Pregnant employees in Alberta are entitled to an unpaid, job-protected maternity leave. While only birth mothers can take maternity leave, both parents – including adoptive parents – can avail of another unpaid, job-protected leave called parental leave. This leave is taken after the birth or adoption of a child.
Employers should ensure they are following the maternity and parental leave requirements set down in the Alberta Employment Standards Code.
This blog answers some common questions employers may have about the Alberta maternity leave provisions.
When is an employee eligible for maternity leave in Alberta?
The Alberta maternity leave is available to all pregnant employees (part-time, full-time, permanent, or fixed term) as long as their workplace is covered by the Alberta Employment Standards Code.
A pregnant employee is eligible for maternity or parental leave if they’ve been employed at least 90 days with the same employer. If your pregnant employee has worked for you for less than 90 days, you can still grant them maternity leave. But you aren’t obligated to do so under the Alberta Employment Standards Code.
What is the length of Alberta maternity leave?
Pregnant employees are entitled to 16 consecutive weeks of unpaid maternity leave. The earliest your employee can start the leave is within the 13 weeks leading up to the expected due date. The leave can be taken no later than the date of birth.
However, if the pregnancy affects the employee’s work performance during the 12 weeks before their due date, you can require that the employee start their maternity leave earlier by notifying your employee in writing.
Birth mothers must take at least six weeks of leave after delivering their baby unless you agree to their request for an early return, and they provide you with a medical certificate stating the early return will not endanger their health.
Please note that if the pregnancy ends in a miscarriage or stillbirth within 16 weeks of the estimated due date, your employee is still entitled to the full length of the maternity leave.
For parental leave, birth and adoptive parents can take up to 62 weeks of unpaid leave.
Is maternity leave Alberta paid?
No. Maternity and parental leaves are unpaid leaves. This means employers are not required to pay wages to employees for the duration of these leaves. Employees can, however, apply for and receive maternity and parental leave benefits (taxable) through the federal Employment Insurance system.
Parental benefits can be shared between parents. But maternity benefits can’t be shared and can only be availed by employees who are pregnant or have recently given birth.
Eligible employees who are on maternity and parental leaves can receive Employment Insurance (EI) that pays 55% of their salary, up to a maximum of $638 a week.
With parental leave, there are two options. Your employees can either apply for standard parental benefits or extended parental benefits.
Standard parental benefits mean 55% of earnings at a weekly maximum of $638. Your employee can get standard parental benefits for up to 40 weeks, but one parent cannot use more than 35 weeks of standard benefits.
Extended parental benefits pay 33% of earnings at a weekly maximum of $383. They can be availed for 69 weeks, but one parent can’t receive more than 61 weeks of extended benefit. When sharing, both parents should apply separately but choose the same option. You can’t change the benefit option once you start receiving benefits.
An employee can apply for both maternity and parental benefits at once. They should keep in mind that there is a week’s waiting period before they start receiving the benefits.
Can I request for a medical certificate from an employee going on Alberta maternity leave?
Yes. You can require employees to provide a medical certificate that confirms the pregnancy and the estimated delivery date.
What is the notice requirement for maternity leave Alberta?
Employees are required to provide their employers at least six weeks’ notice before availing maternity or paternal leave. They are not required to give a specific return date at that time, but they may do so if they wish.
If the employee is unable to provide notice prior to taking the leave due to medical reasons, they are still entitled to the leave, but they must provide written notice as soon as possible. In case of maternity leave, the employee must then provide written notice and a medical certificate to the employer within two weeks of her last work day.
If your employee is sharing parental leave with their spouse, they should inform you of their intention to do so. Two employees, who work for the same employer, may combine parental leave for a maximum of 62 weeks.
Please note that a birth mother taking maternity leave isn’t required to give you notice before starting parental leave, unless she originally arranged to avail only 16 weeks of maternity leave.
Employees on parental or maternity leave must also provide written notice at least four weeks before returning to work, or if they plan on not returning after their leave ends.
What are my obligations as an employer when it comes to maternity leave Alberta?
Employers cannot terminate, lay off, discriminate against, or ask an employee to resign because of pregnancy, childbirth, or for taking maternity leave. Your employee is entitled to maternity leave under the Alberta Employment Standards Code.
Alberta maternity and parental leaves are covered by Employment Insurance. This means employers don’t have to pay wages to employees who avail these leaves unless agreed upon in an employment contract or collective agreement.
When employees on maternity or parental leaves re-join work, employers must give them their same, or equivalent, job back. You must also count the leave period in any calculation of length of the employment and seniority.
Do you need help creating an Alberta maternity leave policy?
A maternity leave policy will help clarify issues such as medical documentation, additional pay, and vacation days. Our HR experts can assist you with company policies and with any other human resource management, health & safety, or employment advice you may need. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call us today at 1 (833) 247-3652.