Maternity Leave Explained

Feb 14, 2024

You’re thrilled to have a little bundle of joy on the way and share the exciting news with family, friends, and even your coworkers. But amidst all the excitement, many new parents feel anxious about telling their employer. In all likelihood, you will need to take some time away from work to focus on a different role: parenthood. You may be wondering how this will impact your employment and have questions like… When do I tell my boss that I am expecting a baby? Can I get fired after requesting parental leave? We asked our legal team to help us answer these questions, and more.

Do I have to tell my new (or potential) employer that I am pregnant?

Interviewing for a new job while pregnant? You have no legal obligation to tell prospective employers that you are expecting. The same applies if you are pregnant when you start a new job or if you become pregnant shortly after. Employers have no right to ask if you are pregnant or plan to have a child. It is illegal for employers to discriminate against, lay off, or fire an employee, or require them to resign, because of pregnancy or childbirth.

When should I tell my boss that I’m expecting a baby?

By law, you must give your employer six weeks’ notice before starting maternity leave. By giving your employer notice well in advance, you’ll provide them plenty of time to prepare for your absence. Some women choose to share the news early on, especially if they are experiencing morning sickness that impacts their ability to work. Many expectant mothers will wait until after their first trimester to tell their employer. You decide when the timing is right for you.

Will I be eligible for maternity and parental leave?

If you have been employed for at least 90 days with the same employer in Alberta, you are automatically eligible for maternity and parental leave. Employed for less than 90 days? You may still be granted leave, but employers aren’t legally required to provide leave under Alberta’s Employment Standards Code. For parents who plan to share parental leave, it’s important that both parents let their employers know. If you both work for the same employer, you may combine your parental leave for a maximum of 62 weeks, but the employer is not required to grant leave to both parents at the same time.

What if my work performance suffers as a result of pregnancy?

Some pregnancies are more smooth sailing than others. Morning sickness, fatigue, and other complications may arise, which can have an impact on work performance. And that’s okay. You are entitled to reasonable accommodation in the workplace during pregnancy. If you find that you need to work more flexible hours, your employer should do everything they can to make that possible. During your pregnancy, you will need additional time off for medical appointments, and your employer must allow you that time off. Your employer should make every effort to accommodate you during this time, as long as it does not place the business under undue hardship.

Can my employer fire me for taking maternity leave?

An employer cannot legally fire, let go, or lay off an employee because they have taken maternity or parental leave. This would be considered a human rights violation. In some cases, an employer may try to come up with other reasons for termination, such as claiming poor work performance. If you have reason to believe that your boss is coming up with an excuse to fire you because you are pregnant, talk to a lawyer before accepting a severance offer. An employment lawyer will help you determine whether the grounds for termination are acceptable, how much severance you should receive, and if you are eligible for additional damages.

How long is maternity and parental leave?

In Alberta, maternity leave ranges from six weeks up to a maximum of 16 weeks. Maternity leave can begin as early as 13 weeks leading up to the estimated due date. In addition to maternity leave, parents are eligible to take up to 62 weeks of parental leave.

Parental leave can be taken by:

  • the birth mother, immediately following maternity leave,
  • the other parent,
  • adoptive parents, or
  • shared between both parents.

You can begin parental leave any time after the birth or adoption of a child, but you must complete parental leave within 78 weeks from that date. Whether you plan to return to work at the end of leave or not, you must give your employer written notice at least 4 weeks before your expected return to work date.

Can my employer give me a different position at the company when I return from maternity leave?

Your employer has the right to hire a temporary replacement during your absence, but they cannot permanently replace you. When your leave ends, you are entitled to return to the same or equivalent position you left. This means your job title, duties, and compensation should all remain the same. If your employer does not allow you to return to your previous role, contact an employment lawyer right away.

We hope this article answered your questions and gave you some peace of mind, whether you already have a baby on the way or if you are planning for the future. If you have any questions or feel like your employer has treated you unfairly, we’re just a phone call away. It won’t cost you anything to speak to one of our employment lawyers and find out what your rights are. You may also contact us online and a member of our team will reach out to you.


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