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Human ResourcesMay 7, 2019by Peninsula TeamHuman Resources Advice – Ontario Maternity Leave Guidelines


Pregnant employees in Ontario are entitled to maternity leave. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure your company is following the maternity leave requirements outlined in the Employment Standards Act. Here is what Ontario employers should know.

What is Maternity Leave and Parental Leave?

Maternity leave, also called pregnancy leave in Ontario, is unpaid time off work for expecting mothers. All pregnant employees are entitled to up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave. In some circumstances, maternity leave may be extended. Both parents also have the right to take parental leave, which gives unpaid time off to new parents once a baby is born or a child comes into their care. Maternity and parental leave are separate leaves, so a birth mother can take both.

Eligibility for Maternity Leave 

All pregnant employees are entitled to pregnancy leave, whether they are full-time, part-time, permanent or fixed term employees, as long as the Employment Standards Act applies to their employer. In order to qualify for maternity leave, an employee must begin employment at least 13 weeks before the baby’s expected due date. However, this does not mean they have to be actively working during those 13 weeks. Typically, the earliest maternity leave can start is 17 weeks before the due date. However, if the employee has a live birth earlier than this, she can begin her maternity leave on the date of birth. Employers are not allowed to decide when employees will begin their leave, even if pregnancy limits the type of work they are able to do.

Length of Maternity Leave in Ontario

Ontario employees can take a maximum of 17 weeks of maternity leave, although they are able to take shorter leave if they wish or a longer leave if they are still pregnant after taking 17 weeks. Employees must take their maternity leave all at once. If they return to work early, even part-time, then under the Employment Standards Act, they give up their right to the rest of their pregnancy leave. If a pregnancy unfortunately ends in a miscarriage or stillbirth in the 17-week period before the due date, employees are still eligible for maternity leave.  

Notice and Maternity Leave

Employees must give two weeks’ written notice before beginning leave. However, if they do not provide notice, they are still entitled to leave. Employers are allowed to request a certificate from a medical practitioner stating the baby’s due date.   Although the Employment Standard’s Act outlines the legal requirements surrounding maternity and parental leave, it is still recommended that employers create a company maternity leave policy. If you need help creating a maternity and parental leave policy for your business, , call us at 1 (888) 938-0468.