a parental leave.   Although the Employment Standards Act provides guidelines for employers and employees surrounding parental leave, it is still highly recommended that employers have a company-wide policy in place. If you need help creating a parental leave policy, contact our HR support line at 1 (833) 247-3652.  

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